Death of a scribe

Journalist Birendra Sah is no more. It has now been confirmed by the CPN-Maoist’s inquiry, instituted amid public protests, into his status that local Maoist cadres had abducted him from Bhairahawa, and after taking him into a nearby jungle, shot him dead and buried him on the same day. His murder had been admitted by Maoist chairman Prachanda and another Maoist leader Ananta the other day amid public suspicion that Sah might have been killed. The separate inquiry panels formed by the interim parliament, the NHRC, the FNJ and other bodies have also confirmed the involvement of Maoist cadres. This act of abduction one month ago and later confirmation of Sah’s murder have been

widely and rightly condemned. The report, prepared by a three-member committee headed by CPN-Maoist central committee member Pratik (Hari Bhakta Kandel) and made public at a press conference in the capital on Monday, says Maoist activists Kundan Foujdar and Ram Ekwal Sahani did the shooting, as ordered by Lal Bahadur Chaudhary, a member of the CPN-M’s Bara district committee and its area chief.

According to the report, the incident had been triggered by bad feeling between Sah and Chaudhary – the latter had been incensed at Sah’s tormenting him in collusion with the Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha through acts such as setting his house and belongings on fire. The abduction and murder were committed, says the report, ‘without consulting the party’. Kandel said the probe committee submitted the report to the police, adding, “We’ll cooperate with the police in bringing the culprits to book and see to it that they are punished according to law”. However, there may be some doubts, not without justification, in the minds of many that the Maoist report may not have told the whole truth, or it may have told some untruth. However, one will have to wait for the government to complete its full investigation into the crime before one comes to any conclusion whether the party as a whole or any of its higher leaders has in any way been complicit.

The Maoists say the guilty cadres have already been expelled from the party. But irrespective of this, the government’s law-enforcement agencies should do their duty – nab the guilty and put them in the dock. If the Maoists do not cooperate fully in any reasonable way in putting the law into practice in this regard, they should be exposed. The government probe should also cover, besides collecting the information it needs, the points dealt with in the Maoist report to crosscheck Maoist findings. That being said, the Maoist leadership should also pay

serious attention to public criticism of the sporadic cases of violence — including beating, abduction, extortion, and intimidation, which have sometimes resulted in death — perpetrated by Maoist cadres even after the peace process began. But, at the same time, nobody should play politics, either, over the brutal and tragic death of a journalist. The urgent need is to get hold of the guilty and bring them to justice, as well as give the grieving family consolation and assistance.