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Special Feature: Why we must be talking about Thaha and Rudane today?


By Birat Anupam, KATHMANDU;- Today, September 28, is the ‘International Day for Universal Access to Information’. UNESCO declared September 28 as the ‘International Day for Universal Access to Information’ in its General Conference on 17 November 2015 at Paris.
According to the official website of UNESCO, 2021 theme of the celebration is ”to highlight the role of access to information laws and their implementation to build back strong institutions for the public good and sustainable development, as well as to strengthen the right to information and international cooperation in the field of implementing this human right.”
When we talk about the roots of legislation about information accessibility, we must not forget to mention Sweden, which is the global leader to have legislation of informational accessibility. On 2 December 1766, Sweden became world’s pioneering nation to introduce an act called ‘ Freedom of Information Act’. This maiden legislation gave exclusive access to information of public importance mainly from all legislative, judiciary and executive branches of Sweden’s democracy.
Sweden’s lead in informational accessibility was reflected even at the United Nations. In 1946, UN passed a resolution terming ‘Freedom of Information’ as the fundamental human rights in its Resolution 59. On 10 December 2048, UN mentions ‘Freedom of Information’ in the article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These steps at the global forum catapulted global awareness and campaigns of informational accessibility from the state authorities.
Nepal was not an exception in this global wave. However, in Nepal, the terms like information accessibility, freedom of information and right to information, among others, were not widely used in the early days of the awareness campaigns. Nepal coined its own native terms for this purpose.

Story of Thaha and Rudane of Nepal
Nepal’s legendary activist, elected leader and philosophical and academic figure Rupchandra Bista is considered as the biggest advocate for information accessibility in Nepal. Bista was popularly known as Rudane. Rudane was the name he coined for himself.
Rudane famously used the term ‘Thaha’ which roughly translates as knowing to drive his campaign. He emphasized people to adopt Thaha to excel their lives and livelihoods.
Thaha movement was born out of Hetauda. It got lightening impression among locals and people from across Nepal. According to Ramnarayan Bidari, the member of National Assembly, the Upper House of Parliament, and the chair of Rupchandra Bista Smarak Samiti, an organization working for the promotion and preservation of Thaha Movement, Rudane initiated his campaign since 1970s. His campaign is said to be the first such campaigns to have reaches at the settlements of poor people. Despite his well-off familial background, Rudane worked for poor, disadvantaged and the marginalized section of society.
Born on 9 January 1934, Rudane breathed his last on 21 June 1999. During his 66-year-long life, Rudane spent half of his life campaigning for Thaha movement and its nobel causes to awaken people. His movement was widely appreciated. He was elected twice- first in May 1981 and second in May 1985 to the Rastriya Panchayat or the parliament of the party-less Panchayat era. He strongly advocated his ‘Thaha’ movement even at the house. He was jailed for his campaign at times. He is still remembered for his firebrand campaigns and fiery public speeches.
Many consider ‘Thaha’ as the first Nepali philosophical movement to have reached at the settlements of general people. From RTI point of view, he was great RTI leader of all time in Nepal.
Respecting his movement, on 8 May 2014, Nepal Government has named a local municipality situated on the northern part of Makwanpur district as Thaha Municipality accommodating three previous Village Development Committees (VDCs) namely Daman, Palung and Bajrabarahi. Couple of years later, other VDCs like Chitlang, Agra and Tistung was also integrated in this municipality.
Many societal and business ventures and movements of Makwanpur are named after him. A film is made based on his story. It is titled ‘Rudane’, it will be premiered in Youtube on 29 December, said Jagrit Rayamajhi, the Chief Executive Producer of the upcoming film. The film is researched, written and directed by Amit Kishor Subedi and Bikash Dhakal. The film calls Rudane ‘Nepali name of revolutionary’.
Rudane and his Thaha movement have national limelight and reorganization. Rudane and Thaha movement deserve greater recognition even in South Asian level.
In terms of legislation of informational accessibility, Rudane and Thaha movement has been successful. Constitutionally, Nepal pioneered the concept of Right to Information from its Constitution of 1990.
The article 16 of the now defunct 1990 constitution of Nepal gave constitutional exclusive fundamental right of RTI for the first time in South Asia.
Even the Nepal’s Interim Constitution of 2007 gave RTI rights. Article 27 has allocated this fundamental right. In the historic Constitution of 2015, which was promulgated by the people’s elected representatives of the 601-member Constituent Assembly on 20 December 2015, also RTI has got its strong space. The article 27 has provisioned this fundamental right.
Furthermore, to give the institutional framework for the RTI, RTI Act 2007 was enacted. Likewise, National Information Commission (NIC) was established in May 2008. RSS

 

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