“She believes that Chabilal Paudel is under protection of the Home Minister himself”

Ganga Maya Adhikari
A mum the world’s mums can be proud of: Nepal’s Ganga Maya Adhikari has been fighting for justice for her murdered son for over ten years now, relentless and totally untiring. (Picture Courtesy: Ekantipur)

Nanda Prasad Adhikari and Ganga Maya Adhikari from Nepal’s Chitwan district lost their son in June 2004 to vicious criminality of some cold-blooded murderers. The perfect world of the happy, humble parents came suddenly crashing down when their son Krishna Prasad Adhikari was allegedly killed by Maoists, still in war with the state at the time. ”

When the state failed to deliver justice, they resorted to the only path they had to secure justice for their murdered son – ‘fast unto death’. Promises of justice were made by the Nepalese government but never honoured. Human rights organisations and media believe the shameful impunity is because the accused killer is politically connected – a typical Third World nexus of politics and crime. So, the Adhikari couple continued their fast unto death since October 2013, with few interludes in between. In the process, the father made the ultimate sacrifice late last year after going foodless for over 300 days. Although hit by yet another tragedy, the doting mother did not give up but continued her peaceful fight.

The world, however, largely remains unknown to this extraordinary tale of a couple’s heroic stand against injustice and impunity.

It does not need a judicial pundit to conclude that in Nepal law is in the hands of a handful. Else, a couple’s decade-long pursuit for justice would not have come to this sad day.

Charan Prasai
Charan Prasai, rights activist

Charan Prasai, a noted human rights defender in the Himalayan nation, exchanged his views on the subject with southasia.com.au’s Ram Khatry. Mr Prasai has written, spoken and acted on and for the cause of the Adhikari family right from the outset of this appalling violation of human rights that puts a humongous question mark on Nepal’s political leadership’s commitment to multi-party democracy.

As a human rights defender, have you ever in your entire career seen a case like this wherein parents have literally given, or are on the verge of giving, their lives to seek justice for their murdered son?

This is truly an unexpected experience. I haven’t, ever, come across a case such as this in my entire career. It is indeed an unbelievable instance. We can hardly find a case of this nature with the untiring struggle of parents willing and even having sacrificed their lives as they seek justice for the murder of their beloved son.

Ganga Maya Adhkari’s husband Nanda Prasad Adhikari died in his fast unto death. How long did his hunger-strike last? What does his death tell you about the system of your country?

The death of Nanda Prasad Adhikari because of his fast unto death was very unfortunate. This is a first in Nepal, and rarely seen in other parts of the world for that matter. He took his last breath on 22 September 2015. He died after 333 days of hunger strike, fighting against injustice. He had already staged four similar fasts and had broken them in each instance after receiving commitments to justice from the concerned authorities (government). That day was, of course, a dark day in the history of Nepal

His dead body is still lying at TU Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu.

This incident is an indicator of the prevailing level of impunity in the country. It is considered a living example of the undue delay and blockade of justice. I believe, this is also the result of the perpetrators being politically protected. The law enforcement agencies are helpless in front of the political foul play and the court orders are being blocked due to political hegemony. The state of impunity is rampant and has been a hard nut to crack for the ordinary citizens.

As someone very closely and emotionally involved in the campaign for the murder-victim Krishna Prasad Adhikai, are you afraid for the life of a third member of the Adhikari family i.e. the ailing mother of the victim?

This is another alarming threat before us. We cannot rule out the risk of losing the life of the victim’s mother also. She is continuously fighting against the deep-rooted injustice. Her health condition is deteriorating, daybyday. She is now admitted into the ICU at Bir hospital Kathmandu with some seriously concerning health issues. She suffers from acute pain of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which has spread into both of her legs. She is on liquid diet since the breaking of 359 day long fast which she started together with her husband before he breathed his last.

Nepal Supreme Court (SC) in December 2015 ruled that Chhabilal Poudel, the man believed to have committed the murder, be sent to judicial custody. But the accused is still a free man despite the matter being such an open case. Does this mean Nepal’s judiciary has no teeth?

The order of the court to send main accused Chabilal Paudel to judicial custody is, definitely, encouraging. This decision demonstrates the independence of the judiciary and its strength to impart justice to the conflict victims without political influence. The victim’s mother, Ganga Maya Adhikari, was very happy to receive this positive order from the court. As a result, the condition of her health began to improve dramatically. However, this state of happiness did not last long for her. It has been two months but the court order has not been executed. She believes that Chabilal Paudel is under protection of the Home Minister himself, who represents Maoist party in the cabinet. Otherwise, according to her, there is no question of him not being arrested.

