Ram Manohar Yadav, a Free Madhes activist arrested in Gulariya, Bardiya 12 days ago for showing black flags to Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Upendra Yadav, died in police custody on Saturday morning.
The incident came to light following a controversy surrounding his death. Yadav, a supporter of the movement led by CK Raut who was brought to Kathmandu from Nepalgunj for treatment, was admitted to the emergency ward of the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital at 2:15am, moments before he was pronounced dead.
Deepak Paasi, Yadav’s neighbour who accompanied Yadav in the ambulance along with two policemen and a medical officer, said he died on the way to Kathmandu.
“When I touched him on the way, his body had turned cold already,” said Paasi, a resident of Janaki Rural Municipality in Banke district.
“I had asked the medical officer to see if Yadav was alive but the officer said he did not have [necessary] equipment. When we reached the hospital, they took him to the emergency ward. He was declared dead soon afterwards,” Paasi told the Post.
Yadav was detained on August 23, along with three other CK Raut supporters—Harpal Singh, Irfan Sheikh and Ranjit Ram Verma. After detaining them, the Bardiya District Police filed treason charges against all four in the Bardiya District Court.
On the morning of August 30, Yadav had collapsed inside the cell. Police then admitted him to the Bardiya District Hospital in Gulariya, less than 200 metres away from the police station.
According to Dr Supriya Paudyal, who was involved in his treatment, Yadav was referred to Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalgunj after he showed signs of paralysis.
“He couldn’t speak clearly when he was brought here. Considering that he could be paralysed any time and we lacked equipment, we referred the case to Nepalgunj hospital,” said Dr Paudyal.
Yadav was admitted to Nepalgunj Nursing Home as the zonal hospital had no facilities for intensive care.
According to Dr Raman Kidavi, assistant director at the nursing home, Yadav was unconscious and had high fever when he was brought there.
“We suggested taking him to Kathmandu for further treatment because his body temperature was 108F and he was lying unconscious,” Dr Kidavi told the Post.
Bardiya Police chief SP Surendra Mainali said Yadav was sent to Kathmandu shortly afterwards on an ambulance with supplementary oxygen.
According to SP Mainali, Yadav died in Maharajgunj on Saturday morning.
Alliance for Independent Madhes Spokesperson Abdul Khan claimed that Yadav died en route to the Capital, blaming police negligence for the death.
“He had high blood pressure, which got worse in custody due to mental harassment. Before collapsing at the police station, he had asked for medicine for headache but no one gave it to him. He was taken to hospital more than an hour after he had collapsed,” Khan told the Post, adding that the police had not allowed anyone to meet them.
SP Mainali dismissed allegations that visitors were barred from meeting the detainees.
Yadav’s death has stