Murders for marriages

Sad story:

NEPAL: Killing of a young man due to inter-caste love affair yet to be properly investigated five months on

ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-104-2012

19 June 2012
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NEPAL: Killing of a young man due to inter-caste love affair yet to be properly investigated five months on

ISSUES: Caste-based discrimination
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information from the Jagaran Media Center that a 21-year-old man from the Dalit community of Pansera VDC, Siraha District was allegedly poisoned by the relatives of a non-Dalit woman who he was having a love affair with. Initially, the police sided with the perpetrators and tried to suppress the case. They refused to register the complaint made by the victim’s family, forced the victim’s father to put his fingerprints on a report they had prepared without letting him see the content and did not provide the death certificate to the family. Following pressure by civil society, a First Information Report on the case was registered in February, but a thorough investigation was not initiated. The case was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister who committed to provide interim relief to the family and promised that a proper investigation would be conducted in the case. Victims of human rights violations belonging to the Dalit community have a very limited access to justice. Reluctance from the police to investigate such cases and to provide the victims with protection has allowed caste-motivated violence to go unchecked in Nepal.

CASE NARRATIVE:

According to information we have received from the Jagaran Media Center (JMC), Shiva Shankar Das, 21, had a love affair with a 20-year-old woman belonging to a so-called “upper-caste” community. Both Mr. Das and the woman reside in Pansera VDC of Siraha District. The relationship was known to the whole village. The girl’s family sternly opposed the relationship, which challenged the strict social barriers of caste.

On January 29, the girl’s brothers threatened Shiva, demanding that he bring the relationship to an end or to “prepare everything for his funeral”. According to Shiva’s family, on January 30, Shiva was beaten up by seven of the girl’s relatives; Jitendra Chaudhari, Devakanta Chaudhari,Shankar Chaudhari, Prathan Lal Chaudari, Bankar Chaudhari, Dilip Chaudhari, and Sundar Kumar Chaudhari. Shiva sustained numerous scars and bruises from the attack.

Later that day, Shiva went to meet with the girl to get his phone, which had been taken by the girl’s relatives. He was healthy at the time. He came back home around 8.30 pm crawling on his hands and knees, and told his family that he had been poisoned by the Chaudhari family. He vomited twice while narrating the event. He was taken to the Nursing Home at Lahan for treatment. The Nursing Home referred him to BP Koirala Institute of Health Science Dharan where doctors announced his death the next day.

The initial local police officers reaction to the case has been highly problematic and suggests that they have been attempting to cover up the case, protecting the perpetrators. Collusion between the police and the perpetrators typically happens in cases of caste-motivated violence and prevents the victims from benefiting from the protection of the law.

A death certificate specifying the victim’s cause of death was provided to the police instead of the victim’s family. We are informed that the police did not give the death certificate to the victim’s family at any time. In addition, the doctors prepared a postmortem report, but the victim’s family did not see its content. Requests by human rights organizations to see the postmortem report have yielded no result.

Immediately after Shiva’s death, his parents contacted the police about the case, but the police failed to return their call until almost 8 hours later. Inspector Pradhumn Adhikari from the area police office, Kalyanpur VDC, Saptari District refused to file the family’s complaint and without conducting a thorough investigation into the case, alleged that the victim had committed suicide instead. As per the State Cases Act, the police have an obligation to register and investigate every First Information Report brought before them.

The police then allegedly prepared a report but did not allow the family to see its content. Instead, the police forced Das’ father to mark his fingerprints on the police report without being able to see its content and without it being read to him. They threatened to thrown him into jail if he did not comply with their demands. After the initial rejection of the case, the victim’s family sent their First Information Report to the Chief District Officer and the District Police Office, Saptari.

Dalit civil society led a campaign protesting the police’s rejection of the case, and eventually the case was registered on 26 February 2012 in the Kalyanpur area police office in the name of the seven Chaudhari family members quoted above. In spite of that step being taken, however, no investigation has been launched.

The victim’s father continues to fight for justice, with the support of Dalit NGOs.

Five members of the Women, Children and Social Welfare Committee, a subcommittee to study and find solutions to the caste based discrimination and untouchability experienced by Dalit communities within the Legislative Parliament,conducted a fact-finding mission in the VDC, under the leadership of the subcommittee chairman Binod Pahadi. The team met with the victims, the Chief District Officer (CDO), the district police chief, district’s attorney and the SSP of Armed Police Forced and the team leader shared that the preliminary report concluded that the victim had in fact, been murdered.

In spite of those efforts, the police investigation has been slow and the victim’s father has now come to Kathmandu to seek justice. Several Dalit civil society organizations, including JMC and the Dalit NGOs Federation, have coordinated their efforts to call for the investigation of the case, and the prosecution of the perpetrators of this crime..

Shiva’s family has also registered a case with the National Human Rights Commission, and brought the case to the attention of the National Dalit Commission. On June 12, a memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister who promised that the perpetrators would be taken into custody and that the victim’s family would be provided with interim relief. He also promised that a committee formed under the Prime Minister Office to monitor cases of untouchability and caste-based discrimination would be formed.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

The Prime Minister’s verbal commitment to provide justice to the victim is welcomed. Nevertheless, the AHRC remains concerned that the investigations into cases of caste-based violence are typically slow, biased and liable to interference by the perpetrators of caste-based crimes. Indeed, victims of caste-based violence are often exposed to threats and intimidation from the perpetrators. A report released by the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal on Access to Justice for Dalits in Nepalidentified major challenges which hampered the access to justice for the Dalit community and restricted the prosecution of cases of caste-based violence, allowing discrimination against the Dalit community to go unabated. This includes considering caste-based discrimination and untouchability as a social issue rather than as a crime. As such, these instances of discrimination fall beyond the police’s scope of duties, and cases often disappear in legal loopholes. The report also denounced the routine refusal of the police to file FIR, which encourages the victims to find a mediated compromise and means that the failure of the police to ensure the protection of victims and witnesses are routine.

Victims of caste-based discrimination often found themselves in an unequal relationship in relation to their perpetrators, since they belong to a more economically and socially vulnerable community with less power to influence the course of the investigation. By contrast, instances in which the perpetrators collude with the police are numerous, as illustrated in this case by the police’s refusal to file an FIR, investigate the case and by the pressure the police placed on the victim’s family to fingerprint a report without being shown or read its content.

Without the support of civil society and campaigns which aim to mount pressure on the authorities encouraging the state to take steps to ensure justice, Dalit victims of human rights violations would have little chance of having their cases investigated, let alone prosecuted successfully. Moreover, they would remain exposed to threats and retaliations from the perpetrators.

The Prime Minister’s welcomed commitment should be translated into concrete action with a thorough, credible and impartial investigation conducted into the allegations of poisoning immediately. Additionally, protection should be granted to the victim’s family for the entirety of the investigation and subsequent judicial process. A separate investigation should be launched into the allegations of police obstruction to the family’s quest for justice and sanctions must be taken against those found responsible. A necessary step to ensure the access to justice of the Dalit community is to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for failing to appropriately handle cases of caste-based discrimination.

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