KATHMANDU, Jan 30: A day before Martyrs' Day, the government in a cabinet meeting Monday, declared six individuals, who were killed by the Maoists during their decade-long armed insurgency, as martyrs.
A cabinet meeting earlier this month had similarly declared as martyrs 16 individuals who were killed in police gunfire back at Chhintang of Dhankuta in 1979. The same meeting declared those killed in the Badarmudhe bus attack as martyrs also. In that incident in 2005, 38 passengers were killed when the Maoists detonated a bomb against a moving bus in Madi, Chitwan.
With the government declaring martyrs of those killed during various political and social movements in the country and clashes with security agencies on different occasions as well as those killed by various political and criminal groups, the total number of martyrs in the country is hard to establish through the official records.
The Ministry of Home Affairs is responsible for maintaining records of the martyrs in the country, but the ministry doesn't have accurate data of the total number of martyrs declared by the government. Officials said maintaining the records is difficult as the number keeps increasing almost every month. The government policy of providing Rs 1 million and other facilities to the family of a martyr has encouraged demonstrations after every such death by those demanding martyr status for the deceased.
A senior official at the Ministry of Home Affairs assumes that the number of martyrs might have crossed 7,000 by now. “We assume that the total number of martyrs declared by the government is over 7,000,” he said, requesting not to be named. The record keeping at the ministry was still underway, he added.
The Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction has recorded 1,619 martyrs killed during the Maoist insurgency. But a cabinet meeting in 2009 decided to declare an additional 6,500 people killed during the insurgency as martyrs also.
The governments formed after the peace process started have been declaring new martyrs as per their convenience, adding their own cadres and supporters to the long list.
The government commemorates Martyrs' Day every on Magh 16 (January 30 this year) to honor the four original martyrs executed by the Rana regime in 1941.
Following public criticism over the declaring of martyrs without any set criteria, and pressure from different groups to declare martyrs even of those killed in road accidents and other incidents, the government formed a commission over a decade ago to lay down the criteria.
But the government has never introduced any criteria, making it easy to declare new martyrs.