They called him mad. They called him a scapegoat. They said it was irrational to go on a hunger strike when there was a people-elected government. He had learnt his lesson; he did not want to be fooled again. He was a protagonist, a nonconformist, and a headstrong doctor to bring reforms in the medical sector—which is why he earned different names and received unlikely comments. Former Prime Minister and chair of the party that led the 10-year-armed struggle, Prachanda, said Dr KC’s work was to just be on hunger strikes. He, who had chosen the armed battle, did not realize that Dr KC was on a mission just like him. But he chose to carry arms and take lives while Dr KC hurt himself to save the lives of others.
He suggested that Dr KC had been used as a scapegoat by Nepali Congress, unfortunately forgetting that in the armed struggle he led, thousands of people were forced to give up their lives and families, for the cause he thought was right. Did Prachanda or anyone involved in the armed struggle or KP Oli for that matter—who said the protests were done at leisure times—evert go on a hunger strike of this intensity?
Those who said there were legal ways to address the problem forgot that the Second People’s Movement that made Nepal a republic was also against the then constitution. Still people came together, irrespective of their differing political ideologies. Much the same way, people came out on streets to support Dr KC. This comparison was hardly made. It was forgotten that doctors had revolted then as well, although halting medical services isn’t right either. However, supporting Dr KC were not just fellow doctors but people from all walks of life, making it a people’s movement.
Social media was abuzz with hashtags like #IamwithDrKC, #saveDrKC, #BackOffMedicalEducationBill, #saveIOM; about a dozen Facebook pages like Solidarity for Prof Govinda KC (followed by more than 30k people), Save IOM, Save Dr Govinda KC (17k followers); and online petitions. Protests were spontaneous and took place in all major cities. Surely not liking these movements, the government gave directives to use force and medical officers were beaten in Karnali while several others from different fields were injured or arrested in Kathmandu. These made national and international headlines.
The protesters, just like in 2006, dreamt of a better Nepal—this time through reforms in medical education and health care that would bring cheap and reliable healthcare to all Nepalis. After pressure mounted on the government, it had to address the demands.
Apart from restricting new private medical colleges in Kathmandu for 10 years, the nine-point agreement will allow talented students to become doctors. Mammoth fees still make it a distant dream for them. Those who study with full scholarship will need to serve in rural areas. This could mean that the remotest parts of the country, which often do not have doctors, would get medical facilities. If all the province had at least one good medical college, as has been agreed, there wouldn’t be the need to spend extra money to avail the services in Kathmandu. One man’s peaceful madness could bring better days for the entire nation.