Ganga Maya’s endless road to justice

On the sixth death anniversary of Nanda Prasad Adhikari who was on a hunger strike demanding justice for his murdered son, his widow Ganga Maya has once more urged the government to prosecute the perpetrators.

From her bed in the National Trauma Centre, where she was shifted after Bir Hospital was turned into an exclusive Covid-19 hospital, Ganga Maya has appealed to Nepal’s human rights groups and the international community to support her struggle for truth and justice.

Ganga Maya and her husband started their hunger strike nine years ago, did not have solid food and were fed intravenously in hospital. She has continued with the struggle even after her husband died on the 334th day of his fast unto death.

His yet-to-be-cremated body in Box No 4 inside the morgue at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu is a stark reminder of Nepal’s failed transitional justice process.

The couple’s son Krishna Prasad Adhikari was 17 when he was killed on 4 June, 2004 when he went to visit his mother’s family just after finishing his SLC exam in Gorkha. A group of Maoists caught and tortured and killed him by stuffing him inside a sack and dragging him behind a motorcycle. They accused him of being a spy.

His parents Nanda Prasad and Ganga Maya came to Kathmandu to protest when Baburam Bhattarai was prime minister in 2012. Police got them certified as ‘mad’ and dumped them in Gorkha.

The couple lodged a complaint at the Chitwan District Police Office against Chhabilal Poudel, Januka Poudel, Meghnath Poudel, Bishnu Tiwari, Subhadra Tiwari, Sita Adhikari, Kali Prasad Adhikari, Himal Adhikari, Ram Prasad Adhikari, Bhimsen Poudel and Parashuram Poudel. But when no action was taken, they returned to Kathmandu and started a hunger strike outside Bir Hospital on 12 August 2013.

On 3 September of the same year, the Supreme Court ordered the couple to be force-fed and to release the details of the investigation into the complaint. On 6 September, police arrested one of the accused, Ram Prasad Adhikari, but released him 22 days later.

On 13 April 2014, Chhabilal Poudel and 13 others were charged with the murder of Krishna Prasad. However, four days later the Chitwan District Court ordered the release of Chhabilal on bail. On 19 June 2015, the then appellate court of Hetauda upheld the decision of the district court.

After her husband's death, Ganga Maya continued her hunger strike alone. On the 359th day, the government led by the then Prime Minister Sushil Koirala made a five-point commitment: to take the accused to court, take action even if accused were out of the country, pay for Ganga Maya's family's lifelong treatment and living expenses, provide security to Ganga Maya and her eldest son Nur Prasad and make necessary arrangements for Nanda Prasad's funeral.

After the Hetauda Court upheld the Chitwan District Court's decision to release the defendants on bail, Ganga Maya filed an appeal against it in the Supreme Court on 28 June 2015. On 21 December of the same year, the Supreme Court ordered the judicial custody of Chhabilal Poudel.

But when Chhabilal Poudel wasn't arrested, Ganga Maya went on a hunger strike in 2018 and on the 48th day, on 9 July 2018, Chhabilal was forced to surrender before the Supreme Court, and was sent to prison for trial.

The Chitwan District Court acquitted all the accused except Rudra Acharya on 9 September. On 4 September 2019, Ganga Maya appealed against the district's decision in the Hetauda Bench of the Patan High Court, and on 11 November, the Hetauda Bench ordered the defendants to appear. However, no further hearing has been held since then.