Democracy without justice

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A murder case from 2004 comes back to haunt.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) is the backbone of the government headed by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi. But last week, an unexpected warning came from UCPN-M chairman Prachanda on the government's declaration that it will launch a full investigation into the case of Krishna Prasad Adhikari, who was abducted, tortured and killed by the Maoists in 2004. "I, as a signatory to the peace process, warn the government of serious consequences over the peace and political process if this case is pursued further," Prachanda said. But less than 48 hours after his warning, the government asked the police chief of Chitwan district to investigate the case. Adhikari, then 17, was allegedly abducted, tied to a motorbike and then dragged until he died, on the suspicion of being an informer. But as the case still evokes wide interest, the Maoists have told the National Human Rights Commission that it was a case of mistaken identity.

More than 16,000 people lost their lives in the decade of conflict that ended in 2006. As decided under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by Prachanda and then prime minister G.P. Koirala, for all cases of human rights violations, disappearances, tortures and killings, two different commissions — the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on Disappeared Persons — were to have been formed by the first week of January 2007. But six governments, including the current one, have failed to set these up. Two Maoist PMs — Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai — withdrew almost all the cases against top Maoist leaders, declared people killed by the state "martyrs" and gave each family up to a million rupees.

None of the four big parties that fought together for the restoration of democracy in 2006, including the Nepali Congress, pressed for the commissions. Bhattarai's government had prepared the TRC bill, but it was stalled because human rights groups opposed it. The Maoists ended up being the biggest beneficiaries of the culture of impunity in Nepal.

This delay and denial of justice apparently provoked the parents of Krishna Prasad Adhikari to come to Kathmandu when Bhattarai, also from their district, became PM. They made many representations and sat on dharnas, but it was all in vain. They were even forcibly admitted to a "mental hospital" by security personnel outside the PM's residence. But with Bhattarai's replacement by the chief justice as the executive head, the Adhikaris were released from the hospital. They began their fight for justice, but a prolonged fast took a toll on their health and they are currently undergoing treatment in a government hospital. Many human rights groups and prominent citizens joined their crusade this time. What shocked them most is that an individual they had named as the key suspect was serving in the office of Bhattarai's wife,

Hisila Yami.

Prachanda's warning about the investigation is thus being read as his party's move to stall the November elections by alleging that the present government is acting against the spirit of the CPA, which only authorised the unborn TRC to investigate such cases. Or, his party might force the government to keep the probe on paper. All of this indicates that the peace in Nepal, clearly linked to democracy, is fragile, and that some parties and individuals have to be treated as more equal than others.

"It is demo-crazy and not democracy that our parties are pursuing," says political thinker Dev Raj Dahal. The Adhikari couple have shown that democracy is meaningless without justice, and the promise of election alone is not enough to secure people's trust and support for the slogan of democracy being raised by discredited political parties.

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From :indianexpress

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  • Democracy without justice

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    Yubaraj Ghimire

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