April 9, 2011
Kidnapping is a lucrative business in Nepal these days. Armed groups are willing to risk children's lives to extort money from poor shopkeepers, farmers, and teachers – especially in Madhes, the southern region that parallels and abuts the Indian border.
In a new report issued by Human Rights Watch, criminal gangs abducted at least 28 children in Madhes in 2010. Nine of these abductions ended with the child being killed, and in two cases girls were raped by the kidnappers.
But Al Jazeera English paints a far darker picture. In a film clip aired this week, Al Jazeera states that “33 abductions occur every month from Sihara district” alone.
In the cases investigated by Human Rights Watch, there were serious allegations by families and human rights activists that members of the police were sometimes involved in carrying out abductions, or benefited from turning a blind eye to these cases.
The abduction and killing of two teenagers, Kapil Dwibedi, and Liladhar Bhatta in October 2010 in Nepalgunj, Banke district, was one example. The media reported that the prime suspect arrested by the police implicated two local police superintendents and a sub-inspector of National Investigation Bureau in the incident. Police have not yet publicized the facts of the investigation into the alleged involvement of the three police officers.
In almost all the cases that Human Rights documented, police failed to secure the child's release before parents paid ransom. Some families told Human Rights Watch that police had not acted swiftly or undertaken what the parents considered to be an adequate investigation.
In one case, the father of 15-year-old Mubarak Rayin of Dhanusha district hired a private investigator, tracked down a suspect a few days after the boy's abduction in October, and handed him over to the police for investigation.
Police were not able to secure Mubarak's release, though. A month later, police informed the family they had found Mubarak's body three days after the abduction, his head apparently crushed with rocks, and that they had buried him instead of notifying the family promptly and handing the body over to them.
Police told Human Rights Watch that they were not able to identify the body at the time but they later came to believe it had been Mubarak's. The police have informed Human Rights Watch that they have arrested the suspected kidnappers, but they have yet to hand over Mubarak's body to the family or to tell them its whereabouts.
"The kidnapping and killing of Mubarak Rayin underscores the urgency of investigating child abductions more promptly and responsibly," Sheppard said. "Police not only failed to rescue him, but they mishandled the aftermath of his death. The failure to return Mubarak's body to his family has only aggravated their suffering."
One way or another, it would seem that the rampant kidnapping occurring in southern Nepal these days is yet another example of the government’s inability to establish rule of law in Madhes. Or, worse: yet another example of Kathmandu-centric governmental indifference to the suffering of Madhesis.