Sub-inspector Kuseswor Morbaita and constable Manoj Bhujel could no longer fight the Maoists who had surrounded their police station at Lahan on Monday. Hoping they would not get killed if they surrendered, the two laid down their weapons. The group of 15 young Maoists shot them dead anyway, while their hands were still up. According to a field report by the human rights organisation, INSEC, about 300 Maoists attacked the police station on 1 September and the battle raged for two hours.
Four survivors, constables Prahlad Chaudhari, Bishnu Kumar Shah, Dil Bahadur Basnet and Gyan Bahadur Shrestha managed to escape and are now at Lahan hospital. "If we had more modern weapons and a larger force, we could have saved the others," one of them says, his voice curiously devoid of a thirst for victory.
On the same day, soldier Bishnu Bahadur Thapa Magar, who had gone home on leave to Fujung in Tanahu to meet his family, was sleeping when Maoists dragged him out of the house in the middle of the night. His family heard gunshots, and later they found his bullet-riddled body.
More than 80 people have already been killed in the 10 days since 27 August, when Prachanda declared the end of the ceasefire. Human rights activists say the peace process needs to be restarted immediately, but even if that doesn't happen both parties have to agree to adhere to basic human rights norms. Most activists are now agreed that the government, which failed to protect the peace process, now needs to find a new formula to bring in the political parties so negotiations can restart.
"According to international humanitarian law, no one is supposed to kill anyone who has surrendered and is not armed," says Subodh Pyakhurel of INSEC. But even if the human rights accord is not signed, they have a moral duty to adhere to the Geneva Convention.
A human rights accord drafted in July was meant to allow an independent monitoring committee to help the peace process. It would've followed up on the code of conduct that was agreed upon in March by the two sides during the peace process, and would have paved the way for a country-wide monitoring mechanism managed by the Nepal Human Rights Commission with technical support from the UN. Rights activists constantly lobbied with the government and Maoists to include the accord in the peace talks. "We really tried everything to make both parties sign but failed," admits a disheartened Pyakhurel. "We have almost run out of options."
Even while the third round of negotiations were going on in Dang, the army killed 19 Maoists in Ramechhap. The army did its own internal investigation and said the Maoists were killed during two encounters, but Maoists say their cadre were slain while attending a political meeting. The National Human Rights Commission is investigating the case. The Maoists later cited the Ramechhap incident as the reason why they broke off the talks and the ceasefire.
In rural Nepal, the fear has returned. Innocents are dying again, like 20-year-old Bir Bahadur Chaudhari of Rampur in Kailali who was blindfolded and taken to a nearby jungle by a squad of Maoists on 29 August. He was brutally beaten and left for dead. Chaudhari was accused of being an informer. At Lafagaun in Udaypur, Maoists abducted Jit Bahadur Basnet on 27 August and killed him, after they hacked off his arms and legs. He was also charged with being an informer and held responsbile for the death of their comrade Tanka Bahadur Bista.
People live under such a suffocating pall of fear that they can do nothing but be bystanders to atrocities. In broad daylight, 20 Maoists caught Bikram Thapa at Likhu in Sindhupalchok. He was dragged around the village and thrashed, while others looked on, afraid to do anything. After a few hours his relatives went looking for him and found him dead in a nearby forest.
These stories will keep coming in, day after day, week after week. Until the peace process is restarted. Nepalganj activist Bhola Mahat says: "There is nothing much we can do to stop this madness. All we can do is to pressure both the Maoists and the government to resume peace talks."