Public security reflects the general health of the state, governance and society within which Nepalis experience daily. If the rate of communal rife, sectarianism, crimes and corruption soars, whatever their reasons, no one feels safe to engage in creative pursuits. Secure people are those who are not menaced by the scarcity of public goods and whose personal life, liberty of profession, property and pursuit of private happiness are fully protected. Deficiency of public security markedly affects the poor Nepalis because they have less cognitive, institutional and economic resources to defend themselves. Weak security hobbles the power of society to renew democratic impulse, ability of the institutions of enlightenment to transform diverse people into equal Nepalis and cultivate the feeling of “we.”
It is vital to nourish nation building from bottom-up, sustain their abiding loyalty to the state and protect the virtues of the weak for shared progress from the vices of the strong for greed, monopoly and domination, the sources of insecurity. Nepal’s protracted political transition has corroded many vital functions of the state institutions. It has imposed critical hurdles to the free flow of political communication between leaders and citizens and left national politics combustible. The regular media reporting of the failed promises of leaders for social transformation, politicisation of crime and counter-reaction to judicial verdicts insinuate that causes of insecurity are diffused in the machineries of the state and non-state sectors.
Politics of patronage
This provides a reason for the policy wonks to reflect on the condition of Nepal’s democratic health and public security which is quantifiable and, therefore, can be insured by preventive measures. Both the conditions are necessary to the constitutional bodies to carry out their professional duties under lawful oath and synergise the coordinating functions of the state, non-state and citizens’ groups. The upswing of current political polarisation between the establishment and myriad of opposition voices and the operation of pre-modern politics of patronage and divide and rule continue to weaken social cohesion and disrupt the efficacy of outcome-driven policies. National leaders are accountable for defining the frame of national and public security.
Renewal of constructive, broad-based national dialogue beyond the canon of political privileges and consensus of top leadership is indispensable for ending the lingering of transitional politics and seeking an anchor of conscious reflection of human condition to open up various possibilities of Nepalis life. Public security is not a substitute for a strong political will based on the procedural fairness of the top leadership now enfeebled by their supremacy relative to parties, constitution and humanitarian norms. With a strong dose of civic education democratic politics of Nepal can transform the pre-political tribalism to political citizens, enabling its syncretic culture to balance between cultural separateness and national unity and hierarchical caste society into constitutional vision of egalitarianism.
Likewise, strict enforcement of criminal law can build trust of people and shore up support to the agencies of public security to beef up legitimate political order. These are vital means to secure public security, ease inclusive and active participation of Nepalis in politics and encourage productive economic activities. They help evade the litany of empirical basis of gloomy warnings of economists about the nation’s future. Ensuring the execution of constitutional rights of Nepalis depends on reform of the nation’s governance that stands up for people, reduces the amount of fear, insecurity and injustice and optimises the conflicting imperatives of political parties. Formulation of suitable laws is equally essential to keep the integrity and autonomy of public institutions above partisan politics and special interest groups of society.
It requires continuous democratisation of the organisational and leadership culture of political parties so that they do not dare to confiscate the power of the state to perform basic functions of security, rule of law, delivery of public goods and tolerate foraging order that hampers social peace. National leaders are responsible to create a healthy public sphere with the ability to generate enlightenment demands of freedom and justice for all Nepalis and raise voice for reasonable public security. Sensitisation of Nepali leaders into the public purpose of politics can absolve them from the lingering obsession with pre-state parochial mindset and begin a new civilisation process. Un-coerced communication and feedback between leaders and people are critical variables to make democracy vibrant, liberate the attitude of leaders to infantilise it and bring the society back to the values of common good rooted in a secured middle path.
