NEPAL: Time to act: State-sponsored mob violence unleashed in Nepal

The government of King Gyanendra in Nepal, who took absolute power on February 1, is now mobilising military-backed mobs to engage in extreme acts of violence on the pretext of fighting Maoists. The army-orchestrated burning of hundreds of homes and lynching of about 30 alleged Maoists in Kapilvastu district are methods of control all too familiar in many Asian countries during these times of heavy carnage and blood-letting.

In India, during recent decades countless mobs have been let loose while the police and military have watched. The violence and subsequent tension around the destruction of the Babri mosque in 1992; organised attacks on Muslims in Bombay during 1993; and attempted genocide of local Muslim populations by the state government of Gujarat in 2002 are but a few. After the 1984 massacres of Sikhs collectively blamed for the killing of Indira Gandhi, the prominent Supreme Court Justice V R Krishna Iyer said that

“When the history of Human Rights in India of our half-century comes to be written, the most blood-stained pages will be reserved for the three deadly November days in the life of the nation. Where is law? Where is justice? What is the truth? Lying dead in the streets of Delhi’s democracy? Where are the guilty? Untouchable and unapproachable in high offices? How can the highest in the executive and members of the Summit Court ever command, when mass casualty of human lives and rights remain a poignant interrogation?”

Examples of this kind of army-backed mob violence can be found from virtually every part of Asia and many other regions as well. In Indonesia the unleashing of anti-communist mobs by the military caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in that country during the 1960s. As the perpetrators of those crimes ruled the country for over the next three decades, Indonesian memory and identity has been so confused that up to today recovery has been impossible. In Sri Lanka the mob violence against the Tamil population living in Colombo during the ‘Black July’ of 1983 is well known. Much of the extreme political bloodshed that was to come in the subsequent years had its origin in the horrors of that time. In May 2003 the military regime in Burma deployed mobs to brutally attack a convoy of democracy supporters in the north of the country; the true circumstances of the attack remain obscure. 

State-sponsored mob violence is often introduced ostensibly to counter a perceived threat: communism, terrorism or otherwise. However, the real purpose is for the ruling group to destroy all opposition and obtain or retain absolute control. The consequences, whether intended or not, are rampant corruption and unlimited slaughter. A permanent state of chaos denies the establishment of a stable society functioning under the rule of law. Through destruction, a type of authoritarian anarchy prevails.

Nepal is on that path. As its media is now completely controlled and many journalists are under arrest, the actual extent of violence is not getting reported to the outside world. The BBC and CNN do not have their cameras pointed on the houses as they burn, or the villagers as they are hanged. The continuous detention of political leaders of democratic parties, trade unionists, human rights workers and journalists also has failed to excite the attention of the international media. 

The Asian Human Rights Commission has in recent weeks almost daily reminded the international community that Nepal is descending into an abyss of violence from which there will be no easy return. The rule of law, democracy and human rights: all of these are now the stuff of mythology in Nepal. We are once again calling upon every concerned person and organisation to pay heed to the colossal destruction of Nepal, which has been plunged into this situation by the mindless actions of its dictatorial king and his accomplices. 

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-25-2005
Countries : Nepal,
Issues : Administration of justice, Judicial system, Rule of law,