A man immolated himself near the parliament in hopeless rage against the futility of his circumstances, the indifference of society, and the corruption in government. He hit the headlines and all social media streams for some days until the next headline took over. It is said that his last desire was that he wanted to live.
His wife, child and family will carry his memory like a wound that may never heal. Before the flames of protest devoured him, he made a list that demanded the attention of the government, the lawmakers and civil society. This list is no different than the list of millions of Nepali citizens who face the same burdens, challenges and pains of living in a country that has been faced with severe lack of visionary and committed leadership over the past decades. Nepal has been mired in poor government decision making, unstable politics, corruption and an economic divide that leaves a huge population in the jaws of near poverty.
A country whose economic resilience lies in the blood and sweat of the young labour force that leaves the country for foreign shores and an undecisive future, where remittance has been the strength in times of economic uncertainty, where the youth do not foresee a future of secure, dignified livelihood opportunity… it is mere rhetoric what politicians feed its citizens when they talk about nation building.
For those micro, small and medium entrepreneurs in the country making an effort to build something, the policies remain unfavourable, the banks akin to loan sharks and the markets unpredictable with major business houses ruling the game.
Immolation is an act of both despair and defiance, unmatched by any other form of suicide. And despite the element of self-sacrifice, I personally do not agree with suicide. Nothing is greater than the gift of life and while there will always be challenges and sometimes, situations where we see no solution in sight, it must not allow you to stop fighting, to seek solutions, to continue believing. However, I do sympathise with late Prem Prasad Acharya and can only offer prayers.
I researched the causes of self-immolation on the internet to understand his act and found this paragraph from an article in The New Yorker by James Verini in 2012 which compelled me to think. It states: Why? What motivated them? I put the question to any number of historians of self-immolation, but the best answer came from a scholar based in Washington, DC, Timothy Dickinson. “Fire is the most dreaded of all forms of death,” he said, so “the sight of someone setting themselves on fire is simultaneously an assertion of intolerability and, frankly, of moral superiority. You say ‘I would never have the guts to do that. It’s not that he’s trying to tell me something, but that he’s commanding me.’ This isn’t insanity. It’s a terrible act of reason.”