Iih, the curious traveller turned activist. Photo from Iih’s Instagram. Used with permission.
On October 22, 25-year-old Nepalese activist Iih reached the town of Sauhara after walking 167 kilometres for four days from the capital Kathmandu, along with a fellow group of acquaintances. Once there, they distributed supplies to over 75 local families who work in the tourism sector, a major source of revenue in this town, which was badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This wasn’t the first time Iih walked long distances in Nepal, nor the first time he made headlines for his unconventional protest tactics.
Born Ishan Adhikari, Iih dropped out of Kathmandu’s prestigious St. Xavier’s School at age 14 and set out on walking all over Nepal. In 2015, he walked across the southern plains of Nepal for 37 days, covering 1,203 kilometres. Between 2017 and 2018, he travelled across the country from east to west, covering an astounding 6,000 kilometres in 225 days. At some point along his journey, he decided to abandon his birth name, adopting the moniker of Iih.
CK Lal, one of the most read columnists in Nepal, wrote about Iih:
The choice of Ishan’s nom de plume is dissent in itself. The word Iih in Nepali stands for “this” and its Sanskrit meaning implies the deity of desire […] a mischievous interpretation of Iih in Nepali is akin to showing the middle finger, probably to the established order of the state and society.
Now enjoying a large social media following, Iih first became known in Nepal in 2016, when he was arrested for splashing red paint on the walls of Singha Durbar, Nepal’s government seat, in protest against police violence.
This year, he turned his tactics towards Nepal’s poor COVID-19 response.
Iih being taken to a press conference on August 9, 2020. Photo by Sanjib Chaudhary. Used with permission.
Nepal registered more than 170,000 COVID-19 infections as of November 2. The highest single-day spike in cases took place on October 10 and October 21, with over 5,000 new cases registered each day.
Iih has been critical of the government’s response to the pandemic since Nepal declared a nationwide lockdown in March. At that time, the government had been testing suspect COVID-19 cases with RDTs, which are less effective in detecting the SARS-CoV-2, and only carrying out PCR tests after a positive RDT sample.
Iih then organized the #EnoughIsEnough campaign, which staged several protests nationwide since June. The campaign demanded expansion of testing, discontinuance of RDTs, the rectification of quarantine strategy, transparency and accountability regarding the use of COVID-19-related funds, protection of frontline workers, relief for vulnerable populations, among other issues.
Talking to OnlineKhabar, Iih said:
… I posted a story on Instagram, asking, “If anyone wants to come to the street, send me your Facebook ID, I will make a Facebook group and add you.”
About 400 youth sent their IDs saying that they are ready to come to the streets. […]
So, before I did anything, those 400 started inviting other friends to the group called ‘Enough is Enough’.
Iih was arrested in one of the #EnoughIsEnough protests in June:
Nepal Police arrested Ishan along with two others from Maitighar, but hundreds of others continue the protest #EnoughIsEnough #HappeningNow pic.twitter.com/dzfYyUzOPj
— Dewan RAI (@rdewan) June 13, 2020
This short documentary by Vice Asia documented some of the demonstrations this summer in Nepal:
In June, the always-walking Iih sat down for Satyagraha, a form of hunger strike, in protest against the government’s COVID-19 measures. He ended the 12-day strike after authorities signed a 12-point agreement with the #EnoughIsEnough campaign pledging to implement a better response.
घरमा बसेर तपाई यसरी #MySatyagraha वा आफ्नै भाषामा #मेरोसत्याग्रह अनी Enough is Enough Nepal लेखेर प्लेकार्ड बनाई फोटो खिची समाजिक सञ्जालमा पेस्ट गरेर पनि तपाईले हाम्रो ‘सरकारलाई कोभिड-१९ को सबल व्यबस्थापन को माग गर्दै’ भईरहेको सत्याग्रह लाई साथ दिन सक्नु हुन्छ ! #EnoughIsEnough pic.twitter.com/jeIOerew7y
— Enough Is Enough Nepal (COVID-19) (@EnoughisEnoughN) June 28, 2020
You can support the Satyagraha demanding the government for better COVID-19 management staying at home by writing #MySatyagraha in your own language on a placard, clicking a picture of it and posting it on social media.
The #EnoughIsEnough protest & Nepal government’s agreement, signed today: pic.twitter.com/iQGu8Ndscx
— Kashish Das Shrestha (@kashishds) July 7, 2020
Iih started another Satyagraha on July 17 after the campaign perceived the government had failed to improve its COVID-19 measures. He broke the fast on August 9 after authorities signed another 12-point agreement with the campaign.
Iih continues his journey helping the needy and demanding the government it cares for its citizens.
He writes on his Instagram account:
“How far would I travelJust to be where you are?How far is the journeyFrom here to a star?