October Analysis: Human Rights, Gender and Social Inclusion

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The month of October saw cabinet expansion, where, out of twenty-three ministers; six ministerial seats are held by women. The cases of institutional violence made headlines throughout the month. The indiscriminate use of force and abuse of power by police in the name of ‘managing’ the situation have revealed that police brutality is on the rise in the country. It was observed that Nepal Police’s disregard for their job description—to safeguard lives, to register and investigate the complaints and give security to Nepali citizens—is weakening the constitutional democracy and threatening public safety instead of protecting it. Discrimination and deaths continue against Dalits in Nepal, where a Dalit man was brutally killed for reportedly ‘wanting to enter a temple’ on the Hindu festival of Dashain. As per Nepal’s legal commitment to protect the rights of Dalits, Ministry of Home Affair has given directive to all police units to set up and operate Dalit-targeted help desks in all Nepal Police offices.

Timeline of the major events

DateEvents
8 OctoberThe coalition partners have paved the way for Cabinet expansion.
8 October  14 people from Banke walked to Kathmadu in search of Justice.
8 OctoberPolice round up protesters from Banke, Nepalgunj.
10 OctoberPolice arrested Ruby Khan and since then her whereabouts are unknown.
10 October Police shooting in Motipur Industrial Area resulted in the death of four citizens.
16 October58 years old Dalit man brutally killed for ‘wanting to enter a temple’.
18 OctoberAdvocate Mohna Ansari, moved the Supreme Court with a habeas corpus petition demanding immediate release of Ruby Khan.
19 OctoberHuman Rights Watch demanded an independent investigation of the incident of police shooting in Motipur.
19 OctoberJustice still out of reach for Dalits in Nepal
24 OctoberHome Minister Khand, inaugurated a two-day national conference of Dalit people’s representatives.

Cabinet Expansion: Principle of Proportional Inclusion

The coalition partners reached a power-sharing deal and paved the way for Cabinet expansion. Among the twenty-three ministers, six ministerial seats are held by women: Uma Regmi (Women, Children and Senior Citizens) from Congress. Pampha Bhusal (Energy, Water and Irrigation), Bodh Maya Kumari Yadav (State minister for Education, Science and Technology) and Sashi Shrestha (Land Management) from the Maoist Centre. Ram Kumari Jhakri (Urban Development) from CPN (Unified Socialist). Renu Yadav (Physical Infrastructure and Transport) from Janata Samajbadi Party.

Chairman of the Janata Samajwadi Party Upendra Yadav speaking at a party program organized by the Janata Samajwadi Party. Photo: RSS

The constitution of Nepal 2015, is firmly built on principles of equality and inclusiveness. Article 38 of the Constitution states that women shall have the right to participate in all state structures and bodies on the basis of the principle of proportional inclusion. This principle ensures women an unprecedented 33% seats, guaranteed to the parliaments and all other government positions as well as provision of male-female alternate seat provisions in the highest positions such as President and Vice President, Chief and Deputy Chief of Parliament (in both upper and lower houses), Mayor and Deputy Mayor where two of one must be female. It is for coalition partners to ensure inclusion and the same principle is applied to all provinces, as well as the federal government.

A Walk to Justice: Ruby Khan and 13 Protestors from Nepalgung

Ruby Khan, along with 13 other protestors from Nepalgunj led a peaceful protest demanding justice and truth, after the District Police Office of Banke refused to investigate the case of the suspicious death of Nakunni Dhobi and disappearance of Nirmala Kurm. However, police charged a false case of ‘polygamy’ against the right activist Ruby Khan.

As per Human Rights Watch, “the police attempted to ‘bargain’ with her saying she would be released if she ended her protest movement during her week in custody”. Mohna Ansari, a former national human rights commissioner representing Ruby Khan said that “Ruby Khan was falsely charged with ‘polygamy’ because she had criticized the conduct of police officers”.

According to Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, the inability to investigate and hold police personnel responsible for abuses has resulted in a scenario where police misbehavior is eroding the rule of law and endangering public safety rather than safeguarding it. Even the Supreme Court did not find any evidence to substantiate the charge and said the police behaved with ‘mala fide’ intent.

Nepal is a democratic nation founded on the basis of respect for the fundamental rights of the people.  Freedom to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and freedom to voice discontent are the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution of Nepal 2015.  But when the police view any gathering of people as a chance to suppress criticism and detain the peaceful protesters; is a misuse of power and mockery of democracy.

Motipur Incident: Excessive use of Force by Police

The Human Rights Watch (HRW), South Asia division, has demanded the Nepali authorities to independently investigate the incident of police shooting and hold police officers accountable for using excessive force against landless squatters in Motipur Industrial Area in Rupandehi district. According to justices Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada and Kumar Regmi, a separate system consisting of specialists from different fields is required to undertake unbiased investigations into crimes involving its own personnel. The police cannot be trusted to conduct impartial investigation into cases where its own officers are involved. The human rights activist states that the police are not an exception to the rule of law, and they cannot operate without regard for the law.  Public will be put at risk if the police are not held to constitutional norms.

Discrimination and Deaths Continues Against Dalits in Nepal

Bhim Bahadur Bishwakarma, a 58 years old Dalit man of Bharatpur Metropolitan City-4 of Chitwan was brutally killed for reportedly ‘wanting to enter a temple’ on the Hindu festival of Dashain. Many locals, witnesses and rights activists have said that caste-based discrimination was what led to the incident. To influence police investigation, ministers have taken the side of a person accused of caste-based discrimination. Involvement of politicians have resulted in police showing hesitation to collect and safeguard evidence and conduct a prompt investigation.

Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2011, makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their caste or to treat them as Dalits. Any person found a person found guilty of cast-based discrimination and untouchability can face imprisonment for a term from three months to three years and a fine from fifty thousand rupees to two hundred thousand rupees.

The use of political power to influence the police investigation weakens the credibility of the case. Last year, lynching of Nabaraj BK and 5 of his friends by the so called upper-caste made headline in national and international community. It was reported that, the perpetrators, local authorities including the ward chair and police wiped out evidence of the crime and the area police officer committed negligence in investigating the case. More than a year after the mass murder in Rukum the trial is still going on. Families of the victims are growing increasingly concerned about whether justice will be served.

Political parties must take bold and proactive steps to put a stop to injustice and atrocities committed against the Dalits. As per Nepal’s legal commitment to protect the interest of Dalits, Ministry of Home Affair has issued a circular to all district administration offices, district police offices and all police units to set up and operate Dalit-targeted help desks in all Nepal Police offices. Further, Minister Bal Krishna Khand, during that the national conference of Dalit people’s representatives, said that the government will ensure that no citizen loses his life in police custody.

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