As the hearings on the case of Rautahat massacre that involves Nepali Congress (NC) lawmaker Mohammad Aftab Alam continues, this high-profile mass murder case seems to be making a new twist. Eyewitnesses and victims are changing their initial statements apparently to weaken the case. On Monday, Amina Khatun, wife of Mohammad Osi Akhtar, who was one of the locals reportedly killed in the bomb blast and subsequently thrown into the brick kiln in order to destroy evidences of the blast, claimed that Osi has gone abroad for work and has not returned home since he left home. This change in her earlier statement comes even as several complaints filed earlier with police by Ruksana, the mother of Osi Akhtar, and Sri Nayaran Singh Rajput, whose son was also killed in the incident, clearly state that Osi Akhtar was killed in the bomb blast. Furthermore, it is found that the victim’s family had obtained death certificate of Osi Akhtar from local authorities some two years ago. The family registered Osi’s death with the local authority even before Ruksana, who dared to speak against the atrocity and terror unleashed by Aftab and took initiative to book him despite imminent threats to her life, was killed by an unidentified group.
This shows that Aftab’s men are exerting threats in various ways to victims and eyewitnesses to change their initial statements so that they could secure the release of their boss from judicial custody. What is worrisome is that some of the victims and eyewitnesses have gone on record to say that Alam’s men had kidnapped them, held them hostage for four days and forced them to sign in paper they did not agree to. An injured in the bomb blast Gauri Shankar Ram Chamar, who earlier recorded his statement as eyewitnesses of this heinous crime, has told media that he was forced to change his statement after being kidnapped by Alam’s men. Chamar, who hails from Sitamadhi, India, had on Monday afternoon filed a petition at the District Court Rautahat saying that police had forced him to make his earlier statement. But as eyewitnesses are not allowed to enter into the court when the hearing is underway, police took him under their control. But then he cried and admitted before police that he was forced to change statement after Alam’s men kidnapped him and issued threats of severe consequences to his life.
These developments are certainly not good for a country that upholds the basic democratic principle of rule of law. There is no denying that the mass massacre involving Aftab is one of the most heinous crimes Nepal has witnessed in recent past. As the court hearing continues, this case is being closely watched both from Nepal and abroad and there are concerns if the victims and their families are delivered justice even as they are made to wait over a decade already. It is clear that the victims and eyewitnesses are changing their statement as they feel that there are severe threats to the life of themselves and their families. The onus here lies with the police to provide adequate security to them so that they do not feel intimidated or threatened by Aftab’s men. Police can either make special security arrangement to the victims and eyewitnesses and their family members or keep them with them as their statements are crucial for the success or the failure of this case. It is equally necessary to identify those involved in influencing the case and arrest them so that such elements are discouraged. Should this case get dismissed as Aftab has been stating in the court no blast occurred despite plethora of evidences for the same, this will leave many to question the competence of police and their investigation and the commitment of the state as a whole to provide justice to the victims and ensure rule of law. It is high time all state authorities work with utmost sincerity and seriousness on this case so that it won’t be a big slur for the country.