The army's verdict [on the Maina Sunuwar case] is one of the many incidents of violence and killings disguised as 'encounters' by the security forces mobilised against the Maoists.
The board of the Court of Inquiry set up by the Military Court has concluded that the army killed young Maina Sunuwar of Kabhre by subjecting her to severe torture, despite the availability of 'alternative measures of interrogation'. Maina was arrested on the morning of 17 February 2005 by a covert team despatched by the Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre, Panchkhal. She died while being tortured, but the army's story was that she was killed while trying to escape, in the Hokse area.
The verdict states that the local army leadership tried to keep even the Military Court in the dark. The Board comprises Colonel Mohan Bahadur Basnet, Lieutenant Ratna Prakash Thapa, and Major Bharat Kumar Khadka.
According to evidence collected by the Board, the army went to the village acting on information provided by Maoist cadre Bimala BK who was arrested by police in the Palanchok area and told the army in course of interrogation that Debi Sunuwar and her daughter Maina Sunuwar were in contact with the Maoist party. Boby Khatri, the officiating chief of the training centre, sent a 12-member team commanded by Captain Niranjan Basnet to Palanchok. Maina's mother (pictured) was not at home, and Captain Basnet and Captain Adhikari found no evidence linking the Sunuwar mother and daughter to the Maoists, the report says. After Maina was arrested, Basnet had told her father: "We will take her in for interrogation. When your wife returns, send her to the Panchkhal barracks. We'll interrogate her and send her back." Nothing 'untoward' happened on the trip to the training centre.
Maina's interrogation began in the presence of seven persons, including Khatri, Basnet, and Adhikari, Captain Amit Pun, Sergentt Maj Khadka Bahadur Khatri, Dil Bahadur Basnet (a runner in the officers' mess) and Shrikrishna Thapa. Captains Sunil [Adhikari] and Amit [Pun], acting on Khatri's orders, asked Dil Bahadur and Shrikrishna Thapa to bring in a large container of water. Then the task of torturing Maina began, and the armymen in attendance shoved her repeatedly into the water. "It has been learnt that she was drenched, and that she choked time and again due to [being held under] the water," the verdict states.
After they failed to make her speak [by repeatedly holding her under water], Captains Sunil and Amit, under the orders of Boby Khatri, decided that Maina would receive electric shocks. They ordered Shrikrishna Thapa to do the job and he pulled a live wire out from a geyser line. When he asked which part of Maina's body "[he] should electrocute", he was told "the soles of her feet and her hands". Maina was thus administered electric shocks on her feet and hands, which were still wet.
According to the verdict, Maina's wrists started to bleed. Shrikrishna Thapa slowly stepped back in fear and stopped electrocuting her. By then Maina was very weak and admitted that she had been involved in Maoist activity for a couple of months. After Shrikrishna left, Captains Sunil and Amit ordered Sergent Maj Khadka Bahadur Khatri to 'convince' her by administering more shocks, and Maina was again electrocuted. After severe torture lasting one-and-a-half hours, Maina had still said nothing remarkable. She was then taken to a 'hawa ghar' near a temple and it was agreed that the interrogation would continue after they had eaten.
Maina was blindfolded, her hands were tied behind her back, and there was a sentry guarding her. Shrikrishna Thapa and Khadka Bahadur were also there. At around 11AM, Boby Khatri was informed that Maina was vomiting and foaming at the mouth and in serious condition. "When a medical orderly came over to check on her, she was already dead," the verdict further says. "After Maina Sunuwar died, Boby Khatri ordered a cover-up of the incident. A plan was worked out to bury the body secretly. [Boby] Khatri ordered Amit Pun to do so, and ordered Niranjan Basnet to bring police over from the Panchkhal Police Post to prepare a report," the report states.
Pun called JCO Surendra, informed him of the incident and instructed him to dig a pit in a spot northeast of the officers' mess, 50-60 meters outside the concertina wire. A little later, soldiers Dil Bahadur Basnet and Shrikrishna Thapa were asked to bring over a sack each. The two sacks were slipped over Maina's head and feet, before her body was put into the vehicle. Amit [Pun] had driven the vehicle to where the body was.
"Captain Amit ordered soldier Dil Bahadur Basnet to fire a shot into back of the deceased with a Colt command weapon, telling him to also remove the sacks after placing her beside the pit. The soldier misfired, and then Amit himself fired two shots from the same weapon. Only one hit Maina's body in the back," the report states. After shooting her body, Amit photographed it and buried it, with the help of those present.
Meanwhile, Captain Basnet reported the incident to a sub-inspector, an assistant sub-inspector, and a police jawan at the Panchkhal Police Office. Colonel Boby Khatri asked the police to 'make-up' a story about the body. The story stated that Maina was arrested, tried to break the security cordon in Hokse and jump out of the vehicle. She was shot by the security forces while doing so, and died.