The political influence, without doubt, has barred the decision of the court. This is one of the reasons why Chabilal is till free. The judiciary is capable of making right decisions but the implementation part is at limbo. However, the court has no option but to rely on the law enforcement agencies which are under political control. In a way you are rights. Court is capable of making pertinent decisions but doesn’t have teeth to implement them.

Does this case not make a clear statement that political leaders and their foot soldiers in Nepal are clearly above the law?

This does reflect the notion as you have stated. And it is against the spirit of democracy and our constitution. This is clearly a breach of rule of law and the state of impunity. This kind of malpractices encourage anarchism and may ruin the future of the nation as a whole. The fruit of democracy has been far from the reach of the ordinary people. The political unaccountability of the leadership, in my opinion, is the root cause of this disorder.

If justice for the victim of such a publicised matter can evade for so long then what can the ordinary Nepalese expect from the new system gained through the mass movement?

You are right. This is what worries us the most. Undoubtedly, the principle ‘Everyone is equal in the eye of law’ is guaranteed by our constitution but hardly practiced. We have changed the political system from monarchy to the Republic of Nepal but the attitude of the political leadership remains the same. Criminalisation of politics is escalating day by day. People with criminal background are used as a political tool for fighting elections and other public strength actions. This has, eventually, resulted in them holding strong and important positions in public offices or in the respective political parties.

International human rights organizations, Amnesty International for one, were criticised by Nepalese rights activists for being indifferent’ to Nanda Prasad Adhkari and his ultimate demise following the fast unto death hunger strike. Do you concur?

I do not totally agree with you on this statement. Amnesty international has shown its concern from time to time for the justice on the killing of Krishna Prasad Adhikari. Moreover, Amnesty Nepal section has been heavily involved in the street demonstrations and other activities with local activists and victim groups in the capital city, frequently. Recently the Chair of Amnesty Nepal Surya Bahadur Adhikari was also detained with other eleven human rights activists, on the ‘Democracy Day’ while staging demonstration demanding implementation of court orders and ensure justice to Adhikari family.

However, I have to accept the fact that Amnesty International does not have policy to campaign or support fast unto death issue. It takes this action as a self-harming approach which is against its fundamental principle. Hence, on the fast unto death stance of Adhikari couple, it took no position. However, it continued its engagement on the rights to justice of the Adhikari family.

Also, do you believe that HR bodies themselves have done enough to put pressure on the political parties and the state to bring the killer of Krishna Prasad Adhikari?

You should note that, initially, Dr. Baburam Bhattari-led government had closed the file of the killing of Krishna Prasad registered in the Chitwan district police office. This file was reopened for investigation by the then Chief Justice Khilraj Regmi-led government on the recommendation of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Secondly, the case was filed in the Chitwan district court by then Sushil Koirala government under the pressure of the human rights community. This led to the present decision of Supreme Court to send the prime-accused Chabilal into judicial custody with the legal support of Nepal Bar Association and other eminent lawyers of Nepal.

What plans do you and your HR colleagues have to ensure that justice prevails for the Adhikari family.

Primarily we want to see that law takes its own course without delay and ensure justice to Adhkari family. We will be very much watchful about the political interference in this process. We are also planning to visit Gorkha (home district of Adhikari family) and Chitwan (where incident took place) districts in this connection. And wish to meet related people encouraging them to speak the facts, without fear, about the incident in those districts.

We are told that, in this kind of justice process the circumstance evidences and witnesses of the incident are very crucial. We shall be also meeting human rights community and civil society leaders seeking their moral support favoring Adhikari family.

Do you not think it is time to internationalise the issue if Nepal government is unable to serve justice? If so how can you or will you do so?

As far as I understand, this kind of issue can be internationalised in two circumstances. Firstly, there should be enough ground showing unwillingness of the state to impart justice and secondly, there should be substantial evidence of judiciary system being incompetent. But in Nepal both of these instances, so far, do not prevail. Hence, the state is at the advantage of having benefit of doubt.

What is your view about the political leaders including Maoists who believe that conflict-related issues should be investigated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and those linked to major criminal during the conflict era should be granted amnesty?

Unequivocally, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a post conflict transitional justice mechanism constituted to address the conflict era cases in a speedy manner. This process is a victim centric, worldwide. However, the internationally defined crimes, such as enforced disappearances, torture, rape, civilian targeted killings, war crimes and the crime against humanity are not pardonable even after having consent of the victims.

Granting amnesty, for whatsoever reasons, in any of these serious crimes cannot be justified and accepted in accordance with the international law and standards. Hence, seeking amnesty for these conflict era crimes could be counterproductive to Maoists themselves.

Finally, if the state is unwilling or incompetent to resolve the conflict era cases, within the state, then the international justice system may step in

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