22-28 January 2016 #792

A mother’s long fight for justice

Shova Shrestha in setopati.com, 17 January

setopati

Devi Sunar has been waiting for 12 years to see the men accused of murdering her daughter, Maina Sunar, be brought to justice. Now that the district court has reopened the case, she is once again hopeful. “I feel like my daughter has come back,” says Devi. “I have not cremated her yet. Her soul will now rest in peace.”

The case was put on hold two years ago as the defendants, former Colonel Bobby Khatri and three other army officers, never showed up at the court for seven years. Now with the court orders, the case will go to trial and a verdict will be reached even if the accused are absent.

Fourteen-year-old Maina was killed by the army as retribution for her mother’s vocal criticism of their involvement in the murder of her niece, Reena Rasaili. Accused of being a Maoist supporter, Reena was shot to death in her own backyard.

While other villagers suggested that the family cremate Reena’s body silently, Devi wanted a proper police investigation. Devi was determined to not go down without a fight to prove her niece’s innocence.

She sought help of advocate Govinda Bandi who with his colleagues visited the crime scene the very next day. Three days later, the story of what had happened to Reena was carried out by the media. Two days later, Maina was abducted by the army.

That day the army had come searching for Devi. Not finding her at home, they took away her two children - Maina and her brother. While Devi’s son was eventually let go, her daughter never made it back. Eyewitnesses say the soldiers thrashed Maina all the way to the barrack.

The next day, Devi went to the army’s Panchkhal Base, asking for her daughter. No one gave her any answer. Since then, Devi’s search for her daughter and justice hasn’t ended. Then CDO of Kabhrepalanchok, Shambhu Koirala even told her: “The army has raped and killed your daughter. Don’t go looking for her anymore, save your son. Go home.”

Devi couldn’t believe the level of apathy displayed by the government. She swore she’d fight for justice until the day she died.

As the army continued to look for her, Devi was forced to move to Banepa and then to Kathmandu. Meanwhile, Maina’s disappearance caught the world’s attention. Because of the wide press coverage of the case, Army Chief Pyar Jung Thapa agreed to meet with Devi and other human rights activists in Kathmandu. “Give my daughter back,” Devi said upon meeting Thapa.

“Your daughter was killed back then,” admitted Thapa, for the first time. “Why are you still searching for her when we have given her body back to you?” Hearing it from him, Devi was forced to acknowledge that her daughter was indeed dead.

The army then set up a court of inquiry to investigate the incident. Devi later received news that Maina’s death was ruled as extrajudicial murder and the accused Colonel Bobby Khatri, Captain Sunil Prasad Adhikari and Amit Pun were sentenced to six months imprisonment, fined Rs 50,000 and faced a ban on future promotions.

Devi felt the punishment wasn’t commensurate with the crime, so she decided to file a case in the civil court. She registered a complaint with the police, but the investigation went nowhere. During this time, with pressure from international human rights activists, Maina’s body was exhumed from Panchkhal barracks.

“I wanted her to be alive instead I found her skeleton,” says Devi, wiping her tears. “If Maina had indeed taken up arms, I wouldn’t be questioning the army’s actions. But Maina was just a child, how could they kill an innocent child?” Devi asks. Five years after the incident, the case went to court but was put on hold after the accused managed to flee. 

Devi now divides her time seeking justice for her dead daughter, and raising a new one, who was abandoned by her own mother. She has named the adopted daughter Maina.

Says Devi: “I feel like she is the reincarnation of my daughter. It is God’s way of giving back my daughter. So I live to bring justice to my daughter and bring this one up.”

Read original article

Read also:

Remembering Maina

Who doesn’t want a TRC?, Om Astha Rai

The moment of truth, Anurag Acharya

Tags: Maina Sunar, Devi Sunar, Maoists, UCPN(M), People War, Nepal, Nepal Army, human rights

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