Martyrs devalued by frequent conferral of title: Kin
KATHMANDU, Jan 29: As the country celebrates Martyrs´ Day on Tuesday amidst various functions, family members of those who sacrificed their lives for people´s liberty and rights in the course of various political struggles find it a hollow occasion for paying lip service to the martyrs.
The kin of the martyrs complain that the decision of each successive government after the political change in April 2006 to declare as martyrs those dying from both political and non-political causes has not only undermined the contribution of the genuine martyrs, but also devalued the very term ´martyr´.
“Neither have the political parties, once coming to power, been able to pay due heed to achieving the cause the martyrs readily sacrificed their lives for, nor have they been able to accord proper recognition to the martyrs who fought for the betterment of the country and its people,” complained J B Dhaulakoti, chairman of Martyrs and Injured Citizens Coordination Committee.
Dhaulakoti, whose father Hasta Bahadur was killed in Surkhet during the referendum held in 1980, said it is really disappointing to find even people with questionable backgrounds declared martyrs by the governments formed after 2006.
“We had set criteria for declaring martyrs, in a report submitted to the then government. But no government paid heed to our suggestions,” added Dhaulakoti, who was also a member of the Mod Nath Prashrit-led committee.
The Prashrit-led Committed formed in December 2009 had recommended that a person must have fought for truth and righteousness to qualify for martyr status and his/her fight must not have served any personal or vested interest so that the person honored with martyrdom will be seen as someone having common appeal among the masses. The committee, likewise, recommended that someone qualifies to be a martyr only if he/she chooses death over life when offered the choice.
Sukra Raj Shastri, Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Dasharath Chand and Ganga Lal Shrestha are regarded as the first fours martyrs. They were hanged in 1941 for challenging the then Rana oligarchy.
Though it was expected that the criteria set by the Prashrit Committee would discourage the practice of declaring individuals martyrs under street pressure and encourage the honoring of only those who sacrificed their lives in the cause of nation and people, this could not happen. The governments formed since have continued declaring martyrs on a ´random´ basis.
According to the Home Ministry, altogether 101 people have been conferred martyrdom after the success of the people´s movement in April 2006.
Besides that, over 7,000 Maoist leaders and cadres were declared martyrs by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal government in 2009. This list does not include recently declared martyrs since, including Supreme Court Justice Rana Bahadur Bam and four persons killed in a bomb explosion in Janakpur in May 2012.
Officials at the Home Ministry said that after the political change in 2006, it has been normal for a victim party to seek martyrdom in every incident involving death as this would fetch them Rs 1 million.
The government would be compelled to confer the honor as political parties bow to pressure from relatives or support groups launching indefinite strikes and protests.
Instead of discouraging the practice of declaring martyrs on such random basis, political parties seem to be only supporting the practice. The current Maoist-led government had formed a separate panel under Nawa Raj Subedi to determine criteria for martyrs as the recommendations of the Prashrit Committee did not include those killed during the Maoist insurgency.
A section of political leaders admits that there were weaknesses on their part while declaring martyrs.
“There must be broad consensus among political parties and civil society on the definition of martyrs. It is very unfortunate to see the random way of declaring someone a martyr,” said Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (Democratic) leader Jitendra Dev, who was also a member of the Prashrit Committee.
“I am disappointed to see the recommendations of our committee ignored by the government.”