It was on a June morning 16 years ago when Savitri Shrestha lost her brother. But the wound of that loss, which took place during Nepal’s civil war, is yet to be healed.
Her brother, Ujjan Shrestha, a trader in Okhaldhunga, was shot dead by Balkrishna Dhungel, a former Royal Nepal Army personnel and his associates over Ujjan, a Newar, marrying his relative, a Brahmin.
Ujjan’ body was thrown into the Likhu River and never found. Dhungel later joined the Maoists. Four years after that incident Ujjan’s elder brother Ganesh was murdered by Maoists for daring to seek justice for his murdered brother.
A third tragedy struck the Shrestha family soon after when Ganesh’s teenage daughter Rachana, who in her innocence had shown the Maoists where her father was before he was killed, took her own life out of remorse.
Though a local court convicted Dhungel of Ujjan’s murder he was not brought to justice. Enjoying political patronage he contested elections in 2008 and won. In 2010, the Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s verdict, but Dhungel remains free.
Meanwhile Savitri continues her fight. Her story is not a stray one. There are thousands of families in Nepal who lost dear ones to brutalities by Maoists and government forces during the civil war.
Over 1300 disappeared without a trace. As the world marked International Day of the Disappeared on Saturday Savitri and others like her in Nepal hope they would get justice soon.
“I am not an adversary to the Maoist party, nor ear any hostility with Dhungel. I am merely requesting implementation of the Supreme Court’s directive on the case,” she wrote in her book 5000 Painful Days.
In April this year, eight years after a peace deal ended the civil war, Nepal’s parliament passed a bill on setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances.
Four months after that move there has been no progress on constituting the commissions that hopes to heal wounds of families who lost their dear ones and punish those guilty of human rights violations.
Some provisions of the bill which include amnesty for rapes, murders and other brutalities have led UN and human rights bodies in Nepal and abroad to seek amendment of such clauses.
But Nepal has refused to relent. Last month the government told Supreme Court the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Commission on Enforced Disappearances Act, is consistent with international laws.