Nepali Times

Half truths, no justice

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
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As the ambulance carrying the remains of the five young men of Dhanusha made its way from the District Police Office to Devi Chok in Janakpur on Wednesday morning, a sizable number of curious bystanders had gathered for the procession. For the families of the deceased, however, it was a moment they had been anxiously awaiting for more than 10 years.

The last rites of the five men disappeared and killed by the state in 2003 was performed today in Janakpur.

The last rites of the five men disappeared and killed by the state in 2003 was performed today in Janakpur. (PICS: Ishwar Chandra Jha)

On 8 October 2003, eleven students including Sanjeev Kumar Karna (24), Durgesh Labh (23), Jitendra Jha (20), Pramod Narayan Mandal (19), and Shailendra Yadav (17) were arrested by the joint security forces at Devi Chok. While six men were released later on, the ill-fated five were never seen again. They were reportedly taken to the banks of the Kamala River in Godar and shot dead by the army on suspicion of being Maoists.

In August 2010, an exhumation team led by the National Human Rights Commission unearthed four bodies near the Kamala River. The remains were sent to Finland and the National Forensic Laboratory in Kathmandu for DNA testing. The skeleton of the fifth person was found in February 2011 and sent for examination last year. Results confirmed that Karna, Labh, Jha, Mandal, and Yadav were the ones who were killed.

As the families performed the last rites of their loved ones at Swargadwari on Wednesday, it provided them a much needed sense of closure. But their struggle to find the truth and seek justice has been long, grueling, and frustrating at every turn. Sanjeev’s father Jai Kishor Labh, who was a lawyer, went from one government office to another looking for answers and kept up the fight until his last breath.

“The anguish of not knowing how and why his son was disappeared eventually took our father’s life. Our 59-year-old-mother is extremely frail, she refuses to eat, but is still carrying on the search for justice. Her only wish before she dies is to see the accused being prosecuted in court,” says Mamata Karna, Sanjeev’s younger sister.

According to the NHRC’s press briefing in Dhanusha on Wednesday, Sanjeev and his friends had been blindfolded and shot by the army in a premeditated encounter. At the time of the murders, Chuda Bahadur Shrestha was the chief of the regional police office, Kuber Singh Rana, former IGP of police was then SSP in Dhanusha, Rewati Raj Kafle was the chief district officer, and Major Anup Adhikari was in charge of the Dharapani Army Barrack. But that is only half the truth. Victims’ families still don’t know why the men were targeted in the first place and we are nowhere close to trying the guilty.

Bed Prasad Bhattarai, acting secretary of the NHRC, however, is hopeful that those accused in the murder will be tried under criminal law very soon. “An investigation carried out by a constitutional body like the NHRC with the full involvement of the police and incriminating forensic evidence should put pressure on the government and speed up the process,” Bhattarai told me over the phone.

But the state’s continuing apathy does not give victims much reason for hope. The handing over of the remains in Janakpur this week was a watershed moment in Nepal’s history and yet the government didn’t bother to send a single representative from Kathmandu.

DSC04822

Bimala Devi Karna, mother of Sanjeev, at Swargadwari in Janakpur on Wednesday morning before his cremation.

“It was a day of mourning and grieving. The least the state could have done was to stand besides us, share our pain, and tell us that our brothers died for the good of this country. We didn’t need an apology from their side,” says Mamata. “Even Maoist leaders came to pay their respect to the dead. We felt like we had lost our guardians.”

In another brazen act earlier in the year, the Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation appointed Chuda Bahadur Shrestha in a taskforce set up to provide recommendations for a truth and reconciliation bill,  even after Shrestha had been named as one of the prime culprits in the Dhanusha case. The message the government seems to be sending out to thousands of victims and their families is that their sufferings and plight are simply not serious enough to warrant its attention.

While senior Maoist leaders Dev Gurung, Matrika Yadav, and Krishna Bahadur Mahara came to Janakpur to express their condolence and were quick to declare the five men as martyrs, they cannot absolve themselves of responsibility because their party has repeatedly occluded the path to justice. Kuber Singh Rana was promoted to the head of Nepal police in September 2012 at the time of Baburam Bhattarai’s government.

It was an act of self-preservation on Bhattarai’s behalf because if he had agreed to investigate and punish the security personnel involved in extra-judicial killings in Dhanusha, he would then be obligated to prosecute those accused of war crimes from his own party like Bal Krishna Dhungel.

