17 years of denied justiceMuktinath Adhikari’s family is among thousands who have been dismissed in the Transitional Justice process
The decade-long insurgency took my father, Muktinath Adhikari, away on the 16th January 2002 on a cold, rainy day in Lamjung. 17 years on, and our search for truth, justice, and reparation continues. Immediately after the murder, we registered a complaint at the District Police Office in Beshisahar. But our complaints fell on deaf ears. Following this disappointment, we turned to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Unlike the police department, the commission did its part. They concluded that my father, was not involved in the insurgency and was abducted and killed by party cadres of the then CPN (Maoists).
In a bid to deliver justice to the victims, the NHRC devised a three-step recommendation: identify the accused persons of the then CPN (Maoists) involved in the killing, take legal action against them as per the Homicide Act of Civil code, and provide NRs. 300,000 to the family as compensation.
We later registered a complaint in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), but TRC neither investigated the truth nor recommended for the justice and reparation. The then Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai has publically expressed that the killing of Adhikari was a mistake—but beyond rhetoric, the culprits have not been persecuted.
As a recently appointed head teacher, Adhikari was teaching science to Grade 9 students in Panini Sanskrit Secondary School, Duradanda, Lamjung. A group of 10-12 Maoist combatants forcefully entered the classroom and abducted him—despite protests from students. Combatants tied his legs with a rope, dragged him half an hour uphill, tied his neck by his own muffler in an uttis (Nepalese alder) tree, stabbed him in the chest repeatedly and, following unimaginable torture, shot him in the head.His murdered body was tied to a tree (contorted to appear as a suicide). For 17 years, the gruesome picture has served as a horrific example of human rights violations during the armed conflict.
Besides his keen interest in quality education, Adhikari was a social reformist and human rights activist. He was engaged in several human rights campaigns as a convener of Amnesty International Group-79. His death—and the lack of justice that followed—has been marked by the very social ills he spent his whole life fighting against. He was accused of teaching Sanskrit and denying ‘donations’ to Maoists to support their ‘revolution’. Maoists claimed that the so-called People’s War for the equality and rights of common people. But instead, they troubled and victimised innocent people living in remote areas.
For over a decade, victims have only been facing further discrimination instead of empathy and affection. The government provided a relief fund of Rs1 million to the families of murdered and disappeared persons, but still many victims have not received reparations. The process of providing relief, coupled with the behaviour of civil servants, is humiliating to the victims. Instead of creating forums where the voices of victims are heard, many misconstrue their positions. Besides victims themselves, there are very few who genuinely empathise with those whose wounds have been left open for years.
Victims’ voices have become a tool of political benefit: heard only when electorally strategic.Political parties have not even realised the power of publically apologising for the miseries caused to the people due to conflict. Instead of adopting the vetting and accountability measures; human rights violators are rewarded, promoted in security forces, public and party positions, made candidates in elections and appointed as ministers.
The continuity of state-sanctioned impunity prevails in Nepal. This is apparent in the current oath of the alleged perpetrator, Resham Chaudhary and the lack of judicial investigation on the rape and murder of Nirmala Pant.
The Federal Republic was established at the expense of the blood, tears and pain of countless victims. With a majority government that is finally mandated for a five-year term, the current political moment presents new opportunities.
The cornerstone of their electoral campaign was ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’. Yet, it seems almost impossible to start moving towards prosperity and achieving happiness by isolating and ignoring the victims of our political transition.
Adhikari is the eldest son of late Muktinath Adhikari and former chairperson of Conflict Victims Common Platform.