The dearth of public security is noticeable from the fact that government officials, lawyers, business community and ordinary people insist on it. Public security is the responsibility of public officials but they cannot become effective unless it is also supported by watchful eyes of Nepalis, attentive public including the civil society, media and business which can provide a counterweight to the conceit of those in power, control extremism and check the malaises of society. While the autonomy of the hard institutions of the state such as Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and public administration is responsible for physical security, a sense of psychological safety is the work of watchful public, sane media and sensible civil society as they are responsible to generate the cornucopia of insights, information and data and supply regular analysis of framework condition either vitiated by intra-systemic forces or geopolitical ones. They are deemed the high priests to shape civic culture.
The composite dimensions of insecurity have made safety a valuable commodity in Nepal. One reason is the erosion of the state’s lawful monopoly on power to contain coercion, anti-social activities and violence and function impersonally. They restrict the notion of freedom to Nepalis. Liberty and scarcity stand opposed to each other. The primacy of group-differentiated rights enshrined in “identity politics” of class, market, gender, caste, religion, ethnicity and territoriality has raised certain irrationality and abridged the national identity of citizens. The assertion of their movements can hardly contribute to a stable constitutional state. Rigidity of identity can weaken the basis of social cooperation and weaken the government’s capacity to create a business-friendly environment for productive investment to spur social development and social integration of diverse citizens into the nation’s bodypolitik.
The other reasons are the existence of agencies of violence, such as armed groups, militant wings of parties, a culture of impunity for powerful elites and inability to deal with conflict-related cases of human rights. They wax the causes of insecurity, ignite the conflict residues thus sparking a new sore of conflict along the society’s fault lines. Still the other reason is a lack of effective law-enforcing mechanism to create legitimate order based on the values of constitutionalism to enforce lawful behaviour of all actors and build a modicum of trust across the nation’s empirical divides by the use of bridging and bonding social capital. And finally, public security suffers from porous borders, smuggling of contraband goods, human trafficking, limited resources, inadequate information systems and poor coordination between civil-security relations.
Only a strong and virtuous Nepali state with sizeable investments in the think tanks and research institutes to diagnose the ills of society and hone competence can achieve the objectives of the governance, the primary ones are the enforcement of security and law and order, regulating economic activities and building infrastructures of development. Those engaged in public security, especially police and public administration have vital roles to monitor anti-social unrest, drive actionable intelligence and surveillance from investigative media and forge robust relations with communities for public security. Attitude change of these agencies towards the critical information provided by the media is necessary while the anarchic nature of social media too needs code-based conduct and social discipline.
For this, the inputs side of the research requires adequate financial investment, observation, analysis, unbiased findings and regular training of those engaged in fostering public security to reveal sources of threats implied in the increasing use of new means of technology, information, networks and connectivity. The serenity of Nepali society is the function of the overall national and public security milieu. It is nurtured through a synergy of hard institutions of the state which carry the good sense of tradition and incentives for progress and soft social capital of civic institutions.
Justice to the poor
They help adapt Nepali state and citizens in the changing geopolitical framework eased by new technology, knowledge, aspirations, values and drives of various scales of states. Public security can link democracy to the life-world, create a suitable environment and give hope of justice to the poor. Nepalis cannot perform democratic functions under a condition of constant fear -- anomie and security vacuum and organise progress and peace in the process of achieving full humanity. Public security is thus vital to existential, personal pursuit and professional concerns of all actors of society.
It is largely the function of state agencies which ensures the protection of citizens, laws and institutions against threats to their well-being and the prosperity of public life. To overcome its increasing challenges, responsible public institutions including civic bodies and political parties should be made responsible to address possible threats in advance through solidarity, context-sensitivity and collective action. Self-censorship of intellectuals, journalists and civil society induced either by profit incentive, populist lure or risk of losing opportunity reduces them to a mere spectator, not deliberative public and in no way generates public security. It fosters a culture of silence among the voiceless section of society thus undermining the values of public security, social justice and peace Nepalis are aspiring ad infinitum in their lives.
(Former Reader at the Department of Political Science, TU, Dahal writes on political and social issues.)