Nepali Times
Open wounds


Muktinath Adhikari, headmaster and Grade 10 teacher at Padmini Sanskrit Higher Secondary School in Lamjung, was teaching a Science class when the Maoists came and took him away in January 2002. That afternoon, he was taken to a hill overlooking the village, tied to a tree with his scarf and shot through the head. According to the Maoists, he was an informant, who hadn't donated the required 25 per cent of his teacher's Dasain bonus to their cause.

It has been exactly eight years since Muktinath was murdered. His son Suman has since moved the family to Kathmandu. Suman's mother has been ill since his father's death and doesn't want to go back to Lamjung. Whenever Suman visits his village, he feels uncomfortable in his own house.

Suman and his family have never wanted to know who killed Muktinath. What Suman does want to know is why his father, a sincere, hardworking man who had never hurt a soul in his short life, was accused of being an informer and killed so brutally. For eight years Suman has gone from one government office to another, to the Peace Ministry, to every Prime Minister who has taken office. They all sympathise, but no one has done anything. Now Suman doesn't even know where to go to, who is accountable, or how to go about trying to get justice.

It's not money that the Adhikari family wants. Muktinath made sure that his children got a good education. Both Suman and his brother have jobs that can support the family. "What is reparation? Can any amount of money bring back my father?" Suman asks. He wants closure - acknowledgement from those responsible that what happened to Muktinath was wrong. He wants the party responsible for murdering his father to ask for forgiveness from his mother and his family. "My father shunned violence, he was not an informer, that is not how a good person should be remembered," says Suman.

Whenever the issue of repatriation and reconciliation is raised, however, there are always those who say that this is not the right time to talk about it because it will hamper the peace process. The victims who are awaiting justice are also told the same thing when they approach the government. But how can a peace process be successful when thousands are still traumatised by what happened during the war?

The families of the war victims of both sides want to know how and why their loved ones were killed and where the disappeared are so that they can move on. The most unfortunate thing is that the government has no data on the number of people who were killed or disappeared during the war. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Disappearance Commission are in limbo. The victims do not know where to go to have their cases heard because no one wants to be accountable.

Media, civil society and non-governmental organisations can lobby and provide support to these victims, but the nature of reconciliation is such that government itself has to be involved. Simply providing money won't do the job, either - war orphans should be given scholarships and widows should be taught skills they can use to get back on their feet.

The government needs to come up with a comprehensive plan as a matter of priority for the peace process. The victims are in pain, some of them are very angry, and they will not wait forever.

1. Satya Nepali
Madam Aryal, of course there is no reconciliation, reparation, remorse, healing and so forth because the peace that our leaders have signed and the peace that our 'agra-panthi' supported is a "bastard peace"! The much hyped Peace Agreement of Nepal is nothing but the bastard child of opportunism and terrorism delivered by the mid-wifery of foreign intrigue! That is the truth that no one, esp in the 'agra-panthi', is willing to speak. In fact, Prachanda is probably ahead of our 'agra-panthi' on this score too. In another article in this issue of NT he comes close to admitting that the peace process was really not about peace for the people and the nation but for opportunistic reasons for each of the adulterous parties involved. 'Tactical move', I believe, is how he describes it. Even if Prachanda and Chhatraman Gurung made a public apology now for wartime atrocities, do you think that would really mean anything? Would it really heal the wounds that people like Suman suffer? I don't think so. Fact is the 'agra-panthi' of Nepal who supported that bastard peace themselves are contributors to that wound. It is they who brought the Maoists into power and prominence without exacting a sense of true remorse from them first. Instead, they romanticized and glorified the Maoists' violence and accepted it as the "People's

2. Satya Nepali
Instead, they romanticized and glorified the Maoists' violence and accepted it as the "People's" War. It is a result of their advocacy that Violence was accepted and legitimized. Do you have the courage to face this truth, madam Aryal? And do you feel any remorse for it? Probably not. Our 'agra-panthi' loves to put itself always in the position of angels. Our agra-panthi can do no wrong. It's always the politicians doing the wrong things. But if you want true peace and true healing look to yourself first! Why did you make the choices that you did? What were you doing/thinking when that "bastard peace" was being signed? Did you support that peace? Did you think it would deliver justice, peace, and all the other good things? Honestly, did you? Let's see some honest self-reflection from our agra-panthi class first, instead of endless lectures on 'what should be' and 'how others (usually politicians) should go about doing it'.. Healing can only occur when a "true peace" is signed, and Justice, not Power, is its central aim. Give us your honest opinion on whether the Peace Agreement that we have now was about Justice (to all Nepalis) or Power (to the parties involved)?!

3. jange
While I have every sympathy towards the family of Muktinath, I feel they are on a fool's errand if they are expecting from the government or the Nepali public. Muktinath was killed by the Maoists' as part of a revolutionary act from whichwe have been able to gain a new constitution and been able to overthrow the monarchy. For these achievements the nation (and the NT and presumably the author) has already exonerated, honoured and rewarded the Maoists by signing the 12 point pact. There is a system in place of declaring someone a martyr and getting some recompense for that. The family could apply for it but I doubt that Muktinath would qualify as he died for his own principles and not that of any political party.

