EDITORIAL: Extrajudicial killing

The principle of law is that an accused is innocent until proven guilty and should get a fair chance to stand trial

Notorious gangsters Manoj Bahadur Pun and his aide Som Ale were killed in a police encounter at Bhawanipur, Devdaha Municipality, in the wee hours of Wednesday. Both of them were riding a motorcycle when the police opened fire on them in retaliation. Police said Pun and Ale were rushed to Lumbini Zonal Hospital but doctors pronounced them dead. Police fired several rounds of bullets on Pun and Ale. They were allegedly involved in killing Chairman of Youth Association Nepal, Rupandehi, Durga Tiwari, on December19, 2016, President of Federation of Contractors’ Association of Nepal Sharad Kumar Gauchan on December 9 last year and furniture entrepreneur Basant Poudel of Devdaha Municipality on January 5. Pun was on the most wanted list of Nepal Police and a red corner notice was issued in India to arrest him. Ale, a resident of Siddharthanagar Municipality, was a sharp shooter in Tiwari’s murder. Ale was also directly involved in Poudel’s killing. Ale, who had quit the Indian Army long ago, had already spent five years in Palpa jail in a separate criminal offence.

SSP Dipak Thapa at Federal Police Office Unit in Bhairahawa said both the gangsters were killed in a joint operation launched by the Central Investigation Bureau and local police based on a tip-off. However, both the accused were reportedly brought from India’s Goa a few days ago. Police have admitted that Pun had entered Nepal on Sunday and “was planning to carry out yet another heinous crime in the district”. Police have claimed they were killed in exchange of fire. They have also claimed that Pun, who was running an extortion drive in Rupandehi and in the Capital, was the prime suspect in the murder of Tiwari, Gauchan and Poudel. He had owned up to killing of the three persons.

This is not the first time that gangsters were killed in a police encounter. Earlier, Dinesh Adhikari alias Chari and Kumar Shrestha alias Ghainte were shot dead in encounters in Kathmandu on August 6, 2014 and August 20, 2015, respectively. Pravin Khatri was also shot dead in an encounter in Kusunti, Lalitpur on August 7, 2017. The modus operandi of police seems to be resorting to “encounters’ to get rid of the gangsters involved in extortion drive, illegal drugs and arms. However, the killing of such persons in the name of “self defence” without giving a chance to stand trial is a violation of rule of law. The legal evidence of their said involvements in the said murders or in extortion drives has been wiped out with their killings in police action. With their killings, it will never be known who killed Tiwari, Gauchan and Poudel. The principle of law is that an accused is innocent until proven guilty by the court of law. It is the police which had leaked information to the media that Pun and Ale were being brought from Goa. It means that they were under police custody before they were gunned down in the encounter. Instead of killing them police should have charge-sheeted them on charges of killing the persons and resorting to extortion. Nobody should take law into their own hands.

Save mother tongues

International Mother Language Day was marked across the world and in Nepal on Wednesday with various events, where stress was laid on protecting and promoting mother tongues. International Mother Language Day is celebrated every year on February 21 with the aim of preserving linguistic diversity and promoting mother tongue-based multilingual education. UNESCO, the cultural agency of the United Nations, calls on all member states to celebrate the day in as many languages as possible “as a reminder that linguistic diversity and multilingualism are essential for sustainable development”.

According to 2011 census, 123 languages are spoken as mother tongues in Nepal. Of these, 53 languages are categorised “safe”, 51 as “endangered” and 19 as “severely endangered”. Languages, simply, may be a way of communication, but they as a matter of fact are more than that. Languages are said to be the conduits of human heritage. They convey unique cultures. According to UN, one language disappears on average every two weeks, taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. There is an urgent need to promote mother tongues, by introducing curricula in basic education as well as encouraging academic research on various languages. Losing a language is losing a rich cultural heritage.