As we impatiently wait for the newly elected government to take shape, caretaker government of Sher Bahadur Deuba decided to declare civil servants, security personnel, public sector employees and government teachers killed during the decade-long Maoist war as martyrs. Earlier, Maoist-led government had also declared all its cadres killed during the conflict as martyrs. With this decision, the government will now compile the list of these martyrs and will likely hand over one million rupees to the family members of each of them. Again, billions will be needed for this purpose. We already have more than 7,000 martyrs and the government does not seem to have the complete list of the martyrs in the first place. Every government comes with a list of their martyrs and makes the announcement to appease their constituency. This is a slippery slope and devalues the sacrifice of those martyrs who died for the country.
The decision is not only short-sighted, but also contradicts the workings of Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). The two commissions have been mandated to find out the truth, reconcile and recommend appropriate punishment to those found guilty of war crimes. These transitional bodies are mandated to recommend compensations for the parties deemed fit. They have barely begun their work. Thus the government’s decision cannot be anything but untimely and immature. The commissions have to first find out the cause of deaths and then recommend next steps to the government. Further, Nepalis killed by the government during the war fighting on behalf of the Maoists have been shortchanged. The details of their killings must also be thoroughly investigated by TRC.
Moreover, the people who were killed during the conflict are also on the losing end of this decision. Nearly 17000 people are reported to have lost lives during the conflict. What will be their status? Families across the country are patiently waiting to hear the outcome of investigations on those who were disappeared or killed during the conflict. It has been more than a decade since the war ended. It is already too late for justice. The government has also extended the terms of TRC and CIEDP for one more year. This is the second time it has made such decision. We hope that they will make the best use of the extended term to initiate investigation and conclude the mandated task on time. Needless to say, the civil war was the worst conflict the country has witnessed in the modern times. Wounds of the victims of this conflict must be healed but we believe the race of declaring everyone killed during the conflict as martyr is not the right way to do so. More alarmingly, it might set a wrong precedent. The government should have weighed not only budgetary aspects but also the long term repercussions of such decisions.