Saturday, May 18, 2013

Living martyr finds solace in music

(A story  I wrote back in 2009)
KATHMANDU, April 24: He fought to restore the rights of the Nepali people. But that battle for freedom on behalf of the people cost Rabin Shrestha his own rights, the inalienable right to see. The 28-year-old lost both his eyes to a tear gas shell during the democratic movement in April, 2006.
And for almost three years now, Shrestha has been confined to a small room in his house, in the suburb of Bhainsepati, Lalitpur.
Getting to listen to the FM radio and playing the guitar is what freedom means to him now. Today, he has to live with composing music from within the four walls of his room, but he´s happy about some of the things that Jana Andolan II has brought about. “I am happy that I get to listen to the news as it happens, since there is no censoring of radios and televisions now,” says Shrestha.
Shrestha was one among the sea of youth who actively took part in the democratic movement spearheaded by the then Seven Party Alliance (SPA). “I had an opportunity to watch the interview of youth leader Gagan Thapa that was aired on a local TV show,” he says. “Though I did not know him personally, I was really inspired by his statement that youth should take to the streets to restore civil liberties.”
On April 6, 2006, the first day the of the street movement-in spite of the government"s prohibitory orders on street protests-Shrestha did just what Gagan Thapa had asked of people like him. Shrestha, along with his friends, reached New Baneshwor Chowk, to stage a demonstration against the totalitarian regime.
It was about 4:30 pm. A fierce clash ensued between the protestors and police personnel. And Shrestha got hit by a teargas shell. “All I can remember is that everyone else managed to flee the scene and that I had collapsed after being hit on my face by a teargas shell. I was then thrashed by the armed police personnel deployed there,” says Shrestha.
The next thing he knew, he was on his way to Bir Hospital in a police van.
Three years on, democracy has been restored and the 601-member Constituent Assembly (CA) has already been elected to draft a new constitution. But the dreams that drove Shrestha during the democratic movement have not materialized. “I am dismayed to hear that the people have not been able to live the independent lives that they thought they would live, due to the strikes and protests organized every other day,” he says.
What hurts Shrestha the most, however, is the apathy that the government has shown towards the cause Shrestha fought for. “The government that was formed with the sole mandate to draft a new constitution and build a New Nepal is now engaging in trivial issues like dismissing the army chief. It"s only looking out for its own partisan interests,” he says.
“People like me didn"t participate in the protests to further our own narrow interests,” he says, offering a point of contrast between the people on the street and the people now in government.
And Shrestha has a message for the people in government: He wants the leaders to put the country and its people first. “This is the last chance for you leaders to build a New Nepal. Do not misuse this opportunity,” he says.

No comments: