Government honour roll sparks outrage in Nepal

Kathmandu, May 31 (IANS) Already under fire for having failed to write a new constitution in two years, Nepal’s government Monday came under fresh attack from human rights groups, the kin of ‘martyrs’ who laid down their lives for democracy and even the chief justice over its controversial new roll of honours.

Hundreds of people led by the mother of a young man who was killed by security forces during the pro-democracy protests against then king Gyanendra’s absolute rule in 2006 staged fresh protests in the capital Monday.

They blocked the Kalanki area and brought traffic to a halt demanding that the government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal revoke its new roll of honours that has conferred decorations on controversial former security personnel.

‘Instead of putting balm on our bleeding hearts, the government has chosen to smear chilly powder,’ said a grieving Jaya Tamrakar, who wept in anger remembering the death of her son, Sagun Tamrakar, in police firing in 2006.

Sagun Tamrakar was killed while taking part in pro-democracy protests that had ironically helped the current government come to power.

Jaya Tamrakar and families of other protesters injured during the agitation in 2006 had Sunday rushed to the office of one of the major ruling parties, the Nepali Congress (NC), condemning the new roll of honours. But NC officials professed to be ignorant of the state move.

On May 29, celebrated as Republic Day since 2008, the government had bestowed state honours on dozens of controversial people, including some close to the ruling parties and security personnel with tarnished human rights records.

The latter included controversial former army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal, who caused the downfall of the previous Maoist government, and faces a law suit, as well as a senior official of the Armed Police Force, Dhurja Prasad Rai.

Rai is held responsible for the death of Sagun Tamrakar. Many dailies carried photographs of him cocking his gun and firing at unarmed protesters after the honours’ list was made public.

Both the former army chief and Rai have been indicted by a commission formed by the government to bring to justice the people who helped King Gyanendra rule the country illegally and ruthlessly suppress the anti-king protests of 2006.

However, instead of taking action against them, the government, in an inexplicable move, decided to honour them, angering people.

‘Bring the murderers to justice,’ the angry crowd chanted in the capital Monday, saying they would continue the protests till the honours were recalled.

Several leading human rights organisations have already condemned the government gesture and the media Monday reported that the honours have been refused by several eminent civil society members.

They include journalists Yubaraj Ghimire and Kanak Mani Dixit and Nepal’s best-loved comic duo, Madan Kumar Shrestha and Hari Bansha Acharya, who have been at the forefront of social campaigns for justice and equality.

A severe blow also came from Chief Justice Ram Prasad Shrestha who sent a written objection, flaying honours for five judges.

The chief justice said the government had failed to consult the Judicial Commission, which has to first approve state honours for judges. He also said the recipient judges had not contributed to the strengthening of the judicial system while some had been appointed only a few months ago.