Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Protecting the innocent

Have Nepali citizens lost their right to live? They get killed while on their way to meet relatives or while celebrating festivals. They get caught in the crossfire. Many are suspected to be state informers or Maoist militants and are killed. Children die while playing with metal objects they find by the roadside.

Civilians are fast becoming targets of both the Maoists and the security forces. According INSEC, 191 civilians were killed by the state and another 259 by the Maoists in the last eight years. Maoist victims include teachers, political activists and local government representatives. The individual assassinations by the Maoists continue. Now they have started targeting senior political leaders and army officers. The security forces have also been targeting ordinary civilians, as is evident from the recent killings in Nuwakot, Kalikot, Bara, Sindhuli, Tehrathum and Chitwan. The question is, why are the citizens getting killed by the entity that is supposed to protect them? Experts list the following reasons:

. Action taken based on false information
. Insufficient knowledge of human rights issues
. Strong animosity towards Maoists
. Revenge against those who harmed family and colleagues
. Psychological pressure and aggressive state of mind
. Fingers always on trigger while on patrol
. Not being accountable towards the civilians in absence of local government representation

But the main problem seems to be trigger happiness of a jittery army. "A soldier on patrol is fully authorised to open fire if he feels threatened," said army spokesperson, Dipak Gurung.

Now people have started speaking out against the unjust killings. Recently in Bara locals held a street demonstration protesting the killing of Kisori Patel and Suresh Patel in Sisahiniya village, but it proved to be in vain. There was no response at all from the government. A similar protest against the Maoists would have lead to terrible repercussions as was evident from the assassination of Ganesh Chiluwal, the anti-Maoist activist who was killed for burning effigies of Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai in Kathmandu last month. The army has started to realize that the human rights situation is getting out of hand, and has responded by organising human rights training with help of ICRC.

On the other hand, all the Maoists have done is to apologise for killing innocent people. The Maoist still terrorise ordinary villagers by planting bombs in the villages, blowing up public vehicles, attacking unarmed civilians and assassinating local political leaders and activists. The security forces also continue to take action against innocent civilians despite commitments from the state to be careful during security operations. In a bid to show its commitment, the army announced in January it would take action by imprisoning 15 army personnel and suspending 7 senior officers, but their names or their crimes were never revealed. The government has established a human rights cell in all the army, police and armed police force units which are coordinated by a section in the prime minister's office. In reality, though, the situation has not improved at all.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)