At a time Nepal Police is being criticized for its failure to arrest the perpetrators of Nirmala Panta’s rape and murder, it has become the subject of public criticism over its alleged role in ‘killing’ Kumar Paudel, Sarlahi district in-charge of the outfit led by Netra Bikram Chand. The government and Nepal Police have claimed that Paudel was killed in crossfire but reports of various rights organizations disprove it. Releasing their preliminary report prepared jointly after field studies, the Advocacy Forum Nepal and Informal Sector Service Center (Insec) have concluded that there is no substantial evidence to justify the government’s claim of crossfire. Their findings show that locals were barred from walking along the area where Paudel was killed and local police have little knowledge about the killing. These human rights organizations analyzed the shootout site, photos captured from the site and the statements made by doctors involved in conducting the autopsy and locals and relatives of Paudel. The locals report that they did not hear any sound of gunfire on June 20, when Paudel was killed.
The findings of human rights organizations run counter to the claim made by the police earlier. The police had claimed that Paudel, who was involved in extorting and terrorizing the local businesspersons, according to the police, died in a crossfire that followed after Chand’s cadres fired at the police while the police was chasing them. Questions are being raised about police ever since the police version of Paudel’s death came out in the media. Lawmakers from opposition parties and rights activists have accused the police of killing Paudel after taking him into control. They even obstructed the House proceedings over this issue for over 20 days. Nepal Police has also been accused of killing Saroj Narayan Singh, the resident of Sarlahi. Mahato died last month while demonstrating against illegal sand mine operators after a minor from his village died after falling into the sand pit. Both the police and the government claimed that Mahato died accidentally from a shot that was fired into the air. Here again, the role of the police has been questioned. Earlier to that in January, a 35 years old Dipendra Chaudhary was shot dead by police in an ‘encounter’ but his family members termed it a “fake” claim and demanded a probe into the matter.
It is unfortunate that Nepal Police is being dragged into controversy one after other. Police is accused of not exercising restraint while responding to public protests and dealing with suspected criminals. They are said to open fire at criminals without giving them the chance to surrender. This won’t bode well for public image of Nepal Police. In case of Kumar Paudel and Saroj Narayan Singh, rights bodies, including National Human Rights Commission, have suspected foul play. These cases need to be further investigated and Nepal Police and Ministry of Home Affairs should facilitate the process from their side. The job of Nepal Police, which is entrusted for maintaining law and order and preventing crimes, is to arrest the suspects of criminal activities and subject them to trial. They should not be seen as killing the criminals in the name of encounter.