No other way
By forming a three-member commission, headed by Patan Appellate Court judge Janardan Bahadur Khadka, to investigate the death of Ramesh Kumar Mahato in Lahan, Siraha, on Friday and deciding to provide one million rupees to the bereaved family, the government has taken the right step towards defusing the volatile crisis. This shows the seriousness with which it has taken the developments in Lahan which started with the scuffle between activists of the Madheshi People’s Right Forum, Nepal, and Maoists in which Mahato was killed by a bullet apparently fired by the latter. This led to protests, by several organisations claiming to work for the Madhesis, and to further violence, and in scuffles between the forum’s activists and the police on Monday, four were killed and many injured, including policemen. Several critically injured people are now receiving treatment in Dharan and the capital. Lahan has been under curfew, which was sporadically breached. Giving the Maoists’ side of the incident, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the CPN-Maoist spokesperson, on Monday admitted that Mahato was killed in a shootout but claimed that the Maoists did not open fire. On the contrary, he added, some of Maoist cadres had been injured.
The public will have to wait for the commission’s report, which is to be submitted in fifteen days. The commission headed as it is by a sitting judge, unlike an administrative probe committee often formed to investigate such incidents, can be expected to work with a degree of impartiality without being politically influenced. The report should be made public and action taken on its recommendations. In the past, reports of inquiry committees or commissions were often allowed to gather dust in some obscure corner of government buildings. This should not happen again. On its part, the government says it wants to redress the grievances of all groups through talks, and accordingly, both the prime minister and the home minister have rightly called upon all to come for talks.
In a well-advised move on Monday, the eight political parties decided to set an example by not organising bandhs and strikes until the constituent assembly elections. The transport owners’ indefinite strike was withdrawn in the wee hours of Tuesday after ten hours of talks between the government and their representatives. Talks could address the grievances of other groups as well. But on fundamental political and constitutional issues, like the question of restructuring the state, Nepal has already embarked on the road to the CA elections — which are to be held in June this year — as the ultimate settler of disputes as per the mandate of the Jana Andolan II. Those groups who hold different viewpoints will do well to take their message to the people and try to win their support in the CA polls and thereby influence the making of the constitution. There is no other way. Moreover, even the most flexible of governments cannot compromise when it comes to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the nation.