BIRAT KRISHNA THAPA: Justice, as I had written earlier, is a broad concept. Our evolution has enabled us to identify what suits us best as we live together in society. With education, although the majority have passed the era of the “jungle law”, yet we are reminded of our cruelty and barbaric nature and our ignorance fuels the fire.
Over the past month, Nepal has witnessed an unprecedented level of accusations and arrests of prominent political leaders. This not only begs us to question our leadership but the direction that our society is headed to, with proven facts that acts of crime have been committed, our justice system is paralyzed and our future bleak with each unfolding event.
The first major instance was the arrest of the former Speaker of the House of Representatives one of the topmost positions of authority in an alleged rape case. The case received widespread attention due to the enormity of the political position Mahara was representing.
In this case, statements were changed daily. The victim was hostile and unwilling to cooperate. Several days into the investigations what started as rape transitioned to an attempt to rape to finally the victim saying that nothing happened. Although much of the statements are said to have come under duress we still have to wait and watch the outcome.
Likewise, two barbaric cases were uncovered. One led to the immediate arrest of a Member of the House of Representatives from the Nepali Congress. Mohammed Aftab Alam and his involvement in the heinous brick kiln murders exposes the self-indulgent exercise while in power with no regard for human life. 23 people were burned alive in the brick kilns, while they begged for mercy to be treated after the bomb exploded in the cowshed in Rautahat back in 2008. Shamsul the eyewitness is going pillar to post seeking justice for the loss of his son-in-law Mohammad Osi Akhtar. If this wasn’t enough Akhtar’s Mother Ruksana Khatun was shot down 3 years after the murders in the brick kiln for her refusal to take back the complaint against Alam.
This raises pertinent questions in our justice system, where those in power collude and the ones who are below bear the brunt. An old saying as it goes, the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. Nepalese at all levels have continuously suffered due to the apathetic attitude of their leaders. Will Alam be punished according to the severity of his crime is a question in itself.
Governments that are made to protect the people have been collusive. Our leaders who are elected and chosen by us to show us the way are involved in ruthless law-breaking actions that undeniably exhibit the deplorability and lack of consciousness.
The second act of barbarity which was aimed to politicize with a show of strength was the murders that took place in Gaur. Back in 2007 when factional politics was at its worse and the insurgency waning, two political parties clashed to prove who was mightier.
Members of the Madhesi Jaanaadhikar Forum and the Communist Party of Nepal Maoist faction organized a gathering setting a stage just 60 meters apart from one another. Soon after, clashes broke out, and the MJF cadres beat the Maoists with bamboo sticks to death. It progressed to the extent of forcing upon the women and burning them alive. 26 people lost their lives in this incident all of whom were Maoist cadres. The ones who ran away from the scene was later chased and killed with no mercy. The administration miserably failed to contain the situation.
What is traverse is the fact that one of the accused is serving as the current Deputy Prime Minister of the Country. Upendra Yadav who is said to have been the leader of the Madhesi Jaanaadhikar Forum at that period did nothing to stop it from happening, and most investigations ascertain his prominent role in the incident which some say may be pre-planned.
It is said that six were arrested after this ghastly crime although their names were never released. Prime accused in the case may still be at large. With no provision for capital punishment and very little repercussion, individuals here have had their way brutalizing and coercing their way out. This depravity and inability to take action against the guilty due to their position and power has institutionalized crime and hindered the path of justice. Common citizens now that have resorted to crime too have escaped the clutches of justice.
Recently Muskaan a 14-year-old wrote a heart-touching message to the Prime Minister of Nepal. An acid attack survivor, her attacker who is 18-20 years old was sent to a Child Reformation Center due to fake credentials accepted by the court which falsified his age. Justice was not only denied but it was grossly blinding, and what about the victim and her letter that requested stringent punishment which would deter individuals from committing crimes such as dastardly and insensate as an acid attack?
We are caught at a crossroads where we are bound by the chains of lifestyle and materialism. Crimes here in severity have gone unpunished while more so with the involvement of law enforcement.
In the case of the brick kiln murders, the witness Shamsul said that the police vehicle escorted the tractor that had the wounded transported to the brick kiln to be burnt alive. In the Nirmal Panta rape and murder case, video footage shows the Nepal Police destroying forensic evidence and fingerprints by washing the clothes of the victim.
We as citizens now need to question our leadership and their sinking morale which is but unfit for our future generations. Our reasoning is vague and the value that we hope to strive for has been crushed. Our silence in times such as these inherently induces our collusiveness with the system.
Let us hope that the leadership we chose as our guardians and protectors of the constitution portray ingenuity and in the spirit protect and provide for, as what their duties entail. As citizens for our future course, let us unite to end the deplorable leadership that is plaguing our Nation and demand justice for the victims.
(The writer holds a Masters Degree in Political Science with specialization in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi)