The topic of "oxymoron" came up at a recent dinner gathering. There are so many of these that are quite ludicrous. So when Image FM, the radio station I listen to keep up to date with what is going on here, used the term "samanya (normal) lathi charge" this morning, I caught on to the oxymoron quickly. "Lathi charge" is of course when the police charge the crowd with big long sticks to maintain order. Day 3 of the Maoist bandh (country-wide strike) has commenced today. Last evening, there apparently was a lathi charge at Gongobu, a locality in Kathmandu. Maoist cadres threw stones at the police. The latter retaliated with lathi charge, firing overhead and tear gas.
There is nothing "normal" about a lathi charge (LC) though. It is a ferocious charge and those that get caught up in it may get beaten up quite seriously, or worse. I know, being the recipient of LC during my college days here. I was not beaten but getting collared by a yelling policeman wielding a lathi can be traumatic for a 17 year old. It seems we, including the media, have become blase' about violence in this country when a LC is termed normal. What next? "Normal" shootings?
The LC last evening was evidently justified. I am not arguing that. But do not call it "normal". Violence must not be trivialised. W.H. Auden wrote "Man can have Unity if Man will give up freedom...Violence shall synchronize your movements like a tune, And Terror like a frost shall halt the flood of thinking." That is the essence of violence - to stop people from thinking.
I have heard rather distinguished individuals (an European diplomat in this case) say that the 13,000 fatalities during the 10 year Maoist insurgency is a trivial number; many times that number throng the streets these days. An appalling statement. It negates the value of human life, and what is more valuable than that?
The current bandh has not had a directly bandh-related violent death yet. But as the bandh ticks on, it is just a question of time. And will the media then call it a "normal" death?