May 26, 2016.
Ishan, a 21 year old Nepali boy has captured the attention of other youths, media and civil society members for his bold action to throw red paint on the pristine walls of Singh Durbar. It is a symbolic act. The red paint symbolizes the extrajudicial killings of fellow Madhesis and Tharus by state’s security forces. Since the government has not taken any steps to investigate these atrocities despite recommendations from human rights organizations, Ishan enacted an act of civil disobedience to bring attention to these grave violations.
During his first arrest, he was accompanied by Mohammed Riyaz Safi, a Madhesi activist who advocates for peace, justice and development in Madhes. Riyaz and Ishan had both been arrested and released. When Ishan threw paint for the third time, he was arrested along with a journalist Shesh Naryan Jha. Jha was charged for taking photographs of the tainted Singh Durbar’s walls in ‘prohibited area’. His arrest was condemned by Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and Committee to Protect Journalists. A writ was also filed in the Supreme Court against their detention. Both, Jha and Ishan were released on May 25, 2016 at 5:30 pm local time.
This symbolic act has popularized once again the state’s impunity. However, Ishan’s message is not new. The human rights organizations like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance (THRD Alliance), and Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) have all made recommendations to the government of Nepal to investigate extra-judicial killings.
Despite the recommendations of several major national and human rights organizations to investigate the excessive use of force, the state has taken no discernible action to that effect. This has created uneasiness among Nepali youths. The symbolic act by Ishan is a manifestation of that frustration and uneasiness.
Ishan wrote a letter before his arrest for the act.
Letter by Ishan
“Madheshi and Tharus get routinely shot by the state in head and chest for simply raising their political voice as if their lives do not matter, no one speaks up. How does it matter if few districts go to this state or that state- all states are going to be in Nepal, aren’t they. Then why killing so many innocent people over this?”
After his release, Ishan said,
I have thrown red paint as a symbol to expose the real nature of Singh Durbar and bring attention to the extrajudicial killings.
Similarly, Supriya Manandhar, a Nepali student currently in the US, shared an image which became instantly popular among social media users.
In defiance of Ishan’s arrest, four youths threw red paint on Singh Durbar walls again and were arrested on May 25, 2016.
Youths from Kathmandu also expressed solidarity via social media posts.
See post from Pratik Shrestha
See post from Reecha Palikhe
Youths from Hetauda also expressed solidarity via social media posts.
The message sent by youths is loud and clear, which has been reverberated by recommendations by most major national and international human rights organizations.
Human Rights Watch
In a report ‘Like We Are Not Nepali‘, the HRW made several recommendations, some of which are mentioned below.
To the Government and Security Forces
Immediately end the indiscriminate and excessive use of force, and ensure the intentional use of lethal force only occurs where strictly necessary to protect life.
Immediately establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the unlawful killings of protesters and police.
To the International Community
Press the Nepali government for timely and credible investigations of alleged human rights abuses, and for perpetrators among both the security forces and agitating groups to be prosecuted.
The National Human Rights Commission
The NHRC also published a 94 page report and said that the excessive use of force by security force should be investigated. Below are some of the relevant excerpts.
To the Government of Nepal
To take legal action immediately through criminal investigation against the individuals and personnel who are found to have been involved in killing incidents with the use of excessive force in case of the security agency (Nepal Police and Armed Police Force) and using domestic weapons by the agitators; and provide appropriate relief and compensation to the victim’s families.
NHRC Statement at UPR
Mohna Ansari gave the following statement at UN’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva:
Recently 55 people, including security personnel were killed during the political protest in Tarai due to the dissatisfaction with new Constitution. Findings of NHRC show that these killings and injuries were due to the [excessive] use of force. Thus, I would like to re-emphasize to accept recommendations for proper investigation and prosecution on excessive use of force. That can ensure justice to the victims.
THRD Alliance and AHRC
A 70 page report prepared jointly by THRD Alliance and AHRC stated that the excessive use of force by security forces is a longstanding pattern in Nepal that have not been addressed historically.
The focus on the use of force is important because it has long been identified as a systemic and institutional problem in Nepal. In spite of exhaustive investigations and detailed recommendations regarding the police excessive use of force during the April 2006 Jana Andolan and later Madeshi Andolan of 2007-08, this report concludes on the basis of credible eyewitness testimony and other documentary evidence that these systemic problems have not been addressed. The THRD Alliance and Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) conclude that the result of this failure was a repetition of longstanding patterns of excessive use of force, resulting in the deaths of 34 protestors and bystanders.
Use of Force by Nepal Police
The focus of this report is on State responsibility for the use of force, which is governed by the Constitution of Nepal and by applicable international norms. Applying applicable international UN standards of policing to this evidence, the report concludes that in 34 cases there is substantial and convincing evidence that the NP and APF responded with unnecessary and disproportionate force in reaction to stone throwing or other minor levels of violence by protesters.
The 34 cases of police killings in this report can be divided into three groups: in only 4 cases (11%) those killed challenged the police authority; in 12 cases (33%), those killed were peaceful protesters and in a staggering 18 cases (51%), those killed were not involved in the protests and were mere bystanders or people killed in their houses in the surrounding areas of protests. The three other cases have been included as evidence suggests that the police chose not to protect those killed from a mob attack.
To date, not one member of the security forces responsible for these serious human rights violations is known to be under investigation, let alone being prosecuted – once again reconfirming the deep-rooted problem of impunity in Nepal.
Recommendations to the Government of Nepal
The Government of Nepal has made arrests in the killings of police personnel in Kailali and Mahottari but despite call for probe into the killings in the Terai by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and national and international human rights organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, AHRC and THRD Alliance, the government has not instituted an independent investigation yet. An end to impunity is necessary to protect human rights and therefore, the government must form a commission without delay to carry out an independent probe into the protests-related killings. The government must also ensure that its actions are not aimed at silencing dissenting voices and needs to ensure that all those arrested are given a fair trial.
The youths seem determined to not stop their non-violent campaign until the state agrees to investigate extrajudicial killings of Madhesis.
- Human Rights Watch. “Like We are Not Nepali”. https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/10/16/we-are-not-nepali/protest-and-police-crackdown-terai-region-nepal
- National Human Rights Commission of Nepal. Human Rights Monitoring Report. http://www.nhrcnepal.org/nhrc_new/doc/newsletter/NHRC_Nepal_Madhesh_Terai_Protest_Human_Rights_Monitoring_Report_English.pdf
- National Human Rights Commission of Nepal. Statement by Mohna Ansari at UN Universal Periodic Review. http://thrda.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NHRC_Commisioner-UPR-Remaks-March-16-2016.pdf
- Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance, and Asian Human Rights Commission. “Nepal. Protest & Repression. Special Report on State Responsibility for 37 Killings During Protests in Terai.” http://alrc.asia/ahrc/sr/nepal/teraireport/
- Full PDF report [70 pages]