Justice is a term too elaborate for the common human mind and in certain cases out of reach. It has been discussed through various theories, evolved along with humans through various institutions. Yet it seems far-fetched for the common eye, and while we battle sometimes within the system to find the truth, justice, as it is known to many, is available only to a few. The month of august had set Nepal into a whirlwind of frenzied demonstrators out in the streets invoking justice in what will be known in Nepal’s media history as mind-bending, while there are many factors yet to be ascertained, and deliberations still continue, let us take a look back to untangle and familiarize a case that brought the people of Nepal to cognizance, that led thousands out into the streets across various parts of the country.
Salikram Pudaisani a well-known journalist hosting Mission News, working for Mountain TV a Nepalese news channel was found hanging in Kangaroo Hotel in Bharatpur Chitwan. It was an open and shut case at first sight for the initial investigating unit of the Nepalese police stationed in that precinct. Salikram had committed suicide. While probing continued into the case and post mortem details were collected, his body was handed over to his family for his last rites. The first turn of events that brought a startling turn was leaked footage accessed by an online Nepalese news media Nepal Aaja (literal translation Nepal Today). In this video which is said to be Salikram’s final before his death is seen ululating and taking names of three people involved for his flagitious suicide. One of the three accused would make this a landmark case for every person to ponder in the entire history of mass media in Nepal.
Rabi Lamicchane was not only a person known as an outspoken critic of the government and its various systems. He was a messiah of sort for the common Nepalese. The program Sidha Kura Janata Sanga (literal translation “Straight Talk with the People”) aired by News 24 where he currently works highlighted many issues faced by the common masses at home and abroad. This not only won him goodwill but also a great deal of affection that is strenuously portrayed throughout this case. His international recognition through the Guinness book of world record is another laurel where he had a marathon talk show for over 62 hours. It is still unknown why his name was utilized the most by Salikram in his final video wherein a state of absolute remorse and ululation states “The money that you have earned will burn you someday, Rabi you have driven me to this point where I have nothing left but to end my own life, I hope you are convicted for my death according to Nepalese law”. Salikram was largely underpaid and overworked and these were the conditions that drove him to commit suicide.
Several factors came to light widely discussed that were seen as anomalies in this case. In the video, although proven later by experts that the video was neither doctored nor was there a third person involved, Salikram is found to be reading from a well-prepared script in between lines rather than a final extempore. Although this has been ruled out in the ongoing investigation, Salikram makes contradictory statements regarding his financial status, his statements outrightly contradicts to the point when he talks about being underpaid, whereas instructs his wife to stake a claim on the multi-million properties that he has. The second important factor to consider is the dubious nature of Salikram’s infidelity. He blames Ruku Karki alias Asmita as also another reason for this decision to end his life. Various local media houses within Nepal discussed on a whole range of possibilities of this being a homicide, to the extent of stating through video footage of the scene where Salikram hung loosely while his legs were bent on the bedside which looked very unlikely that he committed suicide in such a fashion. Video footages also reveal injury marks on his legs, while the sources were varied and each unconfirmed, the official post mortem report states that it was death due to suicide. Right after the leaked footage of Salikrams ululating monologue, media personality Rabi Lamichhane, Yuvraj Kandel and Roku Karki alias Asmita were arrested and taken to Chitwan district, the precinct for this case. The relationship or the camaraderie shared between Asmita, Rabi and Yuvraj are still unclear, and the only inadequate substantiation is provided in the final monologue of Salikram’s video. This video was proof enough to have the trio promptly arrested after social media uproar where Salikram gained widespread sympathy.
Equivalence of Justice and Injustice
Justice is a broad concept. Its metrics are related to ethics, society and encompassed by the moralistic standard that we set for ourselves. The suicide of Salikram and the subsequent arrest of trio including media personality Rabi Lamichhane for the offense of abetment to suicide will serve as a hallmark in order to provide justice in similar cases. However, the metrics as I said earlier regarding justice has been visibly distorted and there is no equilibrium for either the victim or the accused. While justice needs reasoning, Salikrams suicide remains unjustified keeping in mind the situation that he was in, settled in a media house, and recognized along with a family. Salikrams death was a self-inflicted calamity which could have been avoided, but he too was denied justice if we look at it through the lenses of various forms of transcendental justice.
Investigations after the accused were arrested brought thousands in the streets posing a law and order threat in the area, a curfew was clamped to ease tension portraying mob mentality of the people. Obstruction of justice via the masses without reason or justification was blatant injustice toward the victim. While this case continues and the accused have been released on bail, it is debatable that what has been compromised is justice, while the accused maintain their innocence due to the media image of Rabi Lamichhane, widespread support against his arrest are determinants of what may be the outcome for the future course of action to be taken in accordance with law.
The suicide of Salikram bears duality, Emile Durkheim states, “irrespective of any external, regulatory force, our capacity for feeling is in itself an insatiable and bottomless abyss.” In Salikram’s case, it was probably a weak conscious, and the inability to face the consequences of one’s own action. His belonging to the world to his society diminished with the various hurdles that came his way and the position he was put into as a result of his own actions. Abetment to suicide may be interpreted, but in this case, the direct blame through a visual monologue definitely tangles the case further. Let us just hope that while the equivalence of justice and injustice in this case continue, justice is served.