Wednesday, June 6, 2007

BRDSCC condemns attack on Bangale, releases a report

Kathmandu, June 06: BRDSCC has strongly condemned the attack on its executive director Hari Adhikari Bangale in Beldangi on May 27. In a press statement on Tuesday, BRDSCC has said the allegations put upon Bangale are untrue, not bsed on facts. Bhutan News Service

Full text of the press statement

June 05, 2007.

The Bhutanese Refugee Durable Solution Coordination Committee (BRDSCC) expresses its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of Narapati Dhungyel of Beldangi II camp, G/3, Purna Bahadur Tamang of Beldangi I, in the Beldangi incident and Saha Bahadur Siwa of Sanischarey Camp and Kumari Mishra of Goldhap Camp in Mechi Bridge incident. We also call for proper medical treatment to those police and the refugees injured in both the incidents.

The BRDSCC also condemns the incident that occurred on 27th and 28th May 2007 at Beldangi II Refugee camp. We categorically condemn the attack on the Camp Secretary who is also the Executive Director of BRDSCC and the security personnel present in the camps. The allegation put upon him with regard to speaking against the sentiments of the general youths in the camps is untrue. He had never said that each youth in the camp had a weapon. He had actually narrated an incident in which few youngsters had attacked him with two pistols while going to the camp six weeks ago. His statement in the interview with Pathivara FM and BBC Nepali Service was wrongly interpreted. Another allegation of kicking a girl unconscious is totally untrue. How can anyone believe that a person who was almost paralyzed by a mob and being shielded by police able to commit such an act? The act was dramatized and orchestrated to make the mob more aggressive.

Since BRDSCC started campaigning seriously for comprehensive durable solution in 2006, some of the refugee factions led by Mr. Tek Nath Rizal and Mr. Balaram Poudyel have been opposing it. Their interest is to keep the refugees hostage for their vested political interest. It is also unfortunate to mention that these people are directly or indirectly misguiding and encouraging the Communist Party of Bhutan (MLM) and its sister organizations to create disorder and terrorize innocent people inside the camp so as to obstruct the offer of resettlement.

The genuine offer of resettlement made by the international community to rescue the refugees has been misinterpreted and directed to create conflict among the refugee community. The children have been misled and some are encouraged to engage in criminal activities. There have been instances of threats to life of the BRDSCC activists and intimidation and coercion to the innocent refugees in the camps.

In our experience, one sensitive area to be noted at this point is that those opposing resettlement rush to every visitor to provide distorted information. BRDSCC requests all fact-finding missions and others to analyze the authenticity of the information being provided to them. The refugees should be left alone to live in peace in the camps and freely decide to choose their solution. We firmly believe that the refugees have their right to determine what is best for them. No refugee individuals or organizations have any right to compel refugees to act against their will to achieve their political motives.

The BRDSCC, like any refugee organization has a right to advocate for possible solutions for the welfare of the refugees. Unlike some organizations today, it has never used coercion, threat and intimidation to any refugees to choose the third country option. We have always encouraged the refugees to act in their free will and choose their option only after understanding each option properly.

The refugees have suffered for last 17 years living in crowded camps. We call upon all actors to understand the painful life the refugees have spent in the cramped camp without proper medical facilities, clothing, inadequate food assistance and minimal opportunity of further education & job. How long will the people have to wait for an unrealistic return when majority of them have already spent their productive years in life in the refugee camps?

Realizing all phases of peaceful efforts for repatriation, the BRDSCC stands and advocates for comprehensive durable solution, including putting efforts to improve condition for return and at the same time to propose and explore alternative solutions, including third country resettlement which is already at hand. There are also good chunk of people who desire to get resettled.

The BRDSCC expresses its appreciation and gratitude to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Human Rights Community in Nepal and abroad, the diplomatic missions and others who have responded quickly and effectively to normalize the situation. We express our special thanks to the UNHCR for taking immediate initiatives to alert the Government of Nepal for security and protection in relation to the incident.

Setu Nepal
Kathmandu Sub Office
Kathmandu, Nepal

Report on Beldangi incident, By BRDSCC

June 05, 2007

On 26th May the Deputy Camp Secretary of Beldangi II had called Hari Prasad Adhikari Bangaley, the camp secretary for CMC meeting at 11 a.m. He refused to go to the camp for the meeting on Sunday for security reasons. On the next day’ the Deputy Camp Secretary and the Security Chief of Camp Management Committee called him again for the meeting with assurances of security. They also informed him that police has also been called for security.

