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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 April 2006, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Trauma of jailed 'innocents' in Nepal
Kanak Mani Dixit
Kanak Mani Dixit has been in jail since early April
Journalist Kanak Mani Dixit was arrested in Kathmandu on 8 April for breaching the government-imposed curfew as he protested for democratic rights in Nepal.

Here he reports on conditions inside a detention centre near the capital , and the hardships faced in particular by the rural poor.

His column was smuggled out of jail.


There are three types of inmates in this makeshift detention centre at the Duwakot armed police barracks outside Kathmandu.

The relatively well-known human rights activists have little fear of violence once they are taken in.

Then there are political activists, both senior and junior, who receive some protection from party affiliations and linkages.

But in Duwakot, there is an entire category of true innocents.

Most of these young adults, some of them mere boys, are migrants who have left their families in faraway hills and plains, to work in menial jobs.

They represent the rural poor of all ethnicities and castes, but they are united in their lack of influence anywhere in the state structure.

This lack of agency is only matched by their absolute poverty.

Defenceless

The trauma that these boys of Duwakot have faced and are facing exists at several levels.

Firstly, it is the chase on the streets, the attacks by batons and staffs, the abuse and the bundling into the back of trucks.

Once in the holding centre, the toilet facilities are non-existent, then they are transported from one detention centre to another, given no information whatsoever.

When autocracy and militarisation is combined with contempt, those without recourse suffer unseen and unheard

No food is provided for more than a day, and when it is, it is of the lowest grade imaginable.

There is fear that authorities in need of proving Maoist "infiltration" of the democratic movement can with the flick of a pen declare you an insurgent and do away with your life and prospects.

Who will tell the family, who will inform the employer, who is the lawyer or activist to speak for you?

Who is to defend you, and to charge the regime with wrongful imprisonment, and seek a writ of habeas corpus, and demand release and reparation?

Missing

Dambar Nepali is 14, from Udayapur, in the hills of the east. He works as a construction labourer and was taken in and beaten while coming home from work.

I love my country, but I hate the government. I have not picked up a stone, I have not burnt a tyre in protest, why am I here, and where will they take me?
Ramesh Basnet

Ramesh Basnet, 23, from Dhading, was returning from the printing press where he works.

Ram Kumar Tamang drives a microbus, number plate No 4266, and was crossing the road during a curfew when he was detained.

Biraj Sharma, 18, was loitering outside a roadside shop in an area outside curfew limits. "The policemen were like demons," he recalls, "they kicked my head as if it was a football."

Three kids were resting inside a bus at a bus stop where they work as cleaners when they were dragged out: Dhruba Timilsina, 17, of Hetuada; Buddha Lama, 16, of Sindhupalchok; Ramesh Thapa Magar,17; and Ram Lama, 20, of Chapagaon.

They have all been moved elsewhere.

Individuals who are in the lowest class bracket in detention get the toilet that is furthest, the rice that is the worst.

It will be important for the International Committee of the Red Cross to determine their fate and whereabouts.

Some policemen can be fine, sensitive individuals.

But they take orders from an insensitive state run by a ruler who has sought again and again to prove his contempt for the people of Nepal.

When autocracy and militarisation is combined with contempt, those without recourse suffer unseen and unheard.

This is one more reason for a quick return to democracy, pluralism and peace.

Ramnesh Basnet told me the day before he was taken away: "This turns out to be the kind of country I was born into. I love my country, but I hate the government.

"I have not picked up a stone, I have not burnt a tyre in protest. Why am I here, and where will they take me?"

This article first appeared in full in the Nepal Times.


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