It is this complicity of the two former enemies in covering each other’s backs that continues to hinder Nepal’s transitional justice mechanism and results in a toothless bill full of provisions for amnesty like the one that was passed in April this year.

Says Mamata Karna: “The case of my brother and his friends is clear so there is no need to wait for the TRC. There is ample proof, all we need is for those accused to be tried under criminal law immediately.”

Trishna Rana

(With additional reporting by Manik Jha and Ishwar Chandra Jha in Janakpur).

 

Read also:

Commissions of convenience

Whereabouts unknown

Finding the Dhanusha 5


Dhanusha 5

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
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More than 10 years after their disappearance and murder, the remains of the five young men from Dhanusha is finally being handed over to their families today at Devi Chowk in Janakpur, the same place from where they were picked up by the joint security forces. Earlier today morning, Bed Bhattarai, acting secretary of the National Human Rights Commission, briefed the media about the case. State representatives were conspicuous by their absence.

On 8 October 2003, Sanjeev Kumar Karna (24), Durgesh Labh (23), Jitendra Jha (20), Pramod Narayan Mandal (19), Shailendra Yadav (17) along with six other friends were taken into custody while they were at a picnic. The ill-fated five were never seen again. They were reportedly taken to the banks of the Kamala River in Godar and shot dead by the army.

In August 2010, an exhumation team led by the NHRC unearthed four bodies near the Kamala River. The remains were sent to the University of Helsinki in Finland and the National Forensic Laboratory in Kathmandu for DNA testing. The remains of the fifth person were sent only last year for examination. Results confirmed that Karna, Labh, Jha, Mandal, and Yadav were the ones who were killed.

At the time of the murders, Chuda Bahadur Shrestha was the chief of the regional police office, Kuber Singh Rana, former IGP of Nepal Police was then SSP of the District Police Office in Dhanusha, Rewati Raj Kafle was the chief district officer in Dhanusha, and Major Anup Adhikari was at the Dharapani Army Barrack. In March this year, the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction appointed Shrestha in the 11-member taskforce which was set up to make recommendations for a TRC bill. Shrestha resigned after victims objected.

Trishna Rana

Read also:

Whereabouts unknown, Bhrikuti Rai

Finding the Dhanusha 5, Nayantara Gurung Kakshapati

 

 


Watered down

Friday, July 18th, 2014
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Bikas Thapa, Annapurna Post, 18 July

Nepal has received from India a proposal themed on ‘Power Development’, the ratification of which would put Nepal’s water resources in its southern neighbour’s control.

According to points III and IIIa of the new proposal, only companies okayed by India would get to invest in hydro projects, Nepal itself would only be permitted to invest in partnership with India, and third-country investment would be disallowed.

Last week, energy Minister Radha Gyawali called water resource experts and former water and energy ministers to discuss the possible effects of this proposal on Nepal. Former Water Resource Minister Laxman Prasad Ghimire of Nepali Congress, one of the participants at the presentation, told her India’s proposal was an insult to Nepal.

In 2010, Nepal had sent India a proposal titled ‘Cross-border Interconnection for Electric Power Trade’, which sought to define the ways in which Nepal and India might trade power generated from hydroelectric projects developed by various investors in Nepal.

Succeeding governments have since been waiting for a reply. But according to former Minister for Water Resources, India’s late and unprecedented ‘reply’ is a disguised attempt to capture Nepal’s resources.

“For starters, they haven’t even acknowledged the fact that our government sent them an official proposal,” said Gyawali. “Their own proposal completely ignores the principles and possibilities of mutual benefits. Instead, they are trying to do to us what they’ve done in Bhutan.”

The controversial document is being seriously investigated into by the Ministry of Energy. But it hasn’t alerted other ministries nor has it made the proposal public. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is also oblivious. At the meeting with experts, only points III and IIIa were discussed.

Minister Radha Gyawali says budget preparations, UML general convention, and the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s treatment have distracted discussion and decision on the subject. But she refused to make the contents of the document public.

“All decisions will be taken through diplomacy,” she told Annapurna Post on Thursday.

Politicians and bureaucrats have been looking forward to what changes Narendra Modi’s premiership will have in the way Nepal is treated by India. But a participant in the meeting told us on the condition of anonymity: “This proposal shows that India bureaucracy has remained the same despite Modi’s victory and Nepal’s interests will continue to be hampered.”


