My Rights for a Few Meters of Tar
A few weeks ago, a road expansion project was started amid a furore from residents directly affected by this project. I mulled over what could be achieved by expanding a few meters of metalled road. And given my experience in metrapolises such as New Delhi, Boston and New York, I concluded, not much and snickered.
My snickering gave way to horror when I realised that the expansion was being conducted at the cost of private properties being demolished with little or no compensation.
I am not a town planner so I will leave the efficacy issues of road expansion in historic metropolitan cities for engineers and planners to chew over. My focus will be on the destruction of private property. However, even if road expansion in kathmandu increases efficiency this does not mean the state has the right to destroy private property without due compensation.
Now before we move on, I would like to cite Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which enshrines the right to property as follows: “(1)Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property” Now, ask yourself, were the actions of the Maoist government, when it comes to destruction of private property which we have observed arbitrary or not?
Well, let’s proceed. What angers me is what has occurred is undemocratic. Democracy, as we understand it, without being pedantic, is termed as liberal democracy (although Nepals democracy falls short of liberal democracy it is in essence closer to it then what we are led to believe by some quarters – another discussion another day). This distinction is important so that we don’t confuse ourselves with other forms of political systems of governance which masquerade as democracy. For instance, Iran claims to be a “democracy” but secularism, a pillar of democracy, is nowhere to be found in that country.They do hold elections to elect Presidents, which are somewhat fair incomparison to elections held in other countries in that region. But in reality a council of bearded perverted old men who call the citizens their “children” rule the country. Whereas, China labels itself as a “democratic republic” but unlike Iran it does not have popular elections for Presidents but what it has is limited local level elections and only one party contesting in them. Why the Chinese politburo even bothers calling China a democratic republic is lost on me.
Liberal democracy (true democracy) holds certain fundamental principles and right to property is one of its foundations. The ideas which underline liberal democracy are a direct result of liberal thinkers like John Locke. John Locke postulated that Man (or woman lets not get sexist now) can through labor transform nature to create goods and participate in trade of such goods i.e. participate in economic activites. These goods and wealth generated are his property ( we are of course talking of legal property).
The “Social Contract” theory which provides basis for and legitimizes why we have a government, and the origins of it concludes that You and I, gave up some of our natural rights in order to create a government so that we all can live in a society to benefit individually and as a group by having our rights protected. Hence, the role of the state is to protect the rights of individuals, which includes the right to property. True democratic States today work towards fulfilling this role.
The Maoist government
When the Maoists came into the fold of mainstream politics they committed themselves to democracy and pledged to work under the democratic framework. However, what they have shown by destroying private property without due compensation is that they disregard an individuals right to private property. And that the “welfare” of the community and groups supersede that of an individual. Let me stress this, we are not in a state of emergency. So there is no basis for some of our rights to be temporarily suspended. These houses weren’t demolished for security reasons or to prevent disasters nor were they a risk to health and safety of the public. This was simply done for road expansion even though alternatives are available,such as, building up a good public transportation system.
The actions of Maoists suggest that their pledges and assurances were nothing but a Trojan horse in order to get us to open the gates to the parliament. And now that they have the keys these mongrels ride around the country masquerading as swashbuckling protagonists trying to “save” the country by imposing their policies. It seems we are now likely to suffer at the hands of morons who wish to keep beating a dead philosophy hoping it might just work.