The elevation of Minister Bandi to high-profile state office without being a Member of Parliament seems to have been made possible by his friendship with Minister of Finance Janardan Sharma, who was recently forced to resign on a scandal involving hanky-panky in the preparation of the national budget (then reinstated by PM Deuba despite a public uproar). While one up-and-coming lawyer from Dailekh who arrived in Kathmandu via Nepalganj championed human rights and transitional justice, the other developed as a key Maoist commander in the field.
Minister Sharma is likely to be called in for questioning should there be a proper TJ process. Until recently, there was one conflict-era video available on YouTube, part of a series distributed with pride by the Maoist party itself. Probably following the battle of Pili, the footage shows some soldiers running away, then the camera swivels to show Sharma commanding the pursuing Maoist combatants. Then the camera follows a Maoist fighter coming upon an Army soldier on the ground, writing in terror. A shout comes from behind, ‘Kill! Kill him!’, and the soldier is bayoneted to death. The video is not for the faint-hearted.
This killing of a surrendered, weapon-less soldier is a war crime, and one of many that have gone without research and accountability – like the Bandarmude bus blast, the death of Kajol Khatun, the killing of Muktinath Adhikari, the mass-killing of Doramba, the list is a long one. Meanwhile, the footage of the soldier being bayoneted has ‘disappeared’ from the Web, rather like the erasure or hiding of the hard disk footage of the CCTV camera of the Ministry of Finance, which prevented the investigation committee from finding Minister Sharma’s culpability. The ruling coalition was keen to push a financial crime under the carpet, much as it has sought to destroy the TJ process.
Minister Bandi has two options: withdraw the anti-victim, anti-society bill right away, or sit down with the National Human Rights Commission, the human rights community and representatives of victims to peruse a checklist of the problematic provisions, and resolve them to satisfaction. The intention of the minister, the Cabinet of PM Deuba, as well as the bosses of the ruling coalition would be to effect some cosmetic changes and push the bill through Parliament using its brute majority. All the more reason for civil rights activists to unite and speak up without delay, asking PM Deuba to correct each and every lapse in the amendment bill, or to take back the document.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, unable in his ‘state capture’ agenda through the gun, in peacetime did manage to become prime minister twice, as did his associate Baburam Bhattarai, once. However, Dahal needs the transitional justice process to ‘seem’ to come to a conclusion. In this, he hopes to waylay Nepalis and the world, utilising the ideal moment of a coalition that runs at his command and commands majority in the House, and a minister who will do his bidding.
But not everything has to go the way Dahal plans it, and this particular amendment bill cannot be allowed to be adopted as is. Dahal himself needs to be told by someone other than a quisling or yes-man that his political future cannot be guaranteed by a sham transitional justice process. Should the text be cleaned up and the problematic provisions deleted or amended, a proper and dignified TJ process will begin at long last, and this will finally provide the respectability that Dahal craves.
At the point of the successful conclusion of the process according to international values and Supreme Court dictates, Dahal may even be able to credibly shed the ‘Maoist’ tag that he is so keen to jettison.
Kanak Mani Dixit is a writer, journalist and publisher, as well as founding editor of Himal Southasian magazine. This article is an expanded version of an earlier one in Nepali on Onlinekhabar.com.