The government of Nepal has repeatedly violated its own law to intimidate and arbitrarily arrest Madhesi activist Dr. Chandra Kant Raut. A statement released by Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) strongly condemns his arbitary arrest and describes the cause of his arrest.
On 2 February 2017, Dr. Raut was arrested in his rented flat in Janakpurdham. He was charged with addressing a mass-rally in Lahan, Siraha district on 18 January 2017, Martyr’s day. The government has filed several sedition cases against him in Siraha, Rautahat and Rupandehi districts in order to trap him in a legal maze.
The Nepal Police filed a writ of ‘Organized Crime’ in Siraha District Court against Dr. Raut and his supporters at 5 PM on 3 April 2017, after keeping them in custody for 60 days, citing investigation.
He was already on trial for four sedition charges in the Special Court and one in the Supreme Court in Kathmandu, filed on 8 October 2014. Both courts have cleared him. They stated that his writings, speeches, and activities do not amount to sedition.
The government of Nepal has charged him for addressing a mass rally. Article 17 of the constitution of Nepal guarantees right to peaceful assembly to every citizen, including Raut. It states,
(2) Every citizen shall have the following freedoms:
(a) freedom of opinion and expression,
(b) freedom to assemble peaceably and without arms,
Raut was released from Siraha district but was arrested soon after by Nepal Police and locked up again under trumped up charges, this time in Rupandehi district. According to a report by The Kathmandu Post, angry demonstrators had clashed with police demanding Raut’s release. The District Police Office (DPO) Rupandehi filed sedition charges against Raut and blamed him for the attack, although Raut was locked up in Siraha. These efforts are part of the government’s conspiracy to ‘trap him in a legal maze’ as phrased by AHRC.
Furthermore, it is reported that Raut was physically attacked inside Bhairahawa jail by several inmates. After Raut lost consciousness, he was admitted in Butwal hospital around midnight for treatment.
Although the Supreme court has already cleared Raut of sedition charges, the government of Nepal continues to intimidate him through the illegal use of its executive powers. In a statement released in October 2015, Brad Adams, Asia Director of Human Rights Watch said, “Raut’s call for an independent Terai (Madhes) has to be understood in the historical and political context in which the discussion on state restructuring is occurring. His arrest threatens the chances of a robust debate on federalism, and undermines the promise of inclusion. Raut’s arrest shows that minority voices can and will be easily sidelined.”
Raut’s human rights have been violated repeatedly by the government of Nepal. Raut continues to advocate non-violence despite suffering physical abuses.
AHRC further stated,
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) strongly objects to the following decision of the Nepalese government: the process of annulling Dr. C.K. Raut’s passport, freezing his properties and his savings account. The government’s decision suffocates the very livelihood of his family, which includes a pregnant wife and two young children. Their daily necessities, medical treatment and education are clearly affected.
The government of Nepal has exhibited cruelty by freezing Raut’s bank account.
While Raut languishes behind the bars in Bhairahawa jail, his pregnant wife is without any financial means to cover her basic needs. Similarly, she is unable to pay the school fees for her two young children. An irresponsible measure by the government to freeze Raut’s bank account has rendered his pregnant wife and their young children vulnerable and at risk.
This has inhumanely affected the very subsistence of his family. He needs to pay for food, rent and medical treatment for his pregnant wife and school fees for his six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. They are all presently living in a rented flat in Janakpurdham of the Dhanusha district.
AHRC has obtained copies of documents that the government issued to Sunrise Bank Limited Rajbiraj and Kumari Bank Limited Putalisadak to freeze his accounts.
The government of Nepal has other agencies besides security forces to intimidate Raut. On May 12, 2016, Press Council of Nepal had demanded a public apology from ABC Television for broadcasting the interview of CK Raut, a Nepali citizen with full freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution. Ironically, Press Council ostensibly strives for “freedom of expression” guaranteed in Article 17(2) of our constitution.
Although Raut is an individual, he represents ideas, frustrations, and resentment of a mass populace of Madhesis who feel discriminated by the dominant Pahadi community in Nepal. The government of Nepal should strive to address inequalities and issues raised by Raut. It would be imprudent to silence him through the use of excessive force, intimidation and unlawful measures.