Public Security And Democracy
Dev Raj Dahal
The health of any society is linked to safe and sound environment. A key factor determining public security is the state of national security and global situation. Public security is a public good. No one can be barred from its benefits. It can flourish on the solidarity of the public with security agencies. Democracy as a rule rests on public trust, freedom of citizens from vital needs and their intrepid expression of opinion. Leadership gains legitimacy if it can fulfil them and realise citizens’ right to secure life. Safe and secure citizens are those who do not feel threatened and whose life, liberty, property and pursuit of pleasure are fully secured. In Nepal absence of trust paralyses collective action and terribly affects the poor because they have less means to secure themselves. Growing mistrust lurches the power of civil society to regenerate impulse of civility. Democracy provides Nepali citizens a chance to test whether their sovereignty preserved in the Constitution of Nepal is real or rhetorical and their rights practical or legal only. They are the nerves of a decent life. In security deficits democracy turns flawed and sets off a state of nature and scarcity of public goods hitting the civility of society.
Nepalis suffer from two fatal gaps between the changing social order and weak governance to manage and aspiration-fed citizens and frailty of civic institutions to satisfy them. Rule of law can contribute to physical and psychological security in Nepal if its polity holds institutional muscle to provide social justice. Public security is linked to macro national security which is now beset by multi-level tensions lack of which stokes predatory forces to free ride. At micro level, it is linked to safe family and community milieu, secure roads, access to education and health, regulatory system to responsive politics. Anti-constitutional activities of various actors strain orderly rule in Nepal. The shortfall of public security fed by the infectious partisanisation of discipline creating agencies can only be remedied by their political neutrality and gaining the soul, the public support. As a result, a gap exists between the existing levels of public security in Nepal and what the regime ought to do urgently. Only a coherent plan can match the scale for securing citizens.
The causes of insecurity in Nepal are both intra-systemic and extra-systemic. Nepal’s Home Ministry has identified 33 groups of various hues including armed outfits posing diverse scale of concerns. The scope of public security is scaling up in proportion to the increase of many sources of contagious risks. Its scarcity is evident from the fact that women, judges, journalists, officials, political leaders, business community and ordinary citizens demand for it. National security deficits have prompted VIPs to have more security staff these days than a decade ago and the private security agencies have thrived to protect the powerful, their wealth and enterprises surrounded by warning devices, guards and guns. Concentration of opportunity in sprawling towns have added newer risks-poverty, joblessness, crime, violence against women and girls, theft, drug abuse, growth of small arms, kidnapping, extortion, etc. They have disarmed Nepali democracy from its substance.
The organised crimes linked to grand corruption and pressure on coalition government to tolerate elite- run syndicate, monopoly, capital flight, tax-evasion etc provide the structural reasons for it. Crimes as proxy factors of violence are linked to macro milieu which can cause severe civic exhaustion - anomie, chaos and erosion of authority offering scope for looting of public wealth and flouting societal norms. Nepal’s old disease is the treatment of effects, not the causes, which nastily bred the virus of insecurity. The growth of many channels of political socialisation in Nepal indicates enlarged communicative skill of citizens and use of technology. It provides a basis for the civil society to reflect on the condition of Nepalis, raise awareness, invent tools, manage technology-induced risks and spur safety measures for their lives and property. The government’s dialogue team has initiated talks while Defense Ministry is holding informal consultation on how to improve national security through an updated security policy.
The sources of insecurity in Nepal stem from the erosion of the state’s monopoly on power. It limped its ability to control threats, coercion, anti-social activities, gender violence and alleviate livelihood crisis. Identity politics has reduced the idea of a political community rooted on citizenship and dragged the capacity of polity to create secure environment. Information revolution has turned democracy along participatory line of the affected citizens generating tension with the representative democracy, its institutions and political culture. The surge of the tools of violence, such as armed groups, thieves, militant wings of parties, criminals and abuses of human rights with impunity continues unabated. In the absence of integrated law-enforcing system to enforce constitutional behaviour of all actors, it cannot build a trust across the nation’s divides. In a country of minority, politics based on power equation alienates the Others. Public security has also suffered from porous border, limited resources of security agencies, sophisticated techniques used by criminals, poor information system and weak coordination between civil-security relations. In this sense, elites need to work on bonding forces of society and combat the violence targeting the public. Self-censorship of media, human rights bodies and security agencies induced either by profit incentive or partisan politics reduces them to a mere spectator and stoke a culture of pessimism and silence among the insecure section of Nepalis.
Public security is the duty of the state’s public officials. But they fail to turn effective without upholding the integrity of office supported by watchful eyes of citizens. In Nepal, public institutions are weak and social and economic order is fractured by the erosion of hard institutions of the state—military, armed police force, police, intelligence and public administration responsible for a robust security. Psychological safety emerges from the soft power--vigilant public, media, civil society and attentive citizens. They supply early warning of social risks, spawn critical information and build opinion, preference and policy. It is vital to create business-friendly environment. Active citizens can act as a watchdog of political power and carry out their innovative pursuits. Their right to information makes democracy a responsive rule. Informed dialogue across the nation’s diverse spectrum is absolutely essential to build trust, bridge the factors that split them and heal and reconcile this nation’s sores.
The politics of moderation between capitalism and communism is the way to manage the appetite of both to consume each other or collusion for shared benefits and elevate the outlook of identity crazy groups into a larger national sphere. Building trust across the Nepali citizens can surpass the elites’ penchant to parochialism, re-tribalisation of society and indulgence in post-modern tumult justifying vicious politics. The role of Nepali civil society remains supreme in circulating the civic education and inspiring their active engagement in national construction. It is a key pillar for lifting the design of public security of Nepal. The community police-citizen interface is a fine example.
Nepali media daily report the overall health of the state and society. If the level of insecurity grows, the indicator of early warning moves up. Disinformation generates distrust across the empirical divides hostile to security, stability and social peace. Public alertness about the changing national context is a heady way to reduce conflict-induced insecurity. Awareness about the civility among leaders and security agencies builds bedrock of trust and radiates to every corner of Nepali society. Transparency of business investment is essential for the democratisation of information, capital and business houses and resolves the tri-lemma between media freedom and security of journalists, professionalism and social responsibility and access to information and credibility of news, views and information pertaining to public security.
Those engaged in security mainly police and public administration await three critical roles: monitor anti-social groups, drive actionable intelligence from the investigative media and attentive citizens and build strong ties with the community. A modicum of public security in Nepal demands a synergy of hard institutions of the state which carry the sanity of tradition and soft social capital of society which is helpful for the adaptation of the state to both popular aspiration and the shifting nature of global security architecture. National leadership has to adopt both preventive and remedial measures to allay insecurity and enforce a responsive rule. A peaceful environment requires building a nexus between security, democracy and progress and mitigation of general fear of citizens about the condition in which they live. The performance of security agencies rests on their autonomy, efficiency, impersonality and capacity to provide surveillance and act ably.
Spreading out of the circles of security from individual to institutional and larger macro level can pass public trust through the watchful eyes of Nepalis. Civic surveillance makes it preventive and cost-effective while pre-emptive and response-ready security deployment deters the evils’ offensive. The promotion of integrity system of all actors through accountability measures set norms for the fulfilment of shared expectation and build integrated horizontal and vertical social capital. The creation of a strong national centre is vital to spur centripetal forces and secure heartland, strategic areas, buffers and frontiers. It provides them a chance to form networks in the community and cut security risks. Stronger ties act as a bridge across citizens and synchronise conduct. To meet its rising challenges, responsible civil society should be made effective to enforce citizens’ solidarity with the state and their collective action.