Eye on Maoist: The Koteshwor area of Kathmandu is tense today, just like yesterday, with traffic to and from Bhaktapur completely disrupted by the agitating locals who are protesting the brutal murder of a local resident by the Maoist PLA recently. Tires are being burnt. As I am typing these lines, people in Tinkune are shouting slogans against the Maoist atrocities.
Maoist chairman Prachanda, third from right, leader Baburam Bhattarai, fifth from right, and leader Badal, sixth, eat dinner in Ram Hari Shrestha’s (encircled) home a year ago. Pic courtesy Shrestha family
Maoist People’s Liberation Army(PLA) men have brutally murdered their landlord Ram Hari Shrestha after subjecting him to extreme physical torture while under captivity at Shaktikhor cantonment, Chitwan.
The circumstances surrounding Shrestha’s abduction and murder are mysterious. Shrestha was a Maoist supporter and seemed to have good rapport with the top Maoist leadership. The family showed a picture of Maoist chairman Prachanda, Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Ram Bahadur Thapa enjoying a meal at Shrestha’s house.
Shrestha, a resident of Koteshwor in the capital, was abducted under the direction of PLA Third Division Commander Kali Bahadur Magar alias Bibidh on April 27, from his home to ‘investigate’ his possible involvement in the mysterious disappearance of Rs 1.7 million in cash and a firearm from Bibidh’s apartment at Shrestha’s house. The apartment was also used as the contact office for the PLA Third Division.
PLA commander Bibidh, who had been a tenant in the house for over two years, said on March 27 that Rs 1.7 million and a firearm, which were given to Maoist accountant Keshav Adhikari alias Raghu, had gone missing.
But the stolen money was found on March 30 under the bathroom ventilation wrapped in a piece of cloth belonging to another PLA commander, Ganga Ram Thapa alias Atom.
The PLA suspected Shrestha’s involvement, along with that of other PLA commanders, in the incident and took him under control for four days starting April 14.
According to Shrestha’s wife Ramila, PLA men led by brigade commander Govinda Bahadur Batala aka Jibit, came to the house on April 27 and forcibly took Shrestha away. Ramila said the family was warned not to speak about the incident.
After the abduction, Ramila was allowed to contract her husband once on May 5 by phone. “He spoke in a nervous tone and told me that he had been framed by the Maoists,” Ramila said.
The same day Bibidh assured Ramila that her husband would be released in a few days as he had been found innocent, but he would remain in their captivity pending investigation of the involvement of PLA men in the affair.
A distressed Ramila and other members of the family even met Prachanda and Jhakku Prasad Subedi, CA member from her area, on May 13, and urged them to ensure Shrestha’s safe release.
According to Ramila, Prachanda assured her that Bibidh would bring her husband back the very next day.
PLA men on May 15 took family members Shyam Kaji, Dhunj Raj, Jit Bahadur and Lila Bahadur by a Maoist vehicle to Chitwan, assuring the Shrestha family of a meeting with the abducted man.
But the family was stunned when Bibidh told them that Shrestha had died due to beatings at the hands of the PLA and his body had been thrown into the Narayani river. Bibidh also told them that his party was ready to provide them compensation.
Meanwhile, Bibidh issued a statement in Chitwan today saying that Shrestha died on the way while being taken to Kathmandu for treatment. The statement said Shrestha died due to severe beatings by PLA men Keshav Adhikari alias Raghu and Ganga Ram Thapa alias Atom while in PLA captivity.
Maoists today handed over brigade commander Jibit to Chitwan District Police but said the two PLA men who actually killed Shrestha were at large. The statement also said Jibit was not involved in the cold-blooded murder but had actually been given the responsibility of investigating the case.
The incident begs several questions: 1. Why did the PLA submit Jibit to the police if he was not involved in the murder? 2. How did the two PLA men, who killed Shrestha in the cantonment, absconded afterwards? 3. If Shrestha’s condition was so serious why was he not rushed to hospital in Narayanghad instead of being taken to Kathmandu by road? 4. Why did Prachanda on May 13 assure the Shrestha’s family that he would return home safe if he had already been killed on May 10 as the PLA said to police in Chitwan?