Justice for Dekendra
Nabin Kumar Chhetri
At a time when incidents of rapes have been so pervasive throughout the country, shocking details of the murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa have come out in the media. There is a saying in Nepali, 'Paap dhuri bata Karauncha.’ Thapa, the journalist who worked for Radio Nepal and Nepal Samacharpatra, was abducted by the Maoists in June, 2004. He was accused of embezzlement. After inflicting rigorous torture for days he was buried ‘alive’. Lachhiram Gharti, one of the accused in Thapa’s murder has confessed his crime. Gharti said, ‘After we broke his legs and hands, he was unconscious. We took him to my house. I poured water into his mouth when he begged for it. He was alive when we buried him. There were nine of us. As asked by the district leadership of the party, he was tortured to the point of unconsciousness and buried. I am ready to face punishment for his soul rest in peace.”
This is the height of evil. Thapa’s wife Laxmi pleaded in one of her casual interviews, ‘Eight years back, my husband was brutally killed. The perpetrators had held him captive for more than one and a half month. The culprits have been arrested. I hope to see them punished severely.’ Laxmi had to perform her husband’s death rituals without a formal funeral ceremony.
The disclosure of the chilling facts associated with Thapa’s murder has shaken the entire nation. Adding fuel to fire, Prime Minister Bhattarai passed an irresponsible remark accusing the human rights activists of digging out wartime cases. He asserted that it is futile to deal with individual cases of the conflict. Is a journalist's life so cheap that it is not even worth an investigation? Would he still say the same statement if he was his relative or a family member? Human rights abuses should be thoroughly scrutinised whenever possible.
Article 3 of the Universal declaration of human rights says, ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.’ Furthermore Article 5 justifies, ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’ These articles are not only confined within the pages of UN charter but are meant to be regulated and observed by all the countries. In the case of Dekendra Thapa, all the possible rights have been violated.
The almost forgotten chapter of Thapa’s murder has now reopened. His family members are patiently waiting for Justice. Justice is not only phenomenal for the victim’s family but for his soul to rest in peace. Dekendra’s life, just like everyone else’s, was precious. Nobody has the right to kill anybody just for the sake of a political belief.
Thapa had made a lot of social contributions in Dailekh. The case is becoming more difficult as the Prime Minster wants to close the chapter. An ‘intellectual’ like Bhattarai, who holds a doctorate degree from one of the best known universities, should have been more liberal in his thoughts rather than act in a totalitarian manner. Pressure has been escalating from various elements who do not want the truth to unfold. The direct encroachment of the PM and some Maoists elite signifies how they are desperate about aborting the case.
There are reports of Dailekh’s public prosecutor being intimidated by various sources including the government officials. The journalist’s murder has now drawn international attention. Human rights groups and a number of international organizations have expressed their solidarity in condemning the government’s attempt to halt the prosecution. Meanwhile, various rights groups, journalists and civilians are in a mood to relent their protests to pressurise the government for a fair trial.
Thapa’s case is an extreme instance of human rights violations that took place throughout the Maoist insurgency. Such a grave issue remained neglected for than eight years. It shows how deep-rooted the culture of impunity is in Nepal. The revival of his case will, hopefully, be a harbinger for numerous other ‘forgotten’ cases where innocent people had been, tortured, murdered or disappeared. The ambience for impartial legal proceedings is crucial for the establishment of long term peace process in Nepal. Government officials and politicians responsible for frequent interference in the judicial process will not only fuel the anger of the common lots but will also weaken their position in Nepali polity. The long tradition of impunity come to an end and none of the culprits should be let off.
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