Kathmandu, August 18
Devi Sunar, mother of Maina Sunar who was abducted and killed by the army during the decade-long Maoist insurgency, today claimed that she was approached by two army officials, seeking her cooperation for memorialising Maina. Devi alleged the army’s proposal was aimed at weakening her case which was sub-judice in the Supreme Court, and setting precedence for other such cases sub-judice in courts.
Kavrepalanchowk District Court had in April 2017 slapped life imprisonment on three army officials, convicting them of extra-judicial killing. A single bench of Judge Medini Prasad Paudyal had convicted then colonel Babi Khatri and captain duo Amit Pun and Sunil Adhikari of killing Maina Sunar, 15, of Kharelthok, Kavre.
Maina, a ninth grader at the local Bhagawati Secondary School, was murdered at the Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre, Panchkhal, on 17 February 2004 after abduction. The case was filed against four military officials on 21 January 2008.
The army has challenged the district court verdict in the Supreme Court, stating that a civilian court did not have the authority to look into the case because the military tribunal had already probed and taken departmental action against those involved.
In this backdrop, Devi claimed that a colonel from Panchkhal barracks, whose name she did not remember, requested her for a meeting in mid-June. Devi and another conflict victim, Gita Rasaili, then met the colonel at a hotel in Maitighar, Kathmandu.
“In the meeting, the colonel said he had approached me on the direction of ‘chief saab’, and said the army would like to do something for memorialisation of Maina,” Devi said at an interaction in Kathmandu today. “The colonel said the army wanted to reform themselves, and that I shoud give them a chance,” added Devi.
According to her, the colonel said the case had drawn a lot of international attention, tarnishing the army’s image. She claimed the colonel offered to build a memorial park with Maina’s statue, or establish a revolving fund in the school she attended.
Devi told the colonel that she would agree to cooperate with the army if they withdrew the SC case and cooperated in implementing the Kavre District Court verdict. She claimed that if the conditions were not met her case in the SC would become weaker. She added that she would not want to lose the case to give the army a chance to reform. “The colonel then said he would convey her message to ‘chief saab’, and would call me for another meeting,” claimed Devi.
After two weeks, Devi got a call from the colonel, requesting a meeting, this time at the Army Officers Club. “An army official senior than the colonel met me with the same proposal, and I put forth the same two demands,” she said. “He told me that preparations for memorialisation of Maina should begin, even as the court hears the case.”
Devi rejected the proposal, reasoning that accepting it would weaken the case. The army official then told her he would call again after consulting ‘chief saab’. “There has been no call from the army so far,” she said.
Nepali Army Spokesperson Brigadier General Bigyan Dev Pandey told THT that he was not aware of the development and would reply after checking facts with the departments concerned.
Legal eagles said since the district court had already recorded statements of witnesses and issued a verdict, the case could in no way be influenced in the Supreme Court. “Even witnesses cannot turn hostile. There’s no chance of manipulation or reconciliation,” Senior Advocate Krishna Prasad Sapkota told THT. “Let’s take the army’s proposal positively.”
Another Senior Advocate Surendra Bhandari told THT, “Since the case can in no way be influenced now, I see this as the army’s honest bid to recognise Maina.”
A version of this article appears in print on August 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.