Not all quiet

The five-member judicial commission formed by the government to investigate five months of violent unrest in the Tarai has stressed the need to put in place a mechanism under the home ministry to cope better with such a situation in future and provide the victims with immediate relief. The commission, headed by Supreme Court judge Khil Raj Regmi, took five months to complete its investigation and prepare the report. The report, submitted to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Wednesday, points out certain weaknesses, including the ‘lack of coordination’ between the security forces and other state machinery, which caused the failure to control such incidents immediately. According to Regmi, the commission had found the causes of the riots and also how different groups were linked to these. But he declined to say who and what they were, besides parrying questions about Indian and palace connections to the violence in the Tarai. However, the report notes the infiltration of several vested interest groups to make things much worse.

The report puts the number of those killed at 21, those injured at 1,951, and the cost of damage to property at Rs.156 million. This assessment of cost, which may well look conservative to many eyes, takes into account only the direct physical damage or destruction. But the total loss caused, say, to the economy as a whole, would run to many times over. The dereliction of duty on the part of a number of government officials appears to have been wrapped up under the neutral phrase ‘lack of coordination’. Prime Minister Koirala gave assurance of ‘gradual implementation’ of the report. If responsibility at various levels for the failure to act at all or in time were not pinned down, the report and its purported implementation would amount to little.

However, it is difficult to accept entirely the theory of the lack of coordination. If it were true, the question would arise as to how the worsening law and order situation in the country, including the capital, could be explained. Even the Prime Minister and the home minister have admitted weaknesses on the security front. Nowadays, one person is killed and two abducted daily in the Tarai, according to data compiled by the eastern regional office of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). Police and local administration officials are quoted as saying that they are losing control there and that these acts of violence are criminal rather than political. Therefore, as reports say, people prefer not to lodge complaints with the police, because they think nothing worthwhile would come of it. Currently, well over a dozen armed groups in the Tarai are spreading their areas of operation. Siraha, Saptari and Dhanusha districts are hotbeds of violence, the first named tops the list. Nepali Congress Mahasamiti member Bechan Yadav was kidnapped and killed on November 3. But the resignation of some 400 government employees in Saptari, citing the lack of security, sums up the grim situation more vividly. Laws may well be made tougher to deal with crime better. But the main problem is obviously the lack of government’s resolve.