Kin of missing stage hunger strike

Kathmandu, March 15:

With the objective of putting outside pressure on the government to come clean on the status of the people disappeared by the state, 22 family members of persons disappeared by the state staged a relay hunger strike in front of the UN Office of High Commission of Human Rights today.

They said they staged the hunger strike as they failed to make the government listen to the victim families’ voice. Coordinator of the Society of Family of the Disappeared (SOFAD) Shanta Bhandari today said: “The society had submitted a nine-point memorandum to vice-chairman of the cabinet of ministers Kirti Nidhi Bista on March 2, but to no avail.”

In the memorandum, the family members of the disappeared had demanded, among others, that the victims be provided compensation and that they be told the truth.

“We have decided to stage a hunger strike. We won’t relent till the government comes up with exact information about Sanjiv Kumar Karna, Jitendra Jha, Pramod Narayan Mandal, Durgesh Labh and Shailendra Yadav, who were ‘killed’ by police but were disclosed as disappeared by the National Human Rights Commission,” Bhandari said. She added that the state will be responsible if any unfavourable situation is created due to the strike and other programmes to be launched in the future.

Meanwhile, at an interaction organised by the SOFAD today, family members of the people narrated their woeful tales. “I want to know first whether my brother is still alive,” said an aggrieved Jamuna Rokka, a resident of Bardia. Her brother, Dipak Rokka, was taken away by the security forces on May 24, 2000. She has been searching for her brother in barracks based in districts and police posts, but to no avail. She accused the forces of abusing and insulting her during her visits to the barracks and police stations. Former speaker of the House of Representatives, Daman Nath Dhungana, said the government is not open because it does not represent the people.

“To solve problems like these, we should go for the government that will be accountable to the people. We can find a way out by fighting against the unconstitutional government,” he said. Human rights activist Gopan Chintan said the day would come when the people will know who disappeared how many people.

“When we know who is behind the illegal detention, we will punish him and make him compensate for each case,” he said, adding that the constitution gives the people the right to have faith in any political ideology and one cannot be termed anti-national just because he/she believes in a particular ideology.

“We are going to Geneva to present a national report, which will drive the UN agency to impose ‘Item 9’ and take action against the undemocratic regime,” he added. Dr Sundar Mani Dixit, coordinator of the Civic Movement for Peace and Democracy, said the NHRC is not working properly to protect people’s human rights though it has power, authority and sources.

Asha Chaudhari, Manaki Chaudhari, Phulrani Chaudhari, Ramkali and others Chaudhari and others also narrated the grief of having to stay away from their family members.

NHRC representative Achyut Acharya said the NHRC has a record of 1,770 cases of disappearances by the state. According to the record, the Maoists have abducted 350 people.

Victims to move UN

KATHMANDU: Family members of about 2,000 people, illegally detained by the state on the charge of being the Maoists, plan to submit over a million signatures, collected by the SOFAD during its month-long campaign in different parts of the country, at the UN Convention on Human Rights in Geneva.

The move, they hope, will force the government to deliver justice. The signatures have been collected in a 1,200-metre-long cloth and on registers.

“It is a proof of public support for us. We have been crying here to have our voices heard, but the government has not listened. We hope the UN will pressurise the government to deliver justice,” said SOFAD secretary Nanda Lal Tiwari.

Members of the SOFAD are trying to fly to Geneva with the bundle of signatures, he said. Otherwise, we will either send it through participating human rights activists or through the UN office. “We hope global pressure will work and the government will be forced to disclose the number of detainees,” he said. — HNS