The culture of impunity in the country has entered dangerous levels. We have a prime minister who believes punishing self-confessed murderers is against the spirit of the peace process. Even when the entire journalistic community has been up in arms against the state’s repeated attempts to protect the killers of Dekendra Thapa, the Dailekh-based journalist who was murdered in cold blood eight years ago, the Bhattarai government seems determined to hush up the case. Thousands more have been protesting violence against women right around the country, but so far all that the government has offered are empty promises to bring the perpetrators to book. In both the cases, the government seems to believe that once the protests die down, it will be business as usual. But that is not happening. Not this time. There are way too many people, in way too many places, directly affected by the absence of rule of law and pervasive impunity. They are not going to take things lying down anymore.
The level of impunity is mindboggling: If the journalistic community, with its vast nationwide networks, and its unmatched clout as the fourth organ of the state, is struggling to get justice for one of its own, how can a common man ever hope for justice in this country? The troubling fact is that this holds true even in well-publicized cases of rights violations. Even after weeks of protests, it is extremely unlikely that the government will make public investigations into Chhori Maiya Maharjan, Saraswati Subedi or any of the other signature case raised by the ongoing Occupy Baluwatar movement by the Tuesday deadline. In this situation, the only way to ensure justice for victims seems to be a collective movement against impunity and lack of state accountability. The years gone by have offered ample evidence that fragmented voices for justice will have little effect on the state apparatus used to habitually turning a deaf ear towards people’s complaints.
The rights situation in Nepal is truly alarming. Continuous pressure from the human rights community for formation of transitional justice mechanisms, as stipulated in the interim constitution, has been fruitless. It is not just the Maoists who have delayed progress on these vital commissions. Other political parties too have colluded in the long delay, as has the Army which does not want to throw open its closet full of skeletons. It is unrealistic to hope that the Bhattarai government, which has sought amnesty for hundreds of rights violators, can safeguard people’s rights. Thorough politicization of crime and criminalization of politics has made justice impossible for the common man. As we have seen in the case of Nepal Army Colonel Kumar Lama’s arrest in the UK, the international community will be forced to act against perpetrators of serious rights violations if domestic justice mechanisms prove inadequate. That would be an unmistakable sign of the failure of Nepali state. If this fate is to be avoided, and common man’s access to justice assured, again, there really seems to be no alternative to a collective movement for an end of impunity and restoration of rule of law.