Ram Manohar Yadav’s body lies unclaimed in the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital morgue for the last 81 days.
Yadav’s family has refused to accept his body, demanding authorities to investigate how the Madhesi activist died in police custody. For the last 81 days, there has been little information on what happened on the night of September 2, when Yadav was pronounced dead en route to Kathmandu from Nepalgunj in an ambulance.
“Everyone says we did not claim the body because we want more money,” said Bishnu Yadav, brother of Ram Manohar Yadav. “How much can they pay us as compensation—a million? But will it bring back my brother?”
Ram Manohar was detained in the city of Gulariya, Bardiya, on August 23, along with three other supporters of the Free Madhesh Movement for displaying black flags at Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Upendra Yadav during his visit.
A week later, Ram Manohar was pronounced dead, after police officials said he fell sick while in prison and had to be admitted to the hospital.
Although government officials reiterate that Ram Manohar died while undergoing treatment at the Teaching Hospital, family members have refused to accept the official version. Witnesses, including those who accompanied him in the ambulance, said Ram Manohar’s body was lifeless long before it arrived in Kathmandu. His family members suspect he was physically and mentally tortured while in prison and law enforcement officials were negligent about his timely treatment.
Since then, family members have visited several offices in Banke and Bardiya. They have filed a First Information Report (FIR) in the hope of unbiased investigation into his death.
In an interview with the Post, the Bardiya Chief District Officer Ram Bahadur Kurumbang admitted his office had not accepted Yadav family’s FIR.
“How can we accept the FIR for a murder charge? Whom we are going to charge?” he asked.
After their FIR was ignored, the family filed a case at Tulsipur High Court demanding a mandamus directing the authorities to file an FIR.
Earlier this month, the Tulsipur High Court issued a show cause notice against the Bardiya District Administration Office for not accepting the FIR.
The district administration offices in both Bardiya and Banke have turned a deaf ear, and insisted that the family accept the compensation amount.
Banke Chief District Officer Madan Bhujel said, “The Home Ministry decided to provide compensation to the family. We have repeatedly requested them to accept the money.”
Kurumbang, the officer in Bardiya, asked this reporter if he could mediate with the family and convince them to accept the compensation.
National rights groups have criticised the authorities for refusing to accept the request for an FIR.
National Human Rights Commission of Nepal Spokesperson Mohna Ansari said, “If an FIR cannot be registered in the case involving state officials then there should be a law stating no cases will ever be registered against the state apparatuses.”
She criticised the government’s practice of providing immediate compensation to victims, but denying the much-needed justice.
“Compensation amount is required, but there should not be trading of justice in the guise of compensation,” Ansari said. “These kinds of compensation for suspicious deaths have only weakened state mechanisms that are responsible for providing justice.”
The NHRC has also formed a probe panel to investigate the custodial death of Ram Manohar.
“We do not want compensation,” Bishnu, the deceased’s brother said, “We just want justice and the right to cremate the body of my brother.”