Bizarre paradoxes always constitute political narratives. Politics is a baggage of incongruities. It does not move along linear path, posing difficulty to define it in black and white. This is because the politicians often look for one-upmanship. In a game to outsmart others, the political actors deliver surprises and shocks to the people, violating the expected norms and values.
A few days ago, a cabinet meeting declared 16 persons, killed at Chhintang of Dhanakuta in 2037 BS, martyrs. Ministry for Industry Sunil Bahadur Thapa had recommended that the government announce them as martyrs. It is an irony of history, indeed. These martyrs, who were killed at the hands of police of autocratic Panchayat system, belonged to the then CPM-Marxist-Leninist, the predecessor of present CPN-UML.
Surya Bahadur Thapa was the prime minister when the massacre took place. The UML had even accused the then late prime minister Thapa of instructing the security personnel to kill its cadres arrested from a cultural programme. The police had lined up them on a hill before frying them with bullets. The Panchayat rulers had charged them of being ML workers, who were engaged in disruptive campaign to bring down the system.
The UML led governments three times. It joined the coalition government several times but it could not give justice to its own followers who laid down their lives for the democratic cause. But it is the son of Surya Bahadur Thapa, who took initiative to declare them a martyr. Junior Thapa also succeeded to recognise five cadres of his party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Democratic), killed during the Maoist insurgency as martyr.
During his recent election campaign, minister Thapa had pledged that he would declare those killed at Chhintang as martyr. Maybe that he wanted to atone for the ‘sin’ of his father. He even went on to say that he took such a decision so that the UML and CPN-Maoist Centre would not ‘politicise’ over martyrs to take political advantage. This remark from the mouth of former pancha is quite satirical for those parties that fought against the Panchayat system in the past.
The UML has not yet reacted to the government’s decision to declare its cadres as martyrs. The opposition may have some moral difficulty to welcome it as it has been criticising the caretaker government for taking decisions having far-reaching implications.
During the despotic Panchayat regime, many people sacrificed their lives in course of anti-regime struggles. They were the real paladins committed to democracy and freedom. But political parties divided them on democratic and left lines, undermining their sacrifice. Therewere ‘communist martyrs’ and ‘Nepali Congress martyrs.’ This ugly game caused delay in officially recogising many true martyrs.
Even after the nation’s ushering into a federal republic, the politicisation of martyrs has not come to a stop. Some Madhes-based parties used martyrs as instrument to leverage their parochial politics. It is no wonder that the parties use martyrs to gain political mileage. Similar motive was behind the decision of minister Thapa to accept the late UML’s workers as martyrs. It did not court controversy because the communists that are set to form new government must have been happy with this announcement.