Sunday, September 25, 2016

Anuradha Sharma - The target was Kanak Mani Dixit but the axe fell on 'Himal Southasian' in Nepal

Murky politics in Nepal and a personal vendetta appear to have combined to close down a liberal, pan-regional news and analysis magazine that has been in business for 29 years.

Last month, Kathmandu-based Himal Southasian announced that it will suspend publication from November. The August 24 announcement by the Southasia Trust, which publishes the quarterly magazine, said “suspension was the only option” because of “non-cooperation by regulatory state agencies”. Grants meant for Himal Southasian were not being approved, work permits for non-Nepalese editorial staff were not renewed, and there were unreasonable delays in processing payments for international contributors.

The announcement came four months after the magazine’s founding editor, Kanak Mani Dixit, was arrested by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority – Nepal’s apex constitutional body for corruption control – on charges of “irregularities” related to a transport cooperative board that he is chairman of. Dixit was released 10 days later, after the Supreme Court described his custody as “illegal”.

Himalayan blunder?
In 2013, Dixit led a delegation at Singha Durbar, the seat of Nepal’s government, to protest against the proposed appointment of the bureaucrat Lokman Singh Karki as the chief commissioner of the anti-corruption body.

Dixit was accompanied by Shambhu Thapa, a lawyer and civil rights activists. They were opposed to Karki being appointed to that post because he had been previously found guilty of suppressing the People’s Movement, and was also tainted with regard to a gold smuggling case. But Karki went on to take over as commissioner in May, 2013. In September, 2013, the Department of Revenue Investigation, reportedly at the behest of the anti-corruption body that Karki now headed, raided Thapa’s law firm. Dixit’s arrest came two-and-a-half-years later.

“There is revenge behind it,” journalist Ameet Dhakal said about the twin cases, writing in Setopati, an online news magazine that he edits. The attacks on Himal Southasian are said to be an escalation of the same vindictiveness. CK Lal, a Kathmandu-based political columnist and a vocal critic of Dixit’s, said the Himal Southasian founder was the main target “because he has angered very powerful people” with his activism. Lal, who spoke to Scrollover the phone, added: “He developed political interests in Nepal…[In politics,] you earn supporters, but also gain enemies.”

So, while the aim was Dixit, the axe fell on Himal Southasian, which was a soft target. The pan-regional magazine, being a niche publication, enjoys little mass following despite its fame throughout South Asia. “It has nothing to do with Nepal’s politics as such,” said Lal. “This apart, the magazine’s agenda does not particularly endear itself to the masses either. For example, in its support for Kashmir, or Tibet, it is pitted against India and China, angering nationalists on both sides.”

“Nobody cares much for it [Himal Southasian] here,” added Lal, explaining why there’s little public opinion on the recent crisis facing the magazine. “The authorities did not risk anything by targeting it.” Dixit conceded that his Nepal-based activism was the primary reason behind the closure of the magazine. “My Nepal-based activism, including against Maoist violence, autocratic kingship, against Hindutva defined into the new constitution, the definition of federalism and lastly the appointment of Lokman Singh Karki as the head of the anti-corruption commission, has been the primary reason for the closure of the magazine," Dixit said in an email to Scroll.

‘India hand’?
“Geopolitics is at play,” said Lal. In Kathmandu, it is widely believed that Karki’s elevation as commissioner of the powerful anti-corruption body was facilitated by Indian intelligence officials. Karki is still believed to work closely with them. Many see him as an “India plant”, one reason why politicians are afraid of risking his wrath, said a person at the Southasia Trust, who did not wish to be identified... read more:
http://scroll.in/article/816874/the-aim-was-kanak-mani-dixit-but-the-axe-fell-on-himal-southasian-in-nepal