Grounds for suspicionThough a criminal, Chari’s death at the hands of the police is suspicious
Police recovered an automatic pistol and ammunition from the scene and Chari’s bullet-ridden body was taken to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj. This, at least, is the police version.
Adhikari, widely known as ‘Chari’, or bird, for his avian-like ability to escape arrest, was by no means a decent human being. A gangster of the first order, his rap-sheet was a laundry list of crimes, including attempted murder, racketeering, assault, robbery, extortion and kidnapping. He was most recently said to be involved in the shooting of Nepali Congress member Min Krishna Maharjan in Lalitpur. After absconding to India, Chari had only recently returned to Nepal. Allegedly under high-level political protection, Chari had managed to evade the police time and again. On the few occasions that he was arrested, Chari was handed suspiciously short jail sentences and often mysteriously let go before his term had expired. This could have led to rising frustration among the police, who would work hard at catching Chari, only to have him freed on orders from above.
This criminal-politician nexus has become an unassailable facet of Nepali politics. Allegations of harbouring criminals have often been levelled at UML party chairman KP Oli. For his part, Oli has categorically dismissed all accusations of patronising criminals, acerbically asking for ‘proof’. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Chari was a card-carrying member of the UML and a one-time vice-chairman of the party’s Dhading district committee. Yesterday, four UML Constituent Assembly (CA) members, along with a number of UML party leaders, protested outside Home Minister Bamdev Gautam’s residence, demanding a probe into Chari’s death. They are alleging murder. Even more bizarrely, some UML cadres are insisting that Chari be declared a party ‘martyr.’
While it might be difficult to find sympathy for a criminal who had undoubtedly brought misery to many, the ‘encounter’ is suspicious. The police argument is that Chari was shot while escaping but in contradiction, bullet wounds and blood patterns seem to be limited to the front of his body. UML CA members have accused police officers of murdering Chari in cold blood over a lover’s dispute and fabricating the encounter. An impartial post-mortem and forensic investigation must therefore be conducted to establish the cause and time of death, the trajectory of the bullets and the distance at which the bullets were fired. Chari was no doubt a gangster but he, like everyone else, had rights to a free and fair trial. Summary execution under the rubric of an ‘encounter’ is a gross violation of basic human rights, no matter how heinous the criminal.