Another panel formed to probe Harijan’s custody deathNew panel was formed after knowing that the incident was more serious than earlier thought, says ministry spokesman.
The Home Ministry has formed another committee to probe the death of Sundar Harijan, a Dalit youth, in Rolpa Prison after an earlier probe report came into question.
A five-member study panel formed under the leadership of the director of the Department of Prison Management, Jharendra Chapagain, on May 20 submitted its report on Monday. Harijan had died in Rolpa Prison on May 18 under suspicious circumstances. He was said to have died by suicide.
“A five-member probe committee has been formed under the leadership of Joint Secretary Surya Prasad Sedhai to find out how the incident happened,” said a press statement issued by Home Ministry Spokesperson Fanindra Mani Pokharel on Tuesday. “The panel has been asked to submit its report in seven days after it starts to work.”
Pokharel said the new panel was formed after knowing that the incident was more serious than the ministry had earlier thought.
“We have decided to form another panel comprised of senior officials after we came to know that the issue was much more serious that what we had previously imagined,” Pokharel told the Post. “Earlier, we only thought of the death of a prisoner but the case seemed much more serious.”
The panel has been tasked with finding out how Harijan died and why he and another criminal Bijaya Bikram Shah were transferred to Rolpa Prison from Banke Prison.
According to the ministry, Harijan and Shah were transferred to Rolpa on November 23, 2020 from Banke.
Harijan was sent to jail for stealing a mobile phone and Shah for extortion and organised crime.
Shah, however, was released before completing his five-year sentence, and Harijan was swapped for him.
The members of the probe committee include director of the Department of Prison Management Jhankanath Dhakal; Bhupendra Khatri, Superintendent of Nepal Police; Bishwamani Acharya, Deputy Investigation Director of National Investigation Department; and an administrative officer of the District Administration Office, Banke.
The suspicious death of Harijan has prompted calls for forming a credible committee to find the details of the incident.
Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the House, Anjana Bishankhe, a lawmaker from the CPN (Maoist Centre), demanded that Speaker Agni Sapkota form a parliamentary panel to probe Sundar Harijan’s death in Rolpa Prison.
“Since the judiciary is also linked with this incident, a separate parliamentary committee should be formed to investigate the case,” said Bishankhe. “This incident has raised serious questions over Nepal's whole legal system, security mechanism and the governance system of the state.”
Bishankhe, who is also a Dalit and women’s rights activist, said Harijan’s death has become an example of how the government and the legal administration have been functioning and how the rulers have been misusing state machinery against the poor, Dalit and children of the country.
Legal experts and rights activists too have been demanding an independent judicial probe panel led by a retired justice.
As the previous probe panel failed to find why Harijan died inside the prison, how the identities of two prisoners were swapped and why the two were transferred to Rolpa from Banke, the Home Ministry formed another probe panel on Tuesday.
Former Justice of the Supreme Court Girish Chandra Lal said the issue of Harijan’s death is connected with human rights and also child rights and therefore the government needs to be very serious and sensitive.