Drama, tragedy, irony and surprises at the Cup of Cups

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
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Just days before the first World Cup game on June 12 in Sao Paulo, as final touches were being given to stadiums, walls being painted at bus stations and chairs being polished at airport, the scene was looking very similar to an Indian wedding, where the bride’s house is a picture of chaos till the groom’s party arrives at the doorstep. And then they begin to play music and suddenly everything falls into place. It’s the best example of organized chaos.

That’s how Brazil was looking before the ball started rolling a month ago. But, as in Indian wedding the scene changes with the arrival of the bride, here too everything began playing to some invisible music after local hero Neymar sent the ball into the Croatian goal for the first time. Then the World Cup began to work like a well-oiled machine, with every cog working to perfection.

It was the most emotional world cup ever, with both winners and losers shedding tears in equal proportion.

The opening had its share of drama as the Brazilian team arrived with tears in their eyes. Several legs were trembling when 70,000 people sand the national anthem in one voice. Many had bitter taste in the mouth when some moneyed sections of the crowd threw curses at the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff. But as Brazil romped home 3-1, everything was forgiven.

Then it was a roller-coaster ride of football at its best. Played under falling rain of Amazon or the northeast sun baking their backs or chilly winds of Brazilian south, the World Cup was a goal feast, with 2.7 goals scored per game – the highest ever. New stars and new names emerged as some old reputations were destroyed and great expectations failed to materialize.

The World Cup saw a new world order emerge. Even before the tournament entered the knock-out stages, European football powers like Spain, Italy, England and Portugal had been sent home. And making their entry into the last of 16 were Colombia, Costa Rica, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria. After the quarter-finals, even France and Belgium were on their way back, while South American powerhouses Brazil and Argentina were moving smoothly, looking all set for a dream final at the Maracana.

But the Cup of Cups needed a bit of tragedy too. That happened in the first semi-final, with Brazil losing the game to Germany 7-1. With that humiliation, Brazil also lost the awe it had. With 0-3 loss to Holland in the third place play-off, Brazil’s humiliation was complete. Only consolation for 200 million Brazilians was that their arch-rival, Argentina, lost the final to Germany.

But the irony of the final was that Lionel Messi, who failed to score in all the four knock-out games, got the Golden Ball Award for being the “best player of the tournament”, while Thomas Muller, James Rodriguez and Arjen Robben failed to make the cut. That made even Argentine great Maradona call the award a “marketing gimmick”.

And then there was a big surprise. Brazil lost the game on the pitch, but it won off it. Before the tournament, they were predicting that the World Cup would be a disaster, but by the time it ended on July 13, everyone had good things to say about the “Cup of Cups”. The stadiums were excellent, with perfect atmosphere. The flights had been on time and lines at airports short and quick. The hotels had been warm and efficient. And even the much-maligned taxi drivers were friendly and helpful.

But the biggest positive for Brazil in this World Cup has been its people. As they travelled across this country, several European journalists were wondering why the people are “so nice and always smiling”. Those who came here fearing robberies and mugging on the streets have gone back with the memories of singing, dancing and partying on the streets.

Of course, Brazil’s loss in the semi-finals brought down the people’s enthusiasm.  But all those who predicted chaos and violence in case of Brazil’s loss have been proven wrong. Brazil accepted the defeat with great dignity. Brazil lost the World Cup but it won over the world off the field.

In South Asian countries, we joke that in the end, everything will be fine and if it’s not fine, it’s not the end yet. But in Brazil, everything was fine even before the end.

Shobhan Saxena

Read also:

The best World Cup? It looks like so

In goals we trust 

When football comes home 


Gold for Sapana

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
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Photo: Basil Edward Teo

Photo: Basil Edward Teo

Devaki Bista, Himal Khabarpatrika, 13 July

When Nepali Times met 16-year-old Sapana*(pic, right) last month, she was training hard for the 8th World Taekwondo Cultural Expo in Korea and showed no sign of her traumatic past. This week, she has returned from the tournament with a gold medal.

For the seven other Nepali participants, who like Sapana were also victims of sexual violence, her victory was more than just a sporting success. But for Sapana, winning was still not enough to make her smile.

In 2012, Sapana, then 14, was raped by Sagar Bhatta and Amar Awasthi as she was travelling for her SLC examinations in Patan, Baitadi. The Baitadi District Court announced a Rs 50,000 fine and 13-year jail terms for Bhatta and Awasthi.

