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Reign of terror in Dailekh

Friday, January 25th, 2013
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DAMAKANT JAISHI

What is happening at Dailekh district is a really disturbing example of state-sponsored intimidation

Twenty-two journalists left Dailekh district for Surkhet on Thursday night. When some of the frantic calls came to my ex-colleague Narayan Wagle yesterday evening, I was with him.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) – this qualifier has become necessary since Bhattarai is acting more like a Maoist party leader than a responsible head of government who needs to ensure the safety of all Nepali citizens – had ordered three DIGs to open fire on demonstrators in Dailekh during a Maoist party program there. One of the DIGs passed on the order to an SSP who in turn asked an SP. When the CDO (civilian head in the district) and the DSP (police chief in the district) refused, citing escalation of violence, the PM went berserk and both the officials were immediately transferred.

The DIGs are same police officers who arranged for 22 buses to carry Maoist cadres, including YCL, from Surkhet to be taken to Dailekh for a show of strength. The SP who has now been made the Dailekh chief is the same who took care of all the logistics of travel. You can imagine the message, and the effect, of these on locals and journalists in Dailekh.

Days before the clashes between locals and opposition parties on the one side and police-Maoist cadre on Wednesday, the CDO had already informed through his bosses in Kathmandu about the tense situation in Dailekh – pleading in an oblique way – against PM Bhattarai’s visit. The PM wanted a show of strength. This enraged locals and opposition parties in the district and violence ensued during the Maoist party program related to the ongoing UCPN (Maoist) convention.

The sole remaining investigating police officer who could not be transferred due to the Supreme Court order has been asked to be ready to leave the district on 30 January, a day after the local court’s deadline for investigation of Dekendra Thapa murder case expires.

One of the inspectors who also has been transferred on a 24-hour notice is the one who collected material evidence in the Dekendra Thapa murder case. Thapa was tortured and murdered – buried alive as per the account of one of the Maoist cadre who has confessed to the crimes – eight years ago. His wife’s tireless efforts to nab Thapa’s killers bore fruit after the (transferred) DSP took up the case as per a local court’s order about three weeks ago.

Immediately, Bhattarai and his attorney general ordered government attorney and police officials in Dailekh to stop the investigation. Outraged journalists and locals have been protesting ever since. It is very clear the government, whose attempts to stop the murder probe did not succeed due to the Supreme Court’s order, is trying indirect means to scuttle the investigation.

At a program in Kathmandu a few days ago, Bhattarai said that he did not believe in the ideals of non-violence. He believed in the dictum of ‘an eye for an eye’. That’s what happened during the decade-long Maoist insurgency and in Dailekh on Wednesday, 23 January.

Also note Bhattarai’s tweet a couple of days ago Responding to question as to why Nepal could not emulate the development in bordering Indian state of Bihar, Bhattarai asked for five years of majority rule to deliver prosperity and development and added (hold your breath) that people could ‘shoot’ him if he failed.

Not surprising from a man who openly espouses violence and violent means to an end. This is from a prime minister whose record – when it comes to nepotism, corruption, demise of CA, obstacle to election, and obstruction of justice – in the one and half year that he has been in power speaks for itself. I shudder to think of the ‘development’ he will usher.

At least three locals newspapers and two FM radio stations have been shut down indefinitely in Dailekh after alleged threats from PM Bhattarai’s party.

Some people in Kathmandu have spoken about the right of the Maoist party and the prime minister to hold a meeting in Dailekh. That’s a non-issue here. Was Bhattarai’s presence necessary? Bhattarai felt no need to visit neighbouring Surkhet where a similar UCPN (Maoist) meet took place on Tuesday. But he insisted on visiting Dailekh where he had been asked not to visit. Why? The PM could have chosen not to provoke the Dailekhis who were angry at his obstruction of justice in the Dekendra Thapa case. But he chose to act as a Maoist leader whose ego was hurt. The district is one of the few where the Maoists lost both seats during the CA election in 2008.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) faces a severe test of its credibility and functionality. Political party cadres who pose as journalists and now as executives in the FNJ apparently do not want the largest and the most representative of journalists i Nepal to lie low in the Dekendra Thapa case. Nepalis and the world will be closely watching how it deals with this naked attack on the media.

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