RUPANDEHI, Dec 20: Durga Tiwari, Rupandehi District Chairman of UML-aligned Youth Association of Nepal (YAN), was shot dead on Monday afternoon.
Two motorcycle-borne assailants opened fire at the 40-year old Tiwari in Khairani, Devdaha-6 of the district while he was heading to Butwal Municipality together with his friend Khushi Neupane. Tiwari, who was shot at torso, was rushed to Devdaha Medical College where doctors pronounced him dead, according to Mukunda Marasini, Deputy Superintendent of Police at the District Police Office (DPO), Rupandehi.
According to eyewitness Neupane, Tiwari himself was driving motorcycle when the motorcycle-borne assailants opened fire as he was taking a right turn from the highway.
"Two people in a motorcycle were following us. They slowed down and opened fire from close range. The pillion rider had shot at Tiwari from a very short distance," said Neupane, adding, "Then, Durga said 'I have been hit'. And we rushed him to hospital."
Tiwari was actively participating in the ongoing protests against the government's proposal to take away five hill districts of Province 5. He was working as the acting district chairman of the youth wing after its district head Sarita Shrish was appointed as central committee member of the organization.
After spending five years in South Korea as a migrant worker, Tiwari had returned home some seven years ago. He was operating a brick industry in Devdaha and was active in politics in the recent days.
Earlier this year in February, a group had also opened fire at him but he escaped unhurt.
Following investigation, the police had stated that a criminal group led by Manoj Rana was involved in the attack. Police had booked eight persons said to be affiliated to Rana group in this connection.
Rana, however, was not booked.
Some three months ago, a group of local businessmen united under banner of Devdaha Chambers of Commerce and Industries and leaders of politician parties had reached at Butwal Area Police Office demanding action against Rana.
The then area police chief DSP Mahendra Khadka had assured to book Rana and other persons accused of being involved in the attempted murder case saying that eight accused were already taken into custody.
Police suspects the involvement of Rana group in Tiwari's killing. Sher Bahadur Basnet, SSP at Lumbini Zonal Police, said investigation has started immediately after the killing. "We are seriously investigating into the matter and things will be clear whether Manoj Rana or others are involved in this killing," said Basnet.
Youths took to the streets immediately after Tiwari's murder. They obstructed the highway chanting anti-government slogans. YAN Rupendehi had announced to obstruct the highway until the police arrested those accused in Tiwari's killing.
The main opposition UML has condemned the attack and demanded stern action against the assailants at the earliest. Issuing a press statement immediately after the murder, the party's General Secretary Ishwar Pokhrel said the attack is a ploy to weaken the ongoing protests and a conspiracy to divide the nation.
"We urge the party rank and file to stay firm in support of implementing the constitution and maintain restraint while exposing the conspiracies and the killing," said the general secretary.
About two weeks ago on December 7, an assailant had opened fire at a businessman in Bhairahawa in an attempted murder case. During the incident, the intended target Kul Prasad Neupane, vice-president of Bhairahawa chapter of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, had a narrow escape as the bullet pierced through his jacket without causing any injury.