On 27th May, due to repeated requests compelled him to go to the camp. He had also been confirmed from the police of the security arrangement. The meeting ended peacefully and all the camp committee members dispersed. Few camp security team members told him to stay for a while as they had some questions to ask.

He told them that meeting is over and we could deal with queries on a working day the next day. Some of the youngsters came and asked some others to catch him for queries about the interview aired on Pathivara FM and BBC Nepali Service the previous day. So he told them that he would come after lunch. Then, he walked towards his hut in the camp. The youngsters followed him. He saw the number of youngsters increasing and turning into a large mob shouting to one another to catch him. So he called the police through different camp representatives and individual refugees to send police security.

A large number of youngsters surrounded his hut while he was having lunch with his family. The mob was shouting that he had not stopped talking about resettlement so he had to face the penalties according to revolutionary norms, “you cannot go out of the camp today under any circumstance”. He could see trouble brewing up so he started calling the police who were stationed in the camp for security purposes giving more stress on the urgent security needs. After several phone calls, two policemen arrived; he went with the policemen to the camp management office.

He walked with the policemen in an effort to get back to Damak but the youngsters stopped him and started asking all sorts of questions that were unreasonable and irrelevant. During the interaction, Mr. Hari Adhikari (not Bangaley) of Beldangi II Extension was pushed around and beaten by the mob. Half the mob turned towards Bangaley and assaulted, boxed, slapped and pelted stones at him.

The police tried to save him and pulled him into the camp office compound. They broke through the crowd into the office compound. He was guarded by police in a corner of the office varandah between the CMC meeting hall-door and radio room nearby. The mob increased and the police could not provide security and they were also beaten. All that they could do was to get beaten and wait for the deployment of additional security forces to come and rescue. The mob broke doors and windows of the CMC meeting hall and pushed him where he was beaten so much that he almost fainted. He could hear the police shouting that Bangaley was dying now. He also saw the police being beaten, pelted stones and boxed around. The situation had worsened and there was no chance for him and the policemen to get away. By then fresh deployment of APF had arrived. They took him to the RCU office door and surrounded him for protection. The mob was still pelting stones at them but he was more secured there. The other policemen were making efforts to clear the mob from the office compound. At this point, a number of girls screamed inside the CMC meeting hall, about 20 meters away from where he was being protected by the police. Few minutes later, the mob carried a girl out of the hall towards the end of the next varandah. The police told him that there was a drama being orchestrated that Bangaley kicked a girl. The mob started to shout that Bangaley kicked a girl and she has fallen unconscious. She was again taken back to hall.

Immediately, the orchestrated drama turned the mob outside more aggressive. While he was getting beaten in one corner the mob attacked the police and BRDSCC members, pelting stones. The mob went out of control and the police; APF and BRDSCC members who had come there to protect him were injured. (Within hours, the posted the orchestrated incident in their website. The allegation is totally untrue. It was dramatized by the mob and the apfanews reported without bothering to ask the police or Bangaley who were the real witnesses of the entire scene.)

The allegation with regard to speaking against the sentiments of the general youths in the camps is also untrue. His statement in the interview with Pathivara FM and BBC Nepali Service was wrongly interpreted. Karna Bahadur Khadka of Beldangi II Extension, who was also interviewed together had manipulated Bangaley’s statement during the interview with Pathivara FM to the youths in the camps. He had never said that each youth in the camp had a weapon. Six weeks prior to this incident, few youngsters had attacked him with two pistols while going to the camp which was immediately reported to the Police Post in Damak, APF in Beldangi I and the CDO and RCU Deputy Director and the UNHCR. He had also given a written complaint to the CDO Jhapa on the next day on which the incident occurred. The CDO had forwarded the complaint to Damak police station with a note for immediate action.

When Bangaley was asked about the security situation in the camp, he had narrated his experience of the attack. He had indicated that if such situation is allowed to increase, the innocent refugees will not be able to remain in the camp and it will also be difficult to operate the camp. He had also requested all concerned to make security arrangements more effective. This statement was manipulated by the vested interest groups and ignited the incident targeted to obstruct the resettlement of the willing refugees in the countries offering it. They were also shouting slogans against US Government and were stressing that they will not allow anyone to go to the US. Their slogan included “kill Bangaley and the resettlement issue’’. The situation worsened every minute and that the security persons of the APF were finding it difficult to control the mob. Luckily, another team of security arrived in a vehicle. The mob pelted stones on them damaging the windshield. However, they could manage to clear the mob and create some space. Then they rescued him.

