Nepali Times
By The Way
History will not forgive Bhattarai


The promotion of a tainted Nepal Army officer and withdrawal of war time cases against Maoist leaders by the government without proper investigation has shocked everyone. But not surprised. National and international human rights activists have slammed the government's decision, and there has been a chorus of protest against the move. Families of the victims, those most directly affected by the pardons and promotions, have been picketing Baluwatar. But all these protests have fallen into deaf ears.

After coming to power last year, one of the things Baburam Bhattarai promised was the setting up of a truth commission 'at the earliest'. There was reason to doubt this even then, since his party colleagues have been known for triple-speak. The parties were deeply divided over the content of the proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Disappearance bills in the CA, but there was a sliver of hope that better sense would prevail. When the CA was dissolved, nobody really expected Bhattarai to deliver on his earlier promise. But not only did he try to push through a toothless bill in the form of an ordinance, his cabinet decided to take back wartime cases against Maoist leaders Bal Krishna Dhungel and Agni Sapkota, among others, and promoted tainted officers in Nepal Police and Nepal Army. There was obviously a secret you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours deal between the two former enemies who now form the state.

To be fair, the Supreme Court had cleared Kuber Singh Rana for promotion even though the allegations against him remain under investigation. So politically, the decision was still tenable and his personal image as an officer with integrity worked in his favour. However, there was no administrative or political pressure on the government to push through war time cases or promote the tainted Army officer. The prime minister could have let the matter be handled by a Truth Commission whenever it is formed, but he took a decision in his personal capacity. As a leader, if you bow down to pressures and compromise on fundamental principles of justice, you do not have moral authority to lead the country. The level of insensitivity shown by Bhattarai in this case added insult to injury of the victims when they were baton-charged by the police in front of his residence, while protesting peacefully. What can be more shameful for a revolutionary who once took up arms against the state to protect the same people?

Bhim Basnet's two sons were arrested by the Army in 2003 and he hasn't seen them since. The anger and humiliation of the father who failed to secure justice for his sons manifested themselves as tears as he questioned Sadhu Ram Sapkota, Joint Secretary of Ministry for Peace and Reconciliation, at a program in the capital this week: "My sons disappeared from that camp and instead of asking that man about their whereabouts, how could you promote him?" The embarrassed bureaucrat apologised saying he did not have all the answers.

"We don't expect the government to punish Raju Basnet, but the least Baburam Bhattarai could have done for his comrades who fought alongside him for ten years is not reward this man," says Maoist student wing leader Himal Sharma, who was among those detained and tortured in the Bhairab Nath Battalion under Basnet's command.

One of the biggest intellectual challenges the scholars have faced in the past decades is to understand the relationship between democracy and freedom. The social movements of the 1960s and 70s including decolonisation in Africa and Asia, led many to believe that democratic societies were more vibrant and gave greater freedom to the people. However, the way modern states with democratic institutions are increasingly becoming intolerant towards dissent and criticisms has prompted many to question this straightforward relationship.

The casual assumption that democratic governments are necessarily tolerant grossly underestimates their capacity to legitimately use the state power against their own people. Andrew Kolin's State Power and Democracy discusses how United States' supreme military power became a deterrence against its own people when they questioned their government's so called 'war on terror'. Similarly, the use of disproportionate force by European governments lately against students protesting cuts on their scholarship funds, persecution of the tribals by Indian government in its hinterland as well as dumbing down of the dissenting voices in Bangladesh are lessons for emerging democracies that states with powerful military and brute police can undermine even the most democratic society.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai may not be concerned by national and international outrage now, but this moral blunder will haunt him for many years to come. Even if public memory is obscured by day-to-day politics, history will not forgive him for promoting and protecting war criminals.

Read also:
Out, damned spot
Only by confronting the ugly secrets of the past will we be able to protect the future

See also:

Where justice is a game, ANURAG ACHARYA
Perpetrators of war crimes often assume power to use their positions to escape prosecution

Don't ask, don't tell, ANURAG ACHARYA
Everyone has skeletons in their closets, so no one wants to open any of them

A dangerous precedence, ANURAG ACHARYA
The state's refusal to accept an OHCHR report detailing war crimes will hurt the peace and reconciliation process

1. Binu

At least those who put belief on Bhattarai as man once fought for justice are now more outraged than  they  are sad. It seems that he is almost totally sold out to the  'mainstream'. Unsurprisingly, no one from the circles from NC and UML speak against this promotion. This is shameful to all.

2. Tilak
Whats so strange about this promotion? One war criminal extending a favor
to another war criminal.

3. Lal Babu
Surprising ... why everyone is after Basnet who actually obeyed orders. Why does not any one has guts to say the sma ething about Maoist, who killed over 19,000 innocent people. They also abducted many people, killed and what not. Why are people or HR activitis not creating the same hue and cry that they are doing for Raju- is that because he is alone ? Maoist have voilated more HR cases tells OHCHR report.