But this April, an appellate court in Mahendranagar released the two rapists. Once out, they threatened her father to not make any further appeals. Sapana moved to Kathmandu, where she stayed with Rakshya Nepal, an organisation that helps in rehabilitating sexual abuse victims.

Government lawyer Prakash Bahadur Bhandari, who has been fighting Sapana’s case, says he is not satisfied with the court’s decision and will appeal for justice again. Sapana herself can’t believe what has happened.

“What were the judges thinking when they let them go free,” she asks.

After years of counselling, Sapana was able to sit her SLC examinations this year and passed with first division grades. For someone who always topped her class, going back to school wasn’t difficult, but she was often haunted by the assault that changed her life two years ago. In between her studies – she wants to be a lawyer – she also took up Taekwondo lessons and earned a blue belt. Her gold medal this week has been well-earned.

*Sapana’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.

 

Read also:

Fighting spirit, #711


Prakash raising livestock

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
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Himalkhabar.com, 15 July

 

Prakash Dahal livestock farming

Prakash Dahal at his pig farm. Credit: Kamal Rimal

The controversial son of Maoist Chairman Prachanda, Prakash Dahal, has now turned a livestock farmer. Prakash bought a pig farm from Maoist leader Gopal Kiranti in March, and had previously also bought a dairy farm in Chitwan.

Prakash says his latest foray into livestock farming is aimed at encouraging Nepali youth to look for jobs within the country, and not leave for work aborad.

“I would like to request all the youngsters who toil in Gulf countries to work hard in Nepal,” said Prakash, who has in the past been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

When the Baburam Bhattarai led government sanctioned Rs 20 million for an expedition team to Everest that included Prakash in 2012, the decision was bitterly criticised. The same year, Prakash eloped with Maoist student activist Bina Thapa Magar who was also a member of the same expedition, leaving behind his wife and son in Kathmandu.

Maoist leaders Prakash Adhikari, Ranjit Tamang and Indra Bhushal are Prakash’s partners in the business. Prakash was actively involved with the party for 15 years but doesn’t hold any post today. “I realise I have made mistakes in the past, and I am
now working to correct those and change myself,” wrote Prakash in his Facebook status. In the same post, he claims all his family property were spent on the building of the party and he had to borrow money for his business from his maternal uncle.

“I do not have any responsibility in the party, neither am I in a position to do anything,” he writes. But in a conversation with this magazine, Prakash said he would like to take forward his political career and business together. Prakash says his next venture is beekeeping and plans to buy some hives soon.


Removing obstacles

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
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Photo: Bikram Rai

Photo: Bikram Rai

Laxman Biyogi in Nagarik, 14 July

The government has said it will take action against individuals and groups opposing infrastructure development. In his budget speech on Sunday, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat announced a special program to deal with those who create obstructions to energy, hydroelectricity, and infrastructure projects.

Acquiring land for transmission lines and highway has become a big problem in the past few years and projects of national pride have been delayed. Various individuals, political parties, and ‘development’ organisations have obstructed hydropower and infrastructure projects. The construction of transmission lines sections in Thankot-Bhaktapur and Khimti-Dhalkebar, the Kathmandu-Tarai fast-track, and North-South highways have been delayed for years because of disagreements over property evaluation.

The government will now be able to take legal action against those who delay national international obstruction on any ground. There are plans to draft a law that will deal with land acquisition and property evaluation. The government will also amend the Environment Conservation Act so that pending projects will soon be able to begin their Environmental Impact Assessments. Mahat has allocated Rs 26.17 billion for the energy sector. He also announced load-shedding would end in the next three years because projects like the Upper Tamakosi, Trisuli IIIA, Chameliya and Kulekhani III would get special provisions in the budget.

Mahat also said the private sector would get subsidies for investment in hydropower. Private companies that complete construction in the next nine years will be exempted from income tax for 10 years and will only have to pay only half the total income tax for the next five years.

The budget has set aside Rs 26 billion for infrastructure development. It has special provisions for a detailed project report for the Kathmandu-Tarai fast track to be completed within six months. It has allocated money to open up the tracks for the Mid-Hill Highway and also construct 20 bridges on it. Money has been set aside to connect Dolpa and Humla by road. More than 525km new road will be pitched and 498km gravelled in the next 12 months while 227km new dirt tracks will be opened up.

Read also:

Progress on hold, #714


 

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