In Nepal, politics for impunity

Upendra Yadav’s warning to withdraw support to the government over agreement with victims of 2007 Gaur massacre is only a fresh case at point. Political actors have used impunity as a tool to secure immunity for their cadres.

Victims of the 2007 Gaur massacre in protest march. On Tuesday, the government signed an agreement with the Gaur Massacre Victims’ Struggle Committee to ensure justice.

NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Nepali political actors have often sought to use power politics for immunity against crimes. The fresh case in point is the opposition by Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) chair Upendra Yadav to the five-point deal between the government and Gaur Massacre Victims’ Struggle Committee to ensure justice to the victims of the Gaur massacre but there are several other cases to note from the recent past.

After the government on Tuesday signed a five-point agreement with the Gaur Massacre Victims’ Struggle Committee, chairperson of Janata Samajbadi Party Upendra Yadav has apparently threatened to pull out its support to the government. Janata Samajbadi Party is a partner in Maoist Center-Nepali Congress coalition government.

JSP has taken strong exceptions to the government’s decision which apparently seeks to provide justice to those who were killed in probably the worst violence since the Maoists came to mainstream politics after the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord.

On 21 March 2007, 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), whose leader Upendra Yadav was at the time, 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.

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. In March 2021, the victims of the carnage submitted a memorandum to then Prime Minister KP Oli and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) demanding justice. Then in January, 2023, the National Human Rights Commission asked the government to investigate the involvement of JSP chairperson Upendra Yadav among 129 others in connection with the 2007 Gaur massacre.

Whether the government will back down from the deal with the victims to keep JSP on the coalition board or whether JSP will walk out of the government over the issue and what impacts it will have on the longevity of the government is yet to be seen but there are precedents of the government and the political parties making attempts to grant amnesty to those who  are accused of, even convicted of, heinous crimes, in a bid to secure amnesty for political actors.

Here are three most recent cases.

Case1:  In May, the government granted pardon to Resham Chaudhary to secure his release from jail. Chaudhary, the convict of 2015 Tikapur carnage, was serving life sentence in Dilli Bazar prison, was released following the presidential pardon.

Chaudhary was convicted by three courts.  On March 6, 2019, the District Court, Kailali, had issued a verdict of life imprisonment for Resham Chaudhary, the main accused of the Tikapur incident. On December 18, 2020, High Court, Dipayal also continued the verdict of life imprisonment for him.  In May, 2023, the Supreme Court had upheld both the verdicts.

While Nagarik Unmukti Party, the party to which Chaudhary belonged, had made his release a condition for  support to the government, the government seems to have bowed down to the NUP’s demands to save the coalition.

Case 2: The government in June decided to withdraw the case of attempted murder of Tribhuvan University professor Prem Chalaune through the cabinet meeting.  In October, 2020 Prem Chaulaune, an assistant professor at Central Department of Sociology, was assaulted brutally by students affiliated to Nepal Student Union(NSU), the student wing of Nepali Congress. In a clear move to save the assailants from the punishment and to prevent justice to Chalaune, the government had taken the decision to withdraw the case that was sub-judice at the Kathmandu District Court. Thanks to the apex court it ordered the government not to withdraw the case but whether Chaulaune will be given justice is yet to be seen.

Case 3: In July, the government presented a bill in Parliament to amend Some Nepal Acts which aimed to allow the government to withdraw sub-judice cases in all courts–the district courts, high courts and the Supreme Court. The bill, if passed into law, would provide the right to the government to withdraw criminal cases against any political parties or groups and their leaders and cadres involved in heinous crimes. 

Observers were of the view that the intention of the government to introduce such a bill was to give amnesty to those involved in political crimes, including crimes committed during the decade-long insurgency, 2007 Gaur massacre, 2015 Tikapur carnage among others.