Nepal Army personnel blamed for death of Chepang youthNepal Army has denied allegations of beating seven youths who had entered Chitwan National Park on July 16 without permission.
The Nepal Army has been accused of fatally assaulting a Chepang youth after he was caught entering the Chitwan National Park with his friends.
Raj Kumar Chepang, 24, of Rapti Municipality-2, died on July 22 from what is believed to be the injuries inflicted by the Army personnel after he was caught inside the park.
Raj Kumar’s father, Bishnu Lal, filed a complaint at the District Police Office on Friday, claiming that his son was tortured by the Army patrol, which led to his death. He has demanded an impartial investigation into the incident and punishment to the guilty.
On July 16, Raj Kumar and six of his friends, including two women, were detained by the Army patrol inside the park. They had gone to collect Ghongi, a species of snails considered a delicacy, in the Jyudi river inside the park. They were released on the same day.
According to Bishnu Lal, Raj Kumar was taken ill since the day he was released and died a couple of days later on July 22.
"He complained of physical discomfort after coming home on July 16," he said. "When his condition started to deteriorate on Wednesday, I took him to Bharatpur Hospital."
Raj Kumar died in Bharatpur Hospital on Wednesday, July 22.
Santa Lal Praja, who was detained along with Raj Kumar, said he and his friends, except for the two women, were beaten by the soldiers. He said they were also forced to carry heavy wooden logs and do 100 pushups.
Nepal Army officials admitted to arresting the youths but denied any allegations of manhandling or torturing them.
"We handed them over to the local administration after they were arrested from the park premises. We did not assault them," said Arun Shrestha, chief of Batuk Dal Battalion, the unit tasked with the park’s security. "We don’t know why they made such allegations after so many days."
The District Administration Office said it will conduct a post-mortem of the body as demanded by the family members.
"We will have to wait for the autopsy report to confirm if the deceased was beaten or not," said battalion chief Shrestha.
"We arrest around 400 people from the park in a month. But we do not beat any of them,” said Shrestha. “We did not hit the youths on July 16 as well."
Deputy Superintendent of Police Surya Thapa, also the spokesperson at the District Police Office in Chitwan, said, “Although the deceased’s father filed a case at the District Police Office in Chitwan, he did not mention the name of the accused. The statement says that Raj Kumar was thrashed by Army personnel while collecting Ghongi.”
According to Thapa, the post mortem of the body will be carried out on the basis of the complaint filed at the police station. “We have already started an investigation into the case,” he said.
Meanwhile, the relatives of Raj Kumar have refused to receive his body until their demands are met. Santa Lal Praja Chepang, who sat in for talks from Raj Kumar’s side at the District Administration Office, said, “We have demanded compensation for Raj Kumar’s family and provision of education for his child.”
Raj Kumar is survived by his parents, wife and a one-and-a-half-year-old daughter.
Indrajit Chepang, chairman of the Nepal Chepang Sangh in Chitwan, said, “In the meeting, the administration extended Rs 50,000 for the funeral procession of the deceased but we declined. We will not receive the body until we finalise an agreement that favours the victim’s family.”
Kumar’s mother, Aaitimaya Chepang, said, “My son was beaten to death. I need justice for this inhuman act.”
The National Human Rights Commission has taken serious exception to the alleged involvement of the Chitwan National Park in the burning of 10 huts in a Chepang settlement in Kusum Khola and the death of Raj Kumar.
On Friday, the commission formed a probe team to investigate the forceful eviction of the indigenous community from their residence in Kusum Khola and Raj Kumar’s death.
Similarly, Nepal Army, in a press statement on Friday, said it will investigate Raj Kumar’s death and come out with the facts behind the incident.