Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
Immunised impunity

More than a year after Hemant and Anjali Shrestha were hacked to death at their rented Kathmandu apartment, their murderers have not been caught. The police know who they are-people who visited the Shrestha couple before the incident-but have not been able to bring the culprits to justice.

Two years ago industrialist Tulsi Agrawal's kidnapping from a Biratnagar market made national news. The public heard nothing after his dramatic release six weeks later. Silence from Agrawal is natural under the circumstances, but the reticence of government agencies is a mystery. Especially or perhaps because Umesh Giri, a close aide of former home minister Khum Bhadur Khadka, is rumoured to have had a hand in the crime.

Only last month Ramesh Sharma of the UML suffered severe injuries in one eye at the hands of the police. The party's general secretary Madhab Kumar Nepal and Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad all expressed their sympathy, but the state did not find it necessary to investigate.

The assassins of late Inspector General of Armed Police Force Krishna Mohan Shrestha (pic, top) and his wife Nudup Shrestha have gone unpunished. In the name of creating a conducive environment for the peace talks, the government released them as soon as they were arrested. Prem Kumari, the murdered officer's mother, was shattered by that decision. "I grieve over the loss of my son and daughter-in-law, but am deeply saddened by the fact that the killers walked away freely. How can the state be so indifferent?" she asks.

Seventeen labourers from Dhading who were building an airport at Kalikot were killed by security forces who mistook them for Maoists. Two years after the incident the government has not even begun an investigation into the matter, let alone punished those who were responsible.

These incidents send a message: Nepali society is not safe, it denies justice to victims and allows crimes to go unpunished. This impunity marks our history too. Those guilty of the Bhandarkhal and Kot massacres did not end up in jail, but were rewarded with the reigns of power. The Namita-Sumita scandal nearly three years ago and the recent murder of musician Praveen Gurung are examples of even the palace siding with impunity.

Even more dangerous is the state's indifference to the over seven thousand lives lost, thousands 'disappeared' and physically handicapped during the Maoist insurgency. "In the name of arresting terrorism, the state itself encouraged impunity that is becoming the culture of the nation," says Human Rights activist Krishna Pahadi. "This encouraged the police and army personnel who tortured civilians."

Impunity in Nepal was included in the Amnesty International 2002 report which expressed concern over the escalating number of killings, torture, arrests, kidnappings and disappearances by the security forces and the Maoists.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)