4. jange
"He wants closure - acknowledgement from those responsible that what happened to Muktinath was wrong. He wants the party responsible for murdering his father to ask for forgiveness from his mother and his family. "My father shunned violence, he was not an informer, that is not how a good person should be remembered," says Suman." Poor Suman. He has fallen into the mindset of the NGO/Liberal revolutionary new-speak. Closure?? Forgiveness?? Murder is a criminal act i.e. an offence against the state. The state has chosen not to regard your father's murder as murder. The state is perfectly within its right to do so.

5. jange
It is very interesting to read the author's suggestions as to what needs to be done if someone is tied to a tree and shot for not paying up extortion money. Lobby the government to provide support for the relatives!!??? So, according to the author, if I grab someone, demand that he cough up 25 % of his Dasain bonus and ties him to a tree and shoot him in the head if he refuses, she will suggest to lobby to demand that the dead man's relatives to be supported but not catch and punish the killers. Interesting!!

6. hariyali
Satya Nepali- why'r you spitting your venom over the reporter? she's only a reporter- doesn't provide justice, isn't linked to your political party. so get over it.

7. jange
The author is disingenuous in suggesting that the family should be compensated by the rest of society. Why should the state pay for the upkeep of someone who according to Himal Khabarpatrika given in the link in the article was "executed" by the Maoists? Surely "execution" implies that Muktinath's killing was a justified and legitimate act? The Maoists themselves have proudly claimed that they executed him for offences against Maoism and the rest of Nepali society has concurred.

8. jange
This story provides a very revealing into the mindset of the Maoists and who they consider to be their enemies. Two things stand out about Mukinath and why the Maoists HAD to kill him. 1. He was fearless. He wasn't afraid of the Maoists. This was clearly a threat as this could encourage others to lose their fear. Maoism can only thrive in an atmosphere of fear. 2. His status and standing in the village meant that the very fact that he did not support the Maoists meant that he was opposed to them, even though he probably never said or did anything against the Maoists. This couldn't be allowed to stand as this could encourage others not to support the Maoists or even to oppose them. Journalists/editors/publishers have a a choice of words in describing any killing. It is also very revealing of the mindset of Himal Khabar Patrika (as linked above) that they chose to use the word execution. How tragic that the NT sees the Maoists as "the only party representing change".

9. ramji

The 10 year-long insurgent -war was fought very immaturely. Both RNA and Maoists have violated the norms and rules of war; there has been countless war crimes.  The government still has to go into war-crime investigation with fairly and promptly. Those who are found guilty should be punished by the law of country. Do not leave unpunished to those who are found guilty. There are still countless sagas and untold stories alike Muktinath uninvestigated across the country. The government should take it seriously to provide justice to all victims. This is the first step of the peace process.

10. Ekalavya Sharma

Satya Nepali,

I totally agree with your comments.

11. jange
Some questions that the author needs to answer. Was the Maoist violence legitimate and justified? If yes, then the murder of Muktinath was justified so no need to shed any tears or sympathy. If no, then punish the perpetrators as that would be justice. I am not surprised that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is going nowhere. It is only a whitewash to salve the conscience of people who should have known better but chose to overtly or covertly support the violence an make excuses for it. It will do nothing for the victims' families. It will not be easy to pull it through and the people charged with it must be aware of that.

12. jange
"He wants the party responsible for murdering his father to ask for forgiveness from his mother and his family. "My father shunned violence, he was not an informer, that is not how a good person should be remembered," says Suman."    Suman should stop hankering after meaningless words from the Maoists. Muktinath remained true to his character and died for it. The Maoists remained true to their character and murdered for it (and continue to do so).

13. Dhoti

It seems that Jange got the space to vomit all his inner feelings to justify the Maoists. If you are advocating the then Maoists why their popularity went washed withing this short time they became in public fora. Why the Prachanda going mad speaking non coherent speaches. I am not claiming the Maoist insurgency as just or unjust but killing, rape, abdcutions done by anyone at anytime was absolutely wrong and noone should advocate for the crime.

Obviously there is suspicion that whether the TRC would function or give a clean cheat to all involved in the past incidents. But that doesn't mean that a journalists or a civil society memeber should stop syaing that those were crimes and criminals should not be punished.

Is it right Jange?

14. jange
Mr. Dhoti- I totally agree with you. The Maoists should have carried out their insurgency without committing any murder, loot or extortion. All I am saying is that journalists like this author should have the intellectual honesty to say clearly whether the Maoists' violence was wrong or legitimate and justified. If it is wrong they should go on to demand that the Maoists  be prosecuted. If it is justified and legitimate then why the pretence with helping the victims, Truth and Justice and the hand wringing. They were perfectly correct and justified in killing Muktinath . If it is justified and legitimate then ALL the violence of the Maoists (including the "execution" of Muktinath) is justified so there is no need for any Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The truth is self evident and there is nothing to be reconciled.

15. jange
In all the ten years of Maoist terror this murder stands out in my mind. It illustrates perfectly the nature of the Maoist violence, their objective and intentions. The media had a big hand in determining the course of things. If only 1 percent of the media had 1 percent of the courage and honesty of Muktinath, 15,000 people need not have died and we need not be suffering the mess we are in now.

16. rishav
It is really upsetting to see this picture but I guess this is the reality of the whole situation. My thoughts and deepest sympathies go to the Muktinath's family and anyone else who have lost their innocent family members during the insurgency. The murderers are probably ministers now in league and protected by the Maoists and now state.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)