Janata Samajbadi shows UN report to deny hand in killingsJSP spokesman says deal with Gaur massacre victims’ kin disturbs peace and harmony, party may quit government.
The Janata Samajbadi Party, a partner in the ruling coalition, has expressed concerns over the agreement the government reached with the relatives of the Gaur massacre victims on Tuesday.
Organising a press conference on Friday, Janata Samajbadi General Secretary Manish Suman said the party was saddened to learn of the agreement between the government and the victims’ kin in the changed political context. The home ministry and the agitating family members of the Gaur massacre had signed a five-point agreement on Tuesday.
At least 27 Maoist cadres were killed in Gaur of Rautahat district on March 21, 2007, in an ugly confrontation with the cadres of the then Madheshi Janadhikar Forum. Upendra Yadav was the chief of the forum. Yadav now chairs the JSP, which is a part of the ruling alliance as well as of the Socialist Front initiated by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the chairman of the CPN (Maoist Centre).
“The agreement reached between the home ministry and Rup Sagar Upadhya [on behalf of the agitating victims] has disturbed peace, stability, and social harmony in the country,” said Suman.
The agreement stated that the government will look into the Gaur massacre and take necessary legal action. The JSP said that it has serious reservations over the first point of the agreement.
The point says that the complaints registered at the time over the death and injuries of those killed and injured in the incident will be investigated and the guilty prosecuted, based on facts and evidence. The family members of those who died in the massacre had been asking for justice and compensation from the government.
Party chair Yadav met with Prime Minister Dahal and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, among other leaders, and expressed his displeasure over the agreement.
“The probe into the Gaur incident is taking the wrong direction. We have reservations about point one of the agreement. The complaints registered after the incident in 2007 were biassed and prejudiced,” said Suman. “We are in a mood to leave the government. Now the ball is in the government’s court.”
The JSP also released parts of the reports submitted by the government-formed judicial probe headed by the then-Supreme Court justice Khilraj Regmi, and the Geneva-based Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The JSP has asked for the release of the report by Regmi, the one prepared by the National Human Rights Commission, and other reports of the local administration, the Patan High Court, and various security agencies. The party also demanded the release of the report submitted by Supreme Court Judge Girish Chandra Lal after studying various agitations and incidents that took place in Tarai/Madhesh surrounding the promulgation of the constitution in 2015. Suman, at the press conference, demanded the formation of an all-party parliamentary probe committee on the Gaur incident.
As part of a Madheshi Janadhikar Forum initiative to hold rallies in several Tarai districts, the party’s Rautahat district chapter had decided to organise a rally at the Rice Mill in Gaur on March 21 and begun preparations well in advance, including announcing it publicly, according to the OHCHR report circulated by the JSP. The decision was taken at least a week before the CPN-Maoist decided to do the same. A clash was expected, including with the police.
“The local Maoist leadership and representative of the CPN-M sister organisation Madheshi Rastriya Mukti Morcha made no attempt to reach a compromise that would avoid the expected clash,” said the OHCHR report as per the JSP. “The CPN-M cadres had been arriving in Gaur from Chitwan, Makawanpur, Bara and other central region areas two days prior to the March 21 event and were staying at local guest houses.”
The Maoist procession (of several hundred) was led by Young Communist League (YCL) cadres, a few with backpacks, some carrying sticks or bhaatas, said the report, adding the older supporters, probably local residents, took up the rear of the procession, some of them also carrying sticks.
“There have also been a number of allegations that other armed groups were involved, either in planning or carrying out the violence and/or the killings. Some sources allege that MJF leaders had hired armed men as security personnel, possibly from India… The scope of OHCHR’s investigations did not enable it to determine the individual identities of those responsible for the incidents in Gaur,” said the OHCHR report distributed by the JSP, to clarify that it was not involved in the incident.
Suman expressed doubts about the government, asking why a deal was now being hammered over an incident that happened 17 years ago. He also asked that past reports be made public.
“In various reports, it is mentioned that the Maoists disrupted the peaceful assembly of the Forum….Past statements should be made public. There should be a parliamentary investigation to find out facts of the incident,” said Suman.
The OHCHR’s investigation showed that local authorities had failed to take even minimum action to prevent the violence which had been anticipated, failed to intervene when the violence started, and made no attempts to arrest anyone during the violence, said the JSP.
Suman accused the Maoists of instigating violence in the incident. He said that the incident happened due to the stubbornness of the then-Maoist leader Prabhu Sah. “The Maoists attacked a peaceful JSP meeting with weapons and disrupted the meet. In Bhairahawa and Nepalganj, mass meetings of the JSP were disrupted. It was the Maoists who were responsible for the incident,” Suman added.
The JSP’s statement also claims the reports submitted by the National Human Rights Commission, the then district administrations, and police, and the security agencies’ officers conclude that the incident took place because the then Maoists attacked a peaceful assembly by the forum.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), on January 7, had asked the government agencies through the Prime Minister’s Office to probe the incident and take action against Rastriya Janata Party chair Upendra Yadav and 129 others in connection with the crime, after a years-long investigation.
The NHRC Act mandates that the government either abide by its recommendations or write back to the commission, explaining why they cannot be implemented.
Seven months down the line, the government has neither abided by it nor explained to the commission why the recommendations weren’t implemented.
As no government took the initiative to examine the massacre, the victims’ relatives started protests in the district from July 29. Following six days of agitation, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal last week met the protesters and assured them that he would constitute a home secretary-led panel to hold dialogue and deliver justice.
Last Tuesday, the government and the representatives of the Gaur massacre victims signed a five-point agreement, which states that the complaints relating to the 2007 incident filed with the police will be investigated and the guilty brought to book as per the law. It also stated that the list of all the victims declared martyrs by the then government will be published in the Nepal Gazette while the process to amend the list to include those left out will also be carried out.
Similarly, the Ministry of Health and Population will be requested to make necessary medical arrangements for the injured while a request for monetary assistance will also be proposed before the Cabinet.
While the JSP leaders have been saying that they may have to leave the coalition if the government does not correct its mistakes, those who have closely followed the development stress a thorough investigation and the justice for the victims, by bringing the guilty to the book regardless of their political affiliation.
“Impunity will increase if every incident is politicised and the guilty spared and freed. The investigation should not be biassed,” said Bed Bhattarai, former secretary at the commission. “All those involved should be brought to book.”
As per the NHRC report, neither the Madheshi Janadhikar Forum nor the CPN (Maoist) leadership made any effort to stop the violence.
“The investigation is already too late. Even the NHRC was slow off the blocks—probably because of its limitations.”