Justice for Sundar Harijan, Justice for Dalits

Justice for Sundar Harijan, Justice for Dalits

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Dalit Lives Matter Nepal started this petition to Government of Nepal and

Sundar Harijan, a Dalit youth aged 20, was found dead hanging in a toilet at Rolpa district prison on 18 May 2022. He was 17 years and three months old when he was arrested allegedly for mobile phone theft on 2 September 2019. The court sentenced him to one-year jail imprisonment. 

His death leaves behind a trail of mystery. The police records show that he was serving imprisonment for someone else's crime. His identity was swapped with Bijay Bikram Shah, arrested from Nepalgunj on charges of extortion and illegal arms possession. The police caught him on 7 March 2018 with a pistol, five mobile phones, and 15 SIM cards. The court sent him behind bars for five years.

Sundar Harijan’s death in prison raises serious questions about human rights violations in Nepal, particularly for Dalits, one of the most marginalized and excluded communities. According to The Act Relating to Children 2075 (2018), while detained as a minor, Harijan had the right to juvenile prosecution procedure. The court’s verdict to imprison him is unlawful and violates existing legal provisions. 

The court ordered Harijan’s imprisonment till 3 September 2020. The verdict also added additional one-month imprisonment if he failed to pay NPR 10,000 fine. Suspiciously, Sundar Harijan and Bijay Bikram Shah were transferred to Rolpa district prison on 23 November 2020, where their identities were exchanged. The Rolpa district prison received Sundar Harijan as Bijay Bikram Shah, jailed for extortion and illegal arms possession. He had to spend two more years in the district jail.

Dramatically, Bijay Bikram Shah was released from prison under the false identity of Sundar Harijan on 12 January 2021. And Sundar Harijan was serving jail as Shah.

Article 36(4) of The Act Relating to Children, 2075 (2018) clearly states, “If a child of sixteen years of age or above but below eighteen years of age commits an offense, the child shall be punished with two-thirds of the punishment that is imposable on the person of legal age pursuant to the prevailing law.” 

The utterly disgraceful act of human rights violation raises many questions. When will the State stop killing Dalits? Why was Sundar Harijan not sent to the Juvenile Correction Centre? Why were Harijan and Shah transferred to Rolpa district prison? Why and how were their identities exchanged?  We need answers now. We need justice now.

Dalit Lives Matter condemns this human rights violation and heinous crime committed against humanity. The Constitution of Nepal has declared the right to equality, rights of Dalits, and the right to social justice as fundamental rights. Nepal is a secular country free from all forms of inequalities, including caste-based discrimination and untouchability.

Sundar Harijan’s death in police custody is a violation of the rule of law and the international principles of human rights ratified and enshrined in the laws of the land. Thus, Dalit Lives Matter decries these brutal human rights violations against the Dalit community and demands justice, upkeep of the rule of law, and respect for human rights and demands the government to take the following actions immediately:

  1. The government should form a high-level investigation committee including former Justices from Supreme Court to conduct an impartial, thorough, and transparent investigation of the incident.
  2. The parliament should form a parliamentary committee to investigate and ensure justice for the affected family.
  3. Under prevailing laws, the perpetrators should be subjected to maximum punishment.
  4. The police should conduct a fair and impartial investigation to hold all the culprits accountable for this premeditated crime without being susceptible to political and economic pressure and other forms of coercion.
  5. The officials involved in the case should be suspended immediately till the final verdict to restrain from evidence tampering.
  6. The government should provide protection and security for the victim’s family. They are vulnerable to intimidation by the perpetrators.

The victory of this petition shall bring justice to the victims and affected families and set forth a precedent for millions of Dalits living in exclusion and injustice.

Kathmandu Post: Panel to investigate youth’s death in prison

Custodial deaths continue with little being done toward investigation

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