Incidents of murder are on the rise in Nepal but culprits that claim the responsibility manage to stay away from police net.
Rupandehi district has come to the limelight once again, not for good reason. While the horror of Durga Tiwari’s murder is still fresh in people’s minds, another trader has become an unfortunate target of fire opened by an unidentified group. Last week, Basanta Paudel, 35, was shot dead. Long before incidents of this nature happened in West Tarai, they began in East Madhes.
After Paudel’s murder, Manoj Budha Magar Pun, who had suddenly emerged following Tiwari’s murder, is once again in the news. The fact that his group has proudly claimed responsibility is making headlines. The climate of fear is pervading in Tarai-Madhes in the name and protection of armed groups, dons from across the border, and the mafia.
The search for Manoj, the main accused of shooting of construction businessman Sharad Kumar Gauchan, continues. But Manoj and his group are cultivating and nurturing a climate of fear, challenging the police and spreading fear.
The youngsters in the group that shot Gauchan were only hit men mobilized by a certain group. Such deluded youngsters continue to become puppets of organized criminal groups.
This trade of fear that has recently emerged in Nepal reminds us of the initial days of Mumbai, India. The main business of those who rose from the Mumbai crime was, and continues to be, fear. The money extorted from traders amidst this climate of fear contributes to income of Indian criminals.
Incidents have proved that somewhere in the process of extortion by Indian crime mafia, security officials, political leaders, judiciary have been involved. Case investigations carried out by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) have confirmed that more than half a dozen police officers have a direct link with mafia.
In Nepal, incidents of murder are on the rise, but culprits that claim responsibility manage to stay away from police net. Time has come for investigation authorities to be suspicious of their own officers. Relevant authorities need to be mindful of media outlets that exaggerate incidents as well as the groups that are active in such activities.
Collusion, foul play
On December 19, 2016, Durga Tiwari was working in his field, when he was shot dead by an unidentified group. He had also been shot on February 18, 2016, although he managed to survive at the time. Police investigation had concluded that Tiwari was shot by Manoj’s group. Manoj was once affiliated with CPN-UML’s Youth Association. According to the investigation, there were some personal give-and-take between him and Tiwari.
Police had filed a case against 10 individuals, including Manoj, in relation to murder attempt in February. Though police arrested eight of them, two, including Manoj, remained at large. Police said Manoj was in India but they failed to trace him after Tiwari’s murder.
The youths involved in shooting in the Tarai-Madhes get arrested sooner or later. But the ringleaders hide behind the scene and enjoy protection. Youths get attracted to underground groups because they see them live in luxury with the money earned from entertainment business and drug trade.
During Tiwari’s murder, SSP Rabindra Dhanuk, who is now chief of Kathmandu Police, was the chief of Rupandehi Police. When one after another trader publicly stated that they had been receiving threats from Manoj, who was demanding ransom, it was evident that police had failed to ensure their security. As time passed, locals of Rupandehi and neighboring districts were trying to get over the fear induced by Manoj and his group. Then his gang murdered Sharad Kumar Gauchan, President of Federation of Contractors’ Association of Nepal (FCAN), in Kathmandu. Soon after the murder, they called SSP Rabindra Dhanuk, and claimed the responsibility.
It seems most security personnel in Tarai-Madhes have earned bad name. The security officers who until recently had an ill reputation in connection of drug abuse, smuggling, and political events are now being linked to heinous crimes, such as murder and abduction. In this context, police hand is suspected in regard to latest incidents of murder as well.
After coming under pressure from all sides following Gauchan’s murder, police authority assigned the responsibility for immediate investigation to Metropolitan Police Division and Kathmandu Police. As contractors continued with their protests, an investigation committee was formed under the leadership of DIG Ganesh KC of Metropolitan Police Office.
A month later, this committee arrested five individuals involved in murder. They informed that eight individuals, including Manoj, Lopsang and Samir Man, were still at large.
The investigation committee has also revealed that the same group was responsible for other incidents.
Police investigation report on Gauchan’s murder and the information that DIG KC, who was leading the investigation committee, provided to the media was not satisfactory.
Those who appeared to be directly involved were only following orders. A youngster of Terai origin, who was an eyewitness to the incident, felt compelled to leave Kathmandu after the police investigation because he was interrogated by every officer and faced constant pressure. After the investigation committee report, the contractors stayed quiet but Police Headquarters was under pressure to arrest the main culprit.
After facing much pressure from contractors and political leadership, the Police Headquarters ultimately wrote to the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), handing it the formal responsibility for investigation.
During the time of Tiwari’s murder, foul play was going on within Nepal Police for new leadership. Former DIG Nawaraj Silwal, who at the time was leading the CIB, was seen as the main contender for the post of Inspector General of Police (IGP). Silwal deployed an investigation team to Rupandehi under the leadership of then SSP Manoj Neupane. Then Inspector Rugam Bahadur Kunwar was also on that team.
During Silwal’s tenure, Kunwar expedited search for Manoj, Lopsang, and Samir Singh Basnet. Although Kunwar, who is DSP now, and Dharmaraj Bhandari from the Rupandehi District Police Office visited India frequently, there was nothing to show for result.
Be it CIB Chief DIG Pushkar Karki’s good luck or strong investigation, it was under his leadership that Samir Man Singh Basnet, the main accused, was arrested. Police units throughout the country, including the investigation committee, the Crime Division, and the Rupandehi Police, all knew about Manoj and Samir Man. All police officers were eager to gather information to arrest this group in their respective areas of deployment. But CIB became successful.
The CIB stated publicly that it had received support from the police units across the country, including the investigation committee and Crime Division, in Samir Man Singh’s arrest. This did the police institution proud.
But as the leadership row in Nepal Police was going on, various reports suggested police officers may have been involved in dragging CIB into needless controversy and in nurturing fear.
Among the police units the CIB was established as one equipped with special investigation expertise and resources. While investigating the cases, the CIB has been working with support from local police units and time-bound investigation committees that are formed to investigate specific cases.
But suspicion has arisen as to whether even the police are involved in promoting cultivation of fear by suddenly spreading baseless rumors that there was a dispute between CIB and the commission formed to investigate Gauchan’s murder.
Manoj and his group are actively involved in the mafia group. It is the responsibility of the police to bring them to justice immediately. If police cannot do this, it will raise the suspicion that police officers themselves are cultivating fear. Let everyone know.
The author is an independent journalist, an Emmy 2016 Nominee, social activist, and a researcher of crime and politics in Nepal