4. RR
I am not trying to say that the army/police men who were involved in war crimes should not be punished, but i find myself agreeing with Lal Babu. There is definitely a huge double standards when it comes to post war truth andreconciliationprocess. Yes, promoting Basnet is wrong. But what about promoting Bhattarai and Dahal to the post of heads of states. Why were victims' families, the media, the intellectuals so jubilant when these men came to power? Why wasn't there an uproar against this gross injustice? Let us not forget these men and their cadres (many of whom are now in the government) have proven record of human rights violence.

5. Soni
I could not agree more with the above two commentators, a man "accused" of a crime is vilified in the national media, even as his former opponent approve his promotion. Not one, but several war criminals - not just "accused" but "proven" to be guilty of "severe" offences against humanity are at the top of government.

Many, "intellectuals" argue in favour of the agenda of criminals who fought an unreasonable war against their mostly harmless victims, using children as soldiers, propaganda, and lies to merely murder people.

Despite being in power, they have done nothing to address any of their own demands, but their criminal associates still continue to extort people, they blatantly used the peoples' money, donors money and extorted money to enrich themselves, and carry on the agenda of an enemy with a much greater objective than just Nepal. They have done nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing other than to hurt, and extort, and murder and steal - our soul, our wealth, our peace, our nation, our history and our life's. 

And, there are those who would go after an Army officer who may or may not have committed a crime against those who wanted to harm, to murder, to steal. Punish him - I really mean it - punish him whether he has committed a crime or not, but don't go easy on those who are the real criminals. Those who have committed a crime of such magnitude that not even the gods can undo the harm.

Punish them so that our history of defeat does not carry on into more defeats and later oblivion. Punish them so that our future generations don't live in a perpetual sense of loss - in darkness brought on them by their cowardly, and stupid, ancestors.

6. BK
Everybody loves a winner, no one cares about losers. The Maoist are the biggest losers in Nepal and both Bhattarai and Dahal are at the top of this list. Nepal needs some drastic change to move ahead. Is a Martial Law that change,  may be ?

7. Raju Lama
People pay attention to ( # 4 RR ). When you allow criminals and killers, i.e., Dahal and Bhattrai to rule over you, this is the result. The 64 thousand dollars question is - why does this continue, have the people not had enough of the Maoist, the people have to bring the change, get rid Dahal and Indian Slave Bhattrai, a new chapter in Nepal will begin.

8. Prafulla Mahato
A good article no doubt. History may not forgive BRB, not that he cares much about it now, but the short memory of the Nepali public just might.

9. Prafulla Mahato
This is not only about posterity. The real danger lies in the fact that the Maoists and the Nepali Army seem to be getting cozier to serve their mutual agendas. Human Rights activists need to be alert and pursue the murderers till such time that they are brought to justice. Till that happens this country will not see Peace.

10. manohar budhathoki
I agree with Soni and others here. The Maoist leaders started the wholly unnecessary war and it is indeed a travesty that they are now the country's leaders. They have done crimes that not even the Gods can undo. Raju Basnet and the other security forces were doing their jobs, the jobs that society gave them and that job was a means of livelihood for them and their families. 
Their crime can never be of the same scale as Chhabi Lal Dahal's or Baidhya's or Bhattarai's. (I think it is disgusting to call them Prachanda or Kiran or Laldhoj). Punish Raju Basnet by all means if he committed a crime even, but why is there no hue and cry over these Maoists? History will not forget or forgive them ever.
 I can sense millions of Nepalese like myself, deep in whose bellies burn the fires against the injustice, unnecessary and disproportionate violence, and the humiliation these Maoists have brought on us and our country. Even their peace time activities are wholly abhorrent!

11. Shishir

When Gyanendra was being overthrown, you people gave these murderers a chance. (Point to be noted: I'm not a royalist). People from the rural areas knew their deeds and to-be-deeds, so that leaves just one suspect; urban people were the majority that went hand in hand with the maobadies. The ones who use cell phones and internet are the ones that gave them this unprecedented power. You people deserve this for your stupidity. Lament. Repent. Or pick up a grenade, pull the pin and run to the nearest maobadi khor.

12. kiran

All this hue and cry makes no sense to me. Listen if you are really serious, go after Prachanda and Baburam, the biggest murderers in the history of Nepal. Then maybe we will have something to talk about.

13. Lalita Nepal
did i miss something? ALong the line of forgiveness and materialism so far there has been only business as usual.

Crime and criminals in power what is new? What is new is that hopes have been high and instead of continuing the civil war they trie to make peace.
Yet it would be good to bring JUSTICE for all.
which can only be done by bringing to court the guilty on BOTH SIDES.
before tihar?

14. Dhanu shrestha
why only the public servants are targeted as war criminals, why not politicians? I reckon the politicians who have been misguiding the commoners are the main war criminals not the army personnels and others. They did follow the orders and who gave them orders to detain and torture the public. Of course the leaders. So, the corrupt and criminal leaders should be trialled and put behind the bars. The promotions of some army personnel who abused human rights at war time doesn't matter much.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)