Ganga Maya Adhikari is interviewed by the media in hospital. (Photo: YouTube)
What can one say when you learn that a mother is on a fast to death in an attempt to obtain justice for her murdered son?
I had no words after I received a statement from the Accountability Watch Committee of Nepal, appealing for support in their “Save the life of Satyagrahi Ganga Maya Adhikari” campaign.
Satyagrahi, which means the person who walks on the path of truth, is most appropriately attached to Ganga Maya Adhikari’s name.
Satyagraha, a word coined by Mahatma Gandhi, is a compound of the Sanskrit words satya, meaning truth, and agraha, meaning polite insistence or holding firmly to truth.
I asked a wife of a victim of enforced disappearance, who after more than 13 years is still seeking justice, what she thought of this fast-to-death campaign.
She believed it would not amount to anything because the perpetrators, in all probability, will allow the worst thing to happen — after all, this is what they aimed to do in the first place.
I asked a human rights defender, who has served victims for more than 24 years and has witnessed the almost impossibility of obtaining justice for victims of enforced disappearance, and he said it is the right thing to do because it can generate more support and push the state to listen.
I asked a friend who is a secular Carmelite and she responded: "If the intent is to really pursue the fast until death happens, it is a kind of suicide that goes against the Church’s doctrine of value for life. And suicide is not an acceptable alternative at all no matter the circumstances."
The alternative action is to inject hope — to boost the victim’s morale in various ways and show her that there is hope, according to this friend.
Ganga Maya Adhikari is the mother of Krishna Prasad Adhikari, who was brutally killed by Maoists in June 2004 at Tandi, Bakulaur Chowk, of Chitwan district in Nepal.
She and her husband, Nanda Prasad Adhikari, were on hunger strike at different times for more than a decade. Nanda died on the 334th day of a hunger strike in September 2014. Their demand was the implementation of a commitment made by the government to Ganga Maya.
For 16 years, the search for justice was characterized by delayed investigations, powerful politicians influencing court decisions, the guilty being protected by government and non-government institutions, and unfulfilled commitments by the government.
The information sheet from the Accountability Watch Committee says that Krishna was abducted at gunpoint by two men on June 4, 2004, while on his way to meet his grandparents in Ratna Nagar Municipality.
That same day, Krishna was taken to Bakulahar Chowk in the same municipality. Seated between two men on a bike, Krishna was blindfolded and seemed to be in a daze and could not move.
He was pushed to the ground and shot several times with a small pistol. After the shooting, the men rode off leaving Krishna bleeding in the road. The autopsy report showed the cause of death as “bullet injuries to the head in which the bullet entered the back of his head and penetrated through the forehead.”
With his hands tied behind his back with plastic rope, the body likewise bore “blue marks.”
The Adhikari family said the murder could have been caused by a conflict stemming from a land dispute and the intended victim was Nur Prasad, the elder brother of Krishna.
Nur Prasad Adhikari claims that after the murder of Krishna, “he was approached and told to remain silent, otherwise the whole family would be annihilated.”
Nanda, Krishna’s father, filed a complaint. However, before any investigation could start, the case was dismissed as the area was a place of conflict under the authority of the Council of Ministers and all cases filed against CPN Maoist leaders and cadres under the Terrorist and Disruptive Act had to be withdrawn.
Upon the National Human Rights Commission’s intervention, the investigation into the case was resumed. And it was only in August 2013, nine years after the killing, did police interview witnesses and record their statements.
Initially, as a result of the statements, arrests were made, resulting in the ending of the fast of Nanda and Ganga Maya.
But with pressure from Maoist groups, the suspects were eventually released. Any further arrests were thwarted by powerful politicians.
This drove Nanda to once again embark on a hunger strike which tragically ended in his death on Sept. 22, 2014.
His death drew local and international attention, compelling the government, then under the leadership of Sushil Koirala, to present a six-point commitment to Ganga Maya, who continued her fast-to-death campaign.
The commitments given by the government were to present all the accused in court; take action against them even if they were outside the country; ensure lifelong treatment for Ganga Maya; bear the living costs of her family; provide security for her and her elder son Nur Prasad Adhikari; and arrange the cremation and other funeral rites for her late husband.
Finally hoping justice would soon be obtained, Ganga Maya ended her fast. Yet to this day, the perpetrators are free, enjoying their freedom in a foreign country.
Meanwhile, Nur Prasad, Krishna’s brother, had to serve a two-year prison term after being found guilty of assaulting government officials. He was released last month.
Having no other recourse to bring attention to her call for justice for her son, Ganga Maya embarked on her 12th fast to death on Dec. 23, 2020.
Today, due to her deteriorating health, the Accountability Watch Committee is appealing to the world to save Ganga Maya’s life. This can only be done if the commitments promised by the government are fulfilled.
The appeal is not only to the government in Nepal; it is to all of us who are free to speak out. It is for us who value justice, peace, life and truth. The world should be concerned for a life that can be saved, a mother who can be helped, a widow who is helpless.
In whatever part of the world we are, there is something that we can do. We can tell the story of Ganga Maya and ask people to pray for her. We can write about Satyagrahi Ganga Maya and reach out to more people.
To all mothers who would give their life for their child, pray for this mother, Ganga Maya, who has been knocking on heaven’s door. Pray that truth and justice will be finally served.
Edita Tronqued-Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen believed to be soldiers abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.