As the security personnel were rescuing him, the mob stoned the moving vehicle belonging to the APF. He managed to run and hang onto the vehicle with the help of the police force. Some of the refugees caught his left leg and twisted it. Today, he has a plaster on his fractured left foot, injury on his head and the bruises all over his body. The mob also hit him with sticks and pelted stones. After the vehicle drove him away, the youngsters turned towards the police aggressively pelting stones and attacking with sticks. After his rescue, what went on is fully known to the police and the APF.

How security personnel reacted to the situation
The police and the AFP risked everything and provided security to him. They took all patience till he was present there. They did not engage in lathicharge even when 15-20 of the police personnel were wounded.

On 28th evening, the Chief District Officer, Mr. Jaya Mukunda Khanal with a team including DIG, local human rights and civil society leaders, UNHCR representatives visited the base camp in an effort to resolve the problem. After they had a long discussion with the agitating refugee leaders, they called him to join them at the end. Till then he was requesting the APF personnel that he would like to see the CDO in person. As he entered the meeting place, the CDO told him “as you were requesting to beg pardon and that the situation did not favour on site, you can do it now, the leaders are here”. He knew that the CDO and others present there to mediate were convinced by the one-sided manipulated information. He tried to explain the issue but no one took note of it.

They accused made on him of not informing the CDO about any of such threats at any time in the past. In fact, he had informed the CDO, Deputy Director (RCU) police and UNHCR about the threats and his activities on a continuous basis but no one took note of it seriously. He told him that he had informed all previous incidences to his office. The DIG also told him to change strategy in order to save himself from all allegations. He felt that UNHCR was also convinced with the distorted information. All concerned tried to disseminate false and distorted information about the incident. They created an atmosphere to discredit him.

After the meeting with the CDO and the DIG, Ms Sujan wanted to drop him off at AMDA Hospital but as there were information of high risk of probable attack, she drove him and dropped him at the UNHCR office and asked him to call his family to pick him up. She told him that UNHCR did not have separate arrangement for his lodging. He called his family members who picked him up from UNHCR office.

He had not visited the camp to advocate third country resettlement. He was there at the request of the camp committee members to discuss important matters regarding the camp operations.

Other related information
On 27 June 2007, at around 4 pm, a group of unidentified youths led by Mr. Madav Basnet, of hut no 16 of sector I/4 came looking for Nandalal Bhandari of sector I/4 of Beldangi II. The group repeatedly came and threatened his wife that they would kill him wherever they find him and destroy all their belongings. In the evening, they came back, entered hut no 98 and took away all belongings including the important documents. They also entered the library and took away children play materials.

On the next day a group of about 20 – 25 masked youngsters came and broke into the library and took away children books, novels and children play materials. They also warned Mitrakala, wife of Nandalal Bhandari that they would burn the hut if she could not produce her husband by the next day.

Mr. Nandala Bhandari and BRDSCC members and supporters have been compelled to leave the camp for safety. About 25-30 people are displaced and need protection to them and their family members inside the camp.

The Police Post Incharge of Beldangi I, Mr. Yagya Sharma has informed him over telephone that the radical group was bent on killing him. The group has said, “this time you saved Bangaley but we will find him anyhow and kill him”. We also learnt that a group has been directed to kill him. They have also deputed a group to Kathmandu to hunt him.

The radicalized youths held a rally shouting slogans against the Khudunabari Camp Secretary, Manoj Kumar Rai and burnt his office furniture and his effigy. The Camp Secretary has left the camp for security reasons. The NFD cadres, organizers of Long March have locked the Camp Management Office in Timai after they returned from Mechi. The camp secretary is out of station for security reason. His whereabouts is not known.

The BRDSCC would like to draw the attention of UNHCR and Government of Nepal for necessary action for the following:

1. Provide immediate security in all the camps to restore peace.
2. Provide treatment to those injured.
3. Take immediate action to compensate for the huts destroyed and arrange for a secured accommodation for the displaced.
4. As no one can force the refugees to act against their will, the acts of violence taking place in order to radicalize the refugees should be immediately addressed and culprits brought to books. There should be realization from all concerned that individuals and the refugee families have a right to life.
5. Alleviate the situation of threat and intimidation by the radical group to the innocent refugees. In an effort to garner support for aggressive movements, refugees should not be threatened or intimidated. They should be allowed to exercise their right to decide on the options available to them for their future.
6. The investigation team for Beldangi incident should be reconstituted. The present team includes those refugee individuals who provoked the attack and instigated the disturbances in the camps. There is no impartial representation in the team. If the team is not reconstituted, the report or findings will not be acceptable to the advocates of a comprehensive durable solution (BRDSCC).

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