Time to look within

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is reported to have assured the kin of Ramhari Shrestha, a restaurant operator who had died from torture at the hands of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) men a few days ago, that a panel would be constituted to investigate the killing. The PLA 3rd Division had suspected Shrestha, along with two PLA men, of involvement in theft of Rs. 1.7 million and a firearm from its office located in Shrestha’s house at Koteswor, Kathamndu. They had taken him to Chitwan for ‘interrogation’, but after he received life-threatening injuries from two PLA soldiers, they were taking him to Kathmandu, but he died on the way and they threw him into the Trishuli River. This episode was simply gruesome and unpardonable. Of the three men said to be involved in this affair, one, Govinda Batala, has been handed over by the PLA 3rd Division to the police, but the other two are reported to have run away.

On Sunday, Prachanda, in a statement issued on behalf of the CPN-Maoist central committee, expressed the commitment to ‘investigate this criminal act so thoroughly as to bring out the whole truth”. Prachanda also said that Shrestha had been a ‘Maoist sympathiser since the difficult times of the conflict’. The state law enforcement agencies have already started the investigation and legal proceedings. But the Maoists must, besides cooperating with the police fully, carry out its own full and sincere investigation to cleanse its organs of the evil tendencies that still grip some of its cadres, so that such incidents may not happen again. The law must take its course. Besides, the Maoist leadership must also take strong internal action against those members that are found guilty. The hangover of the war and arrogance of power are still there in varying degrees among sections of the Maoist cadres. It may not be feasible, however, to wish all of it away immediately, but that is all the more reason why the Maoist leadership must be extra careful to prevent such untoward incidents in which human rights are violated and the public image of the CPN-Maoist erodes.

The Shrestha incident is the most serious of the several excesses committed by Maoist cadres

in recent days. At a time when the Congress and the CPN-UML are calling for YCL dissolution and setting such other terms for power sharing, the CPN-Maoist would be unwise to let them have the opportunity to back up their cases. Besides, as the CPN-Maoist is now the largest political party in the Constituent Assembly, it is also expected to display greater responsibility. It must understand, too, that it has powerful and resourceful foes at home and abroad that are bent on preventing it from leading the next government. Excesses of its cadres, even of its rogue elements, would only tend to strengthen its opponents’ hand by deepening doubts about its intentions. While it is necessary to push for proper investigation and action against the culprits, as well as for compensation, the danger of the incident being used for political purposes needs also to be guarded against, because it would only serve vested interests and overshadow the just outrage by leading to charges of playing politics over a dead body.