Hailing Nepal court for convicting journalist-killers
Posted on December 12th, 2014

Our Correspondent

Guwahati: Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) has expressed its contentment that a Nepal court has convicted and sentenced five perpetrators involved in the killing of a Nepali journalist in Dailekh district of western Nepal. In a recent unprecedented verdict the Dailekh district court has sentenced the assailants for torturing Dekendra Raj Thapa, an active media person of Nepal for many days and later buried him alive.

The incident took place a decade back, when a group of ultra left party members targeted Thapa, who was then working for the state-owned Radio Nepal and Nepal Samacharpatra newspaper, on his way to a village apparently for resolving some community issues there. Shockingly, the cadres belonged to UCPN-Maoist (then CPN-Maoist) abducted the middle aged journalist on June 4, 2004 and tortured him for many weeks before burying Thapa on  August 11, 2004.

India’s tiny Himalayan neighbour, Nepal  witnessed the uprising of Maoist fighters between 1996 to 2006 spreading an undeclared civil war across the country that resulted in the killing of over 15,000 individuals and displacing nearly 1,50,000 people.

Though the court convicted Bir Bahadur KC, Lakshiram Raj  Gharti, Nirak Ghartimagar, Harilal Punmagar and Jaya Bahadur Shahi, four other accused former Maoists (namely Bam Bahadur Khadka Mukti, Bam Bahadur Khadka Arun, Keshav Khadka and Bhakti Ram Lamichhane) are still absconding.

Thapa’s widow Laxmi Shrestha, who filed a case against the local Maoist rebels, reportedly expressed happiness at the court verdict, but reiterate her wish to see the others brought to the justice.

Soon after Laxmi’s official complain, the police arrested five out of nine accused members of the ultra left party in January 2013. However it was not an easy task for the police to continue the investigation as the high-placed elements (read rebels turned lawmakers) opposed the move.

Of course, the local media persons under the banner of Federation of Nepali Journalists, Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission with the Committee to Protect Journalists and International Press Institute had extended all possible supports to book the killers of Thapa.

The media fraternity of Nepal, while terming the development as a ray of hope for justice, maintained that the prison term for each convict was very short (maximum up to two years) and they ‘should have been punished in a strong manner.

Of course, a Maoist leader, who wanted anonymity, asserted that the court verdict was against the spirit of peace agreement with the government. He cautioned that the verdict might push Nepal into more conflicts in the days to come.

While appreciating the initiative of Nepal, which has transformed into a multi party democracy ending the monarchy, to book the former Maoist rebels  under the law, for killing a journalist a decade back, we can also take notes from the example,” said a statement issued by JFA president Rupam Barua and secretary Nava Thakuria.

Assam in particular and India as a whole have witnessed the assassination of media persons by various elements including the so-called revolutionary groups. Should not we expect justice for the killing of journalists, even when the mastermind was the insurgents!

added the statement.

Assam as well as northeast India has lost a number of acclaimed journalists in the last few decades, where the bereaved families are still waiting for justice.  In most cases the perpetrators were the armed group activists, who later joined in the peace talks with the government to escape punishments.

The general perception in Assam emerges that since the day the insurgent leaders engage with peace talks with the authority, they automatically get the impunity against all their past misdeeds, which must be challenged by one and all,” argued the journalist forum.

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