ALL PICS: NAYANTARA GURUNG KAKSHAPATI
Seven years ago on 8 October, Jai Kishor Labh got a phone call; his son Sanjeev Kumar Karna had been taken into custody by the security forces. Jai Kishor, a lawyer, understood the gravity of the situation but the police and army repeatedly reassured him that his son would not be harmed. Several days later, Sanjeev and four friends were reportedly taken to a quiet place by the Kamala River on the border of Dhanusa and Sunsari and shot dead. The police and army now deny having taken Sanjeev and his friends into custody at all.
Jai Kishor fought hard. He tried to file an FIR (first information report) with the police but was met with aggressive resistance. He lodged a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which was told Sanjeev and his friends had been killed in an 'encounter'. He spent most of his savings in cyber cafes, emailing countless organisations, both national and international, for help. He methodically and tirelessly gathered evidence to support the case.
Just as stubbornly, the system resisted: getting one office to write letters to another, stalling, threatening Jai Kishor and his family, and offering monetary settlements for him to withdraw the case.
Jai Kishor died of a heart attack in April 2010. He was by no means helpless in the face of his family's tragedy. He was a skilled lawyer, courageous and principled. But he was unable to make the justice system serve justice.
Recently, there was an NHRC-led exhumation in Godar, by the Kamala River, where locals had seen bodies buried following the disappearance of Sanjeev and his friends. The remains of four bodies were unearthed, but the search was called off before a fifth body might have been found. The families await the results from the forensic labs, but without Jai Kishor, it is unclear if the latest developments will bring the families of the Dhanusa 5 any respite.
Without a Trace, MALLIKA ARYAL
By all accounts
still caught in the shadows of dawn
bends from the waist
to the tin pot at her feet,
the last of the morning meal
By the time she steps out into the light
to crouch deeply
beside the hefty clay pots
awash with soapy water,
clothes have piled up
The young man,
by all accounts a family friend,
lingers by his motorcycle
for a parting glimpse and a smile
On the street all can see
how we live
In the far corners of the house
secrets stay secrets
For a while