Mr Prabhakar Bagchand has been active in the social justice movement for more than a decade in Nepal. He is the CEO of Campaign for Promotion of Community Para legalism in Nepal. Dipak Nishchal, Nepalyatimes correspondent spoke to Social Justice activist Mr Bagchand. Here is the excerpt of the interview.
NT: How are you Mr Bagchand ? you have not been very active of late.
Thank you for asking . I am good. I am back in action I should say. Yes, I was in rest but I was in a way doing something or the other to contribute to social justice movement in my small capacity . Recently penned a small book on Paralegalism and Strategic Human Rights litigation.
NT: I will definitely come to the book, but let me ask you, what do you think about the human rights movement in Nepal today?
Well , human rights movement today is in a project mode. A movement can have projects but a Movement should not become a project. The tragedy is, it has not been able to differentiate between human rights and justice. Justice has to be the ultimate goal. When you see from the perspective of justice, You start empathizing , you stop being greedy , you start seeing the whole world as one family and whole human race as one identity. I feel humans have empathy in their genes. That is why we are human. Here everyone talks about themselves and about grabbing opportunities. That was not what I got into the movement for; we have to think for the coming generation, the kind of world we want to give them.
NT: This sounds very cryptic. What are you trying to infer?
Well, I cannot afford to be straightforward. Is there tolerance for opinions that are different from the ones that are found in the market? No. Let me be more clear, I am not happy with the way hatred is being made a commodity. Nepal definitely is not a Just society, but we can not hate each other. Hatred is too expensive.
NT: You often say there has to be a revolution through law. What do you mean by that?
Well that is not my saying. I borrowed it from one of the sages of Law and legal empowerment Justice PN Bhagwati. I fully concur with this saying because any civilized society has to be formed on the foundation of Just laws and law abiding citizens. We have seen that ten years of armed rebellion brought about some changes. But it could not change mindsets. To change mindset you need rule of Law. I mean Just laws and machinery to enforce these laws. This can bring about an end to prejudice. change in mindset can institutionalize rule of law. It is both ways.
I am worried about the so called ” Development or Prosperity” – even the highly enlightened folks see it as a panacea to all the problems plaguing this country. I sometimes ask myself have we understood development ? Are we are not grossly insensitive towards the sufferings of the people at the margins? If constructions of roads bridges, alone is development, Panchyat system was doing fine monarchy was doing fine. Most of the infrastructure that exists today belong to that period. Of course, I would love to see good roads bridges, big buildings etc. But Development without justice cannot be considered development. Justice should be the core component of development process.
NT: So what is the way out?
Well Sustainable Development Goal 16 needs to be incorporated in every sector. It is not going entirely solve the problems of the world but it will make world a fairer and Just place. If you look at the targets , they may look vague and ambitious but these goals were made by engaging common people, which had never happened in the past. People gave up their lucrative jobs in organizations like World Bank and initiated a campaign called ” Justice 2015″ . Common people like me voluntarily joined the campaign. Villagers in Kailali and many remote districts have great hope SDG will address their issues. I was greatly inspired by this campaign initiated by a visionary lawyer Vivek Maru and his team. There is one more friend a lawyer who taught me whole new dimension of law. He showed me how Paralegalism , volunteerism can bring about end to prejudice and unite people and communities. He made me realize legal empowerment can be way out of poverty. People like him are not just lawyers but social engineers.
But I am worried that SDG 16 may fail to deliver as we had anticipated because there is utter indifference on the part of policy makers of this country towards SDG 16. I have had informal interaction with them. For them caste discrimination, gender discrimination, and caste free education is not an issue at all. If this mentality continues SDG will be nothing more than a sequel to Millennium Development Goals that completely ignored Justice.
NT: Can you point out what are the things to be done to make SDG 16 work
We have to enact laws in line with constitutional provisions and targets of SDG. Provincial government should formulate policies and laws that reflect the sentiment of SDG 16. A periodic review of the achievement/failures has to be done by central and provincial governments. I would say a report card has to be released every year on the progress made.
We already are behind schedule. However, there a few things that we could start with, that could expedite process. First SDG 16 ( Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development , provide access to justice for all and build effective , accountable and inclusive institutions at all level) should be the foundation for all other goals. Rule of law has to be foremost. We have to make education system affordable and discrimination free ( all kinds of discrimination including caste). This is a long term investment. We need to ensure access to safe, effective, and affordable health system includes expansion of access to safe drinking water. Food security has to be an area of prime focus. Hilly districts of Far West and Karnali region are acutely affected by food shortages. Women’s right to economic opportunity, property ownership, and inheritance has to be ensured in policy and practice. We have to have clear road map and implement programs to promote social, economic, and political inclusion. Of course these are few things to begin with, which need highest level of commitment and honesty.
Many economists, stress prioritizing targets that promise the best return on financial investment. I do not agree with them. I see know point in talking with these elite economists without a human heart. So I travel to villages , fields huts , ghettos to understand development and justice.
In one sentence I would like to say SDG 16 has to be the ” Mantra” for development.
NT : What is your book about?
Well it is a small book that deals with Paralegalism and Strategic Human Rights Litigation. It tries to connect Paralegals with litigation, which can be an instrument for social change and development and freedom. It is in fact about making law the language of common people through creating new breed of barefoot lawyers. It is about simplifying lives through law. I am in the process of translating it into Nepali.
What are your plans for the future?
To be honest planning can be frustrating in a country where even god can fail. I just have hopes, small dreams and infinite love for the country and humanity, and energy to fight injustice.
It was great talking to you Mr Bgachand. Thank you for your time
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to voice my opinion.