NEPAL: The Adhikari couple’s hunger strike takes a tragic turn

There is more heartbreak for the family, friends, and supporters of the Adhikari couple.  On September 22, after 333 days of a hunger strike, Nanda Prasad Adhikari has died. His wife, Ganga Maya, remains in critical condition, and many people fear she will be unable to survive for much longer. As a result, sympathy for the couple and anger at the government for their inaction continues to grow.

The Adhikari couple began their hunger strike with the hope of finding justice for their son who was abducted and killed by Maoists in 2004. The couple were detained by the government and forced to accept intravenous nutrients to keep them alive. The couple and their resolve have become symbolic of the struggle for human rights across Nepal.

However, now, with the death of Nanda Prasad, the hope that the couple would see their son’s killer brought to justice has died. It has shaken the confidence of countless other victims and families that looked to the couple for hope and inspiration.

Many believe the government is responsible for two injustices: the failure to pursue the men that murdered the couple’s son, and the subsequent death of Nanda Prasad. And, now, government inaction is quickly pushing Ganga Maya to the same fate.

The state should accept responsibility for the death of Nanda Prasad Adhikari. The state’s refusal to provide justice for the grieving family has given rise to these dire circumstances. The continuing refusal to fulfil obligations to the victim’s family shows a callous disregard for the lives of the people. It is this attitude that has directly led to the death of Nanda Prasad.

Even after 333 days of fast by the mother and father, justice with regard to the killing of their son has not resulted. After 333 days, Nanda Prasad is dead. What more can citizens do to ensure criminal justice for serious and heinous crimes? Why did the government fail to respond to the 333-day fast of an elderly couple, not to mention the reaction generated by this fast? The government needs to explain this inaction.

Who in government needs to do this explaining? First it is the duty of the Prime Minister to explain why his government failed to guarantee the most elementary demand in the face of a crime, something for which the government has to take responsibility.

Considerable responsibility lies with the Home Ministry, to explain why it has failed to respond to the call of the fasting parents. The Home Minister was fully aware of the situation and also tried to negotiate with the parents to abandon their fast. However, that demand was made without the Minister offering even a credible promise of an inquiry.

The Home Ministry must explain why it considered it unnecessary or impossible to investigate this crime. If the latter is the case, then the Home Ministry must explain why it has become impossible to investigate the crime. Is it fear of political repercussion or fear of some kind of retaliation that the Home Ministry fears?

Responsibility also lies with the Inspector General of Police and high-ranking police officers, those duty-bound to conduct the actual investigation. They must explain why they failed to investigate a serious crime even after the parents undertook a fast unto death. They must explain whether the investigation was scuttled due to pressure exerted from the top of government, by political superiors, or other agents. The public has right to know why the police failed in such glaring manner in such a sensitive case.

Then there are others who owe explanations. Among them are the leaders of the Maoists movement. The allegation in this case is that Maoists were responsible for killing Krishna Prasad Adhikari, the son of the Adhikari couple. Since this is a public allegation, it is the duty of the Maoists to clear their name. And, the only way to clear their name is by them revealing the truth about this crime, with all the details, including the whereabouts of Krishna Prasad’s buried body, something that was likely the final outcome of the killing. These are secrets that no responsible political party is entitled to keep, against the interest of the public.

Out of all these failures and lack of explanations emerges a question.

Is the republic of Nepal incapable of ensuring credible investigation into a serious crime?

Yes, seems to be the rational conclusion given the enormous pressure generated by the 333 days fast followed by the death of Nanda Prasad Adhikari.

Nanda Prasad Adhikari will go down in history as the Nepali who paid the highest price and who made the greatest sacrifice by way of a 333-day fast with his wife, for no other reason but justice on behalf of his son. If such a sacrifice was unable to generate a response in the form of a credible inquiry, how can any Nepalese citizen expect an inquiry into whatever crime they may become victim to?

Nepal now proudly calls itself a republic. What kind of republic is this where an elderly couple undertaking such a prolonged fast cannot generate a response? What can the people expect from this republic? Is Nepal’s turn from monarchy to republic merely a namesake one?

These are serious questions that all Nepalese must try to answer, as a response to the Adhikari couple, which has made the greatest sacrifice in search of justice in the history of Nepal. If the citizens also fail, then the entire society is guilty of neglecting a sincere cry for justice.

All Nepalese should ask themselves: what are we?

And, what will become of us?

Are we all destined to be as powerless and helpless as the Adhikari couple?

Everyone in Nepal, particularly the human rights community, owes an obligation to the Adhikari couple and also to the world, not to let the death and sacrifice of Nanda Prasad Adhikari go waste. They must carry forward the struggle of the Adhikari couple. If this moment is not seized, the burden of an un-discharged duty will be heavy, for all.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-175-2014
Countries : Nepal,
Campaigns : Justice for Adhikari Couple
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Judicial system,