Kathmandu: On January 19, Renu Kumari Yadav, who is the Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport, told CK Raut that he could meet the same fate as those who were killed at the rice mill of Gaur in 2007.
CK Raut’s Janamat Party has been launching a Farmers’ Movement in Tarai raising the concerns faced by farmers; as part of the movement, they have declared to boycott the ministers from the provincial and federal governments. They also tried to obstruct her entry in Gaur on Wednesday.
In a speech unbecoming of a sitting minister, Yadav said, “That rice mill still remains. If you want to face the storm we will repeat what happened in that rice mill.”
The rice mill is where more than two dozen of unarmed people had been mercilessly killed on March 21, 2007. Leaders and cadres of Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum (Madheshi People’s Rights Forum) stand accused of that horror.
What had happened
On 21 March , 26 individuals linked to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and one unidentified individual were brutally killed following violence that broke out when then Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) and Maoists organized simultaneous rallies at the same site in Gaur, Rautahat District, according to a report by United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nepal.
The incident took place in the town of Gaur, located in the southern quadrant of Rautahat District, a southern district of Nepal bordering India.
That day, two political groups faced off against each other resulting in violence, in which 26 people linked to the Maoists and one unidentified individual were brutally killed. The violence broke out after the Madhesi People’s Right Forum and CPN-Maoist organized rallies the same day at the same site in Gaur. Among the dead were four women and a 17-year-old girl. As many as 40 others were injured in the clash.
The OHCHR report presents the disturbing picture of the massacre: “Fifteen CPN-M cadres were killed in surrounding villages: eleven in Hajmaniya, one in Sirsiya and three in Laxmipur. In Hajmaniya, eleven cadres (including two women and the 17-year-old girl) were captured by a crowd and, after about 30 minutes in captivity, were brutally executed at the site of a temple by lethal blows to the head from bhaatas, sticks and heavy stone slabs according to witnesses and other evidence. In Sirsiya, a CPN-M cadre tripped and fell while trying to escape a chasing crowd. He was caught by his pursuers and killed at that location by lethal blows to the head from a bhaata. Three others were killed in Laxmipur in as yet unclarified circumstances.”
Family members and the victims of the carnage have been demanding justice since 2007, but to no avail.
Following the incident, an emergency meeting of the Council of Ministers was held at the Prime Minister’s Baluwatar residence to discuss the carnage and the security situation in the country. The meeting decided to set up a four-member judiciary committee headed by the Patan Appellate Court judge, Hari Prasad Ghimire, to launch an investigation into the incident. The report is not yet made public.
Victims have not given up yet. In 2021 March, the victims of the carnage submitted a memorandum to then Prime Minister KP Oli and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanding justice.
In what may be equally painful for the families of the victims of the carnage, none of the leaders in the name of whose party or on whose behalf the victims were summarily killed have stood for justice.
How the Maoist party changed its tone
Dr Baburam Bhattarai, then a senior Maoist leader and ideologue, had been the most vocal Maoist leader to demand justice. Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ had also demanded an investigation into the incident and said that the perpetrators should be brought to justice. The remarks of Baburam Bhattarai following the incident as archived by United We Blog go like this:
‘The naike (derogatory word for leader) of the criminal group [read that as MPRF] must be arrested and the outfit must be outlawed. They can’t do such criminal thing. People might tell us that we had also fought in the past. Yes, we fought against the state openly declaring that and denouncing the then constitution. But how can you wage arms if you claim to support the present constitution and political setup. If you want to fight, first say that you don’t support the constitution.’
None of these ‘advocates of justice’ worked to ensure justice to the victims in later years. Pushpa Kamala Dahal became the PM of the country twice after that incident and Baburam Bhattarai once. Even while not in the government, these two leaders have remained at the center stage of national politics and have been in the position to speak for justice. But they haven’t.
Baburam Bhattarai, who had demanded immediate arrest and actions against the carnage, is now in the party that had allegedly masterminded the carnage.
Today, Baburam Bhattarai is with Upendra Yadav, who in 2007 led MPRF whose cadres are accused of committing the carnage, in Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (JSPN). For his part, Prachanda has maintained an eerie silence over the incident.
Many believe that Maoist’s silence on the issue reflects their fear that the action against Rautahat carnage will result in demand to take action against perpetrators of crimes and atrocities during the decade-long Maoist insurgency.
Rage against impunity
Renu Yadav’s Wednesday speech, however, has triggered outrage in Nepal’s public sphere. People from different walks of life have demanded that minister Yadav should be held accountable and that the culprits of the 2007 carnage should be brought to book.
Senior journalist and writer Kanak Mani Dixit wrote on Twitter: “The statement from the minister in a threatening tone to repeat the Gaur massacre is the contempt of the Nepali people. PM Deuba should immediately dismiss her and a case of inciting violence should be filed against her.” Political observer Jainendra Jeevan commented that minister Yadav’s statement is an ‘indirect acceptance that the Gaur massacre was broken out by their party. She should be dismissed from the post of minister and a criminal case should be filed against her’. “Does the ruling alliance have such willpower?”
Political leaders from the ruling party have also condemned the remarks of minister Yadav. Nepali Congress vice president Dhan Raj Gurung has said that Renu Kumari Yadav should immediately resign from the post. Tara Nath Dahal, a political observer and press freedom advocate, said that an investigation should be done into the threatening remarks of Minister Yadav. “Sitting in a ministerial office, how can anyone make a statement of killing or finishing off others?,” he asked while also reminding Prime Minister Deuba to hold her accountable. People have also demanded that the report of the Gaur massacre should be made public.