KATHMANDU, Oct 3: When Ram Bhandari received a call from his father Tej Bahadur Bhandari on December 31, 2001, his father informed him that he was meeting with the then Chief District Officer (CDO) of Lamjung, Shiva Prasad Nepal on that day, and was coming to Kathmandu the day after.
What Ram did not realize then was that it was the last ever contact he would make with his father.
Back then, Ram was 23 and his father, a retired teacher and social worker, was 56. Tej had been receiving continuous threats from the security forces for his alleged involvement with the rebel Maoists. There were six members in Ram's family including two sisters, a brother and his parents.
When his mother called him in the evening and told him that his father was not yet home, Ram was startled. He left for his home district the very next day.
There still are eyewitnesses who confirm that a group of security personnel led by the then Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Pitamber Adhikari arrested Tej on December 31, 2001 and blind-folded and tortured him brazenly in broad daylight in Besisahar before forcing him into a police van. Although the police acknowledged the arrest two weeks after the incident, they reported that Tej had been shot dead during a crossfire with the then Maoist rebels.
Seventeen years have passed since the incident and Ram has been actively seeking justice for his father, trying to find his whereabouts for all these years. He has sought information on his father's whereabouts from various state authorities including the CDO, police offices, Supreme Court, Commission for Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) and Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) but none of the authorities have been able to give him the information.
“We were written off by the CDO when we sought the information. He told us that he had not met with my father,” Ram told Republica, “The police scolded us when we asked about the whereabouts of my father.” He even filed a writ of habeas corpus at the Supreme Court but it too was dismissed without proper investigation.
Ram is just a case in hand. There are more than 1,350 applications filed at CIEDP for investigation into disappearance of persons during the decade-long conflict. But none of the investigations have been completed let alone information on the disappeared persons be disseminated to their families.
He accused the two commissions of not making any significant progress in helping minimize the pain of the families of the persons who went missing during the conflict era.
“Our hopes were rejuvenated when the peace accord was signed and when the two commissions were formed,” he said, “But both these commissions have failed to deliver since their formation three and a half years ago.”
Ram emphasized the need for having a second thought about the commissions now as they have failed to deliver at all. “The commissions are useless,” he said, “It is high time we thought about restructuring and reforming them.”