The memory of Krishna Prasad

From The Kathmandu Post (16 August, 2013)

The grieving parents of Krishna Prasad Adhikari are helping pry open the door of impunity by forcing the state to investigate their son’s killing

It has been many years that Gangamaya Adhikari and her husband Nanda Prasad have been protesting peacefully, seeking justice for the 2004 murder of their son Krishna Prasad. Their fast of the past three weeks represents a cry of despair against a state captured by goons masquerading as politicians and seeking to destroy the very idea of justice. But finally, their act of personal sacrifice has begun to touch the hardened conscience of the state and this has put Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his UCPN (Maoist) party into panic mode.

Pressured by rights activists worried about the worsening condition of the Adhikari couple, the lethargic National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) finally swung into action. Last week, it asked the government to proceed with an investigation on the Krishna Prasad killing. With the Nepal Bar Association also weighing in, the Cabinet finally instructed the Attorney General’s office and the police to proceed with investigations, which had been suspended by Baburam Bhattarai as prime minister.

On Tuesday, August 13, Police Headquarters asked the Chitwan District Police to re-open the Krishna Prasad file and Chitwan Superintendent of Police (SP) Pradyumna Karki assured Kantipur daily, “There will be no delay in the investigations.”

These rapid, welcome and rather unexpected developments have released a tremor among the Maoist leadership, as also happened last year with the case of the murdered Dailekh journalist Dekendra Thapa. And once again, the Maoist leadership is engaged in a high decibel vilification campaign to try and scuttle the enquiry.


Invisible hand

With Bhattarai by his side, on August 13, Chairman Dahal called a press conference to berate and threaten everyone who sought justice on the present case. Indeed, that presentation can be added to the ‘demagogue’s archive’ of written and verbal excesses emanating from Pushpa Kamal Dahal. These include the 2002 letter to Indian intelligence (ref. SD Muni); the interview given to the BBC after coming above ground in 2006 (“do not torture as you eliminate”); the Shaktikhor videotape with its plans of state capture and hoodwinking of Ian Martin’s UNMIN; and various speeches, including at Naya Baneshwor (anti-Indian venom), Yak and Yeti (against ‘sukila mukila’) and so on.

In a press release, as if by way of exoneration, Dahal claimed his party was responsible for only 20 percent of killings and disappearances during the decade of conflict. The suggestion being that war criminals among the Maoists (who would be in line to run for elections and rule over the people) should be pardoned for the low number. Furthermore, it is Dahal/Bhattarai who have been at the forefront of pardoning the ‘80 percent’ of stateside perpetrators, giving promotions to soldiers and policemen guilty of excess.

As far as the act of killing Krishna Prasad is concerned, the Maoist party conceded during the conflict that it was a safaya (elimination) carried out by its cadre according to party policy. On Wednesday, former Maoist Chitwan party secretary Yam Bahadur Pariyar told Kantipur that that was indeed the case.

The claim today is that the accused named by the Adhikari family are actually innocent, in which case, the proper course would be to allow investigations in order to identify the guilty. Instead, the propaganda exercise is concentrated on denigrating the Adhikaris for social misdeeds back in their native village of Phujel in Gorkha—as if such alleged misdemeanours would justify the elimination of Krishna Prasad in faraway Chitwan.

As a further diversion, the UCPN (Maoist) blames the entire run of events on some “invisible masterplan” (adrishya guruyojana) being pushed by wicked forces bent on derailing the forthcoming elections and destroying the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). We are told that enquiry into the particular murder would destroy the foundations of the peace process and that the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is the rightful place for the present case.

In the press release, the party expresses surprise that the present state administration (which is guided by the High-level Political Committee that Dahal leads) has taken up the investigation and warns that if it is not halted, “there is no saying who will end up where, and what may happen to the country.” Then the ominous statement: “The party warns all concerned that it may be forced to take severe measures as required.”

Speaking beyond the text, Dahal added that the fasting Adhikari couple was being instigated by invisible forces and urged the media “not to run after sentiment”. He then said something that one could actually agree with: “If the NHRC is to give directives as soon as accusations are made, and the government proceeds with the inquiry, no one will be secure about the future.”


Safaya in Taandi

The only demand of the fasting couple, so contemptuously slandered by Dahal, is that the state fulfil its obligations to investigate the slaying of a citizen and identify the culprits. Krishna Prasad, 18, had gone down from Phujel to visit his grandmother in Chitwan after giving his SLC exams. There, he was abducted from Bakular village, thrashed, his bones broken, stuffed in a gunnysack, possibly dragged by motorcycle and brought to Taandi Bazaar, where he was killed with three bullets pumped into his body. The body was left there for public viewing.

As with the mass-killings in the bus blast in nearby Maadi, Krishna Prasad’s murder has come to haunt the Maoists, even as they have achieved a decisive position in the state establishment. There is a further twist to the present case in that it is not only the victim’s family that seeks justice. The more than half a dozen Maoist supporters who have been named by the Adhikaris say they are desperate for investigations, hoping to clear their name from stigma. So why is the Maoist leadership so desperate in trying to block the enquiry? The query is inescapable: Is this an attempt to protect some ‘big fish’?

As for the argument that the Krishna Prasad case should be placed before the proposed TRC, it is the Maoists themselves who sabotaged the formation of the commission according to international standards (seeking to make it an instrument for general amnesty, for one), which is why the relevant ordinance has been stayed by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the TRC is meant to establish the truth rather than be used as a tool to supersede or circumvent the national criminal justice system when an excess has occurred. This point was confirmed by the Supreme Court in the Dekendra Thapa, Maina Sunar and other cases, and this juridical precedence supports the government’s present move.

As far the peace process is concerned, the CPA is clear in its position against impunity and justice for victims. No society can remain in suspended jurisprudential animation nor can the search for justice on an atrocity be denied because of one party’s opportunistic interpretation (and misuse) of the peace process. As far as the forthcoming elections are concerned, the start of investigations in Chitwan will actually help the campaign for a free and fair exercise: the competing parties will think twice before giving tickets to the atrocity-accused.

As of this week, the papers prepared by the Chitwan police on the Krishna Prasad case are back with the district attorney’s office. As for Dahal’s threats, Cabinet spokesperson and Information Minister Madhav Poudel had this to say in Dolakha on Wednesday: it was inappropriate for any force to try and scuttle investigation into the murder or a citizen, and the investigation would continue.

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