Members of the Maoist Lamjung District Committee forcibly took Adhikari away despite protests from his students. They dragged him half an hour up the slope, and villagers who went up in the evening found his body tied to an uttis tree. The Maoists had said the body was booby-trapped, so the villagers lit a fire and kept an all-night vigil.
The war was at its peak in 2002, there were targeted killings, beheadings, torture. Horrific photographs of maimed victims and mutilated corpses were passed around, but they were too gory to be printed in the media. The photograph of Muktinath Adhikari's body tied to a tree in which he is seemingly asleep was printed on the cover of Himal Khabarpatrika two weeks after his death. Even though there is no blood visible, the photograph shocked the nation and exposed the Maoist policy of executing civilians.
Nine years later, there is still fear in these mountains of central Nepal. In the absence of transitional justice, the fragility of the peace process and the apathy of the intellectuals in the capital, the villagers don't dare speak out. Everyone knows who killed Muktinath Adhikari, but no one dares to come forward to lodge a complaint. The anniversary of Muktinath Sir's murder used to be marked in a small classroom in Kathmandu's Padma Kanya College, attended only by relatives and friends. It has taken nine years for the anniversary to be marked in Duradanda itself.
Mao Zedong was against torturing civilians. India's Naxalites did not do targeted killings. Only Nepal's Maoist leadership used the execution of civilians to spread terror and extend control. In an interview with the BBC Nepali Service in 2006 Pushpa Kamal Dahal said his instruction to his cadre was to "eliminate without torture". He repeated this at a meeting with senior editors in Shanker Hotel that year, saying he laid down the rule that executions should be "with a bullet to the temple".
There will come a day when the orphans of Nepal's war will ask Bhattarai: "How was the murder of Muktinath Adhikari class-based or political?' Only Muktinath Adhikari's family members have the right to forgive his murderers.
The Maoist victims of state violence will also not get justice if the process required to bring Muktinath Sir's murders to the court is not pursued.
It is unlikely that the Maoists will allow a genuine Truth and Reconciliation Commission to be put in place, hence the importance of keeping the door of the courts open for the legal investigative procedures. Unfortunately, recent Supreme Court decision seems to have been locked for legal recourse for the victims of state and Maoist violence, including the cases of Maina Sunar, Bardiya, Bhairabnath, Kajol Khatun, Diramba, Arjuna Lama and Maadi.
Back in Lamjung, Ekraj BK who was killed by the security forces and the disappearance of his two Maoist colleagues are cases which will also not see justice if the courts are disallowed their roles in pursuing excess committed during the conflict.