Kathmandu: Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale, Chief of Foreign Affairs Department of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of India, was in Nepal for four days. He met the top political leaders of nearly all the parties—Prime Minister and President of Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba, Chairman of Maoist Center Pushpa Kamal Dahal, CPN-UML Chair K P Sharma Oli, Chair of newly formed United Socialist party Madhav Kumar Nepal, among others. He also met Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand and former finance ministers Bishnu Paudel and Barshaman Pun.
None of them are known to have raised the concern regarding the death of Jaya Singh Dhami, a 33 years old man from Darchula district, who fell off the tuin into Mahakali River on July 30 when a SSB personnel from the Indian side allegedly cut off the crossing rope. Eyewitnesses have held SSB personnel responsible for Dhami’s death.
Dhami’s death has raised a public outcry in Nepal. The government has been accused of not doing anything significant to bring the guilty to book.
Sound of silence
All the political leaders Nepal Live Today contacted to enquire if the top leaders raised the matter of Jaya Singh Dhami with BJP leader either reported ignorance of the matter or said that the matter has to be settled by the governments of India and Nepal.
Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat of Nepali Congress, on whose invitation Dr Chauthaiwale is said to have come to Nepal, said that the government mechanism is looking into the Jaya Singh Dhami’s case. “The Home Ministry is doing the investigation and from the government’s side work is being done to bring out the truth. Such things are dealt with through government-to-government mechanisms,” he said.
Dr Mahat said that the discussion was basically centered on party-to-party relations. “We talked about party-to-party relations, building better relations between the two parties and further enhancing friendship. The question related to incidents like that of Darchula is raised by the government,” he said.
He argues that party-to-party relations also help to build better understanding between the two governments and between the people of the two countries. The discussion was centered on the same, he said.
Jaya Singh Dhami’s case was not raised by the opposition leader KP Sharma Oli either, according to a source. “It was a courtesy meeting. Only party-to-party relations were discussed. Dr Chauthaiwale focused on building good relations with the party,” said a UML source.
Could Pushpa Kamal Dahal have spoken about this issue? “I am not aware that the chairman raised the issue of Jaya Singh Dhami,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, former Foreign Minister and the Maoist Center leader. “But this is the issue which must be raised and I would like to believe that it was discussed.”
Dr Chauthaiwale also met Dr Rajan Bhattarai, who is the chief of foreign affairs division of CPN-UML. What did they talk about? “I personally discussed a wide range of issues between India and Nepal such as EPG. I said that the EPG report could help further enhance the relations between the two countries,” said Bhattarai. “We discussed party-to-party relations, and all the issues that have remained unresolved.”
The parties whose leaders met the visiting BJP leader justify not talking about Jaya Singh Dhami citing that Dr Chauthaiwale was on a courtesy visit and he was here as the representative of the BJP, not as the representative of the Indian government. “What you discuss in such a meeting is usually already decided. It is not good in diplomacy to raise the issue that is under investigation,” said Keshav Jha, the leader of Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (Democratic). Mahantha Thakur, who leads this new party, also had a meeting with Dr Chauthaiwale.
Rage and reason
However, the lawmakers of Sudur Paschim and experts do not agree with such explanations.
According to the lawmakers, Nepali leaders who met the BJP leader could have raised the concern. They could simply have said that the death of Jaya Singh Dhami is a serious issue and India needs to take it as such, they argue. “They should have talked about this matter. They should at least have said people in Nepal are angry about the death of Jaya Singh Dhami. They should have said you need to take this message home to your party and the government,” said Indu Kadariya, a National Assembly member from Sudur Paschim. “It’s such a serious matter. The tuin has been cut off and Nepali man has fallen into the river and died. How can they forget this ?,” she said.
Indu Kadariya is angry that Nepali leaders do not speak even for justice. “The problem with our big leaders is that they do not even open their mouths for the just cause, for Nepal and Nepalis.”
According to her, this is one instance of how the federal government has neglected the Sudur Paschim province. “A man from this province is missing because the tuin was cut off from another side but our leaders who met an important person from the BJP did not even mention the matter. This shows they do not care about Sudur Paschim and its people,” she said.
Chakra Prasad Snehi, another National Assembly member representing Sudur Paschim, is angry with the government for not taking this matter seriously. “I personally have been speaking about this matter almost daily. But the government is not doing anything. It has no guts to speak to India even for a just cause,” he said. “Our government should have communicated this matter to the Indian government the day the incident happened. It did not. The government could have sent the message to the Indian government through the BJP leader as well. It did not.”
Some diplomats see this as a missed opportunity to communicate our pressing issue. A former foreign secretary said that the visit by foreign affairs chief of ruling BJP could be a good opportunity for Nepal to communicate its concern. “It’s not about offense. You simply have to say Nepalis are taking the case of Jaya Singh Dhami seriously. He would at least communicate this message to the top leadership in New Delhi,” said the former diplomat who did not want to be named.
For geopolitical analyst and former Brigadier General of Nepal Army Suresh Sharma, the reluctance of top Nepali leaders to speak about Jaya Singh Dhami reflects how they can never rise above petty political interests.
“Dr Chauthaiwale is a high level leader from ruling BJP. They could simply have said that incidents like that of Darchula do not help in bilateral relations. You don’t need to shout or be angry. You can politely give this message that Nepal wants justice in this case,” said Sharma.
“We need to be able to speak for our legitimate interests. But there is a tendency among political actors of sacrificing legitimate interests,” he added.