Remember Keshab Sthapit, the UML cut-bearded visionary and one-time Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City after the restoration of multiparty democracy? That was a different time when general and local elections were held, people put a lot of interest and hope in their ballot against the non-democratic culture that had flourished for three decades.
That was also a time when the leaders working at both the local and upper levels were trusted to a great extent. Looking back now, all this seems like the fabricated bed-time story of the old grandpa about his ‘good ole days.’ The reason to think of him is because the former mayor is still young and fit, lone (perhaps) but more visionary and down-to-earth politician in the growing crowd of corrupt, visionless and incapable leaders. The city of Kathmandu that this young mayor tried to build and show to the world has not gone very far in the post-Sthapit years.
This scribe has no personal relation with the former mayor, not even a general acquaintance except for a brief stint of collaborative activities during the pro-democracy movement often prepared in the Afro-Asian Solidarity Movement office at the corner of Ramshah Path in the winter of 1990. Keshab Sthapit has been one of very few, actually rare politicians who not only talk but also do what they think is good for the people, the average man on the street, hence worthy of mention here.
In a country where a huge percentage of politicians are known for extra moral conduct such as self-aggrandising, cheating and lying, Sthapit was indeed a rare bird trying to fly high, think for and talk about progress for his city and its residents. If there were ten Sthapits today, one could do well by shunning the dirty, undemocratic and visionless political parties and give way for a few, say three to five, political parties led by sensible, sincere and smart politicians. But this is not likely to happen as things stand today.
The Sthapit formula
While on the chair of the mayor, Sthapit did something memorable in the history of Kathmandu Metropolitan City. The Bishnumati corridor, the Kalimati-Kalanki road and few other projects he put his hands on made success stories. He had something special in his mind about giving Trichandra College a new shape, a new look by not disturbing the education the centenarian institution has been providing to the low-income community. The college is centrally located, much congested for the size of the student population and faculties it has to cater for.
Several Rana and post-Rana buildings are in an appalling condition. The most disturbing factor of all is that a little show down of one student faction or the other is bound to create traffic problems for the vehicles commuting day and night and also for the passers-by. It is located there because there was no public transport system then and students had to walk to and out of the class. Those were the very few lucky students, coming either from the Rana or other high-ranking families serving the royalties. Today many things have changed, what is not changed is the argument that this college must not and cannot change its address, regardless of what.
Shanker Dev Campus, ASCOL (Amrit Science Campus) , Ratna Rajya (RR) Campus and Saraswati Campus are other examples of traffic and other disturbances annoying the common people, the pedestrians, for example, the businesses, the government and vehicles with a routine and destinations to serve. A little issue, the whole campus comes to the street, finds quite a few tires to burn and a lot of brick-bats to aim at the police or their arch-enemies - the ‘other’ student organisations.
The ‘significant others’ are present in all the campuses mentioned and become the target of the ‘other’. So much so that because of their open surroundings, ‘outsiders’ - both real and fake - make an easy entry into the campuses and mount assaults on the students of the other camp. The campus administration, even the local administration and police, have a hard time finding the real culprit as they get lost before being noticed.
Of late, Tri Chandra has been a scene for a different kind of Mahabharata being played by the NSU (Congress) and Akhil (UML) - at a time when leaders at the party level tend to give the impression that the UML and NC have so many things in common and that they should again form a government to complete the constitution-writing process. While at the students’ level, there are arms and tools to keep the other group silent or even invalid for life.
Just think of the incident that took place at Trichandra last week. This incident is not new there or, for that matter, in the other campuses mentioned above. When students from opposing groups meet, they can keep the government machinery at bay. TC’s nextdoor neighbour is a high-ranking police office, but our students act so unpredictably and so tactfully that they are discussing an important issue now, and in less than 10 minutes, one enters the campus with knives, guns or what not and strikes the target faster than a well-trained guerilla fighter or a sharp-shooter. And there is no relief in sight as the blame game continues unabated.
Creating a new geography
Our colleges are creating very serious public nuisance in and around these five major campuses in the capital. Minbhawan being slightly off the main road, relatively less disturbance is observed. It looks like this is the time when the government should look for sites to transfer these colleges to some more serene, education-friendly environment and let the academic environment take its due course. The current sites could give TU adequate resources to run the college better than the stages they now are in.
Of course, such a plan to change the college geography will stir a new wave of protests, but this will have to be sorted out through the participation and consensus of the major political parties. Political parties must understand that no matter where the students go, they will always be at their arms stretch. The interest of the parents and students who cannot afford to avoid the classes, exams and value of their investment has always been subdued and ignored.
For politically-motivated ones, the loss of one academic year or two or more does not really mean much because after all they are training themselves for the future involvement in their respective parties, any way. And the parties do not require an academic certificate - at least, not at this time.
Finally, criminal category incidents on campuses are on the rise, and at an alarming rate, for that. The campuses mentioned here were located in those places many decades ago when the traffic or flow of pedestrians was not a problem. Now they have been highly volatile volcanic spots where anything can happen any time. The public on the street, the businesses in the neighbourhood and even the air have been facing crises on a regular basis. There has to be a reasonable solution to this problem to avoid further damages to life and property through the never-ending waves of confrontations.
(Source: Editorial: The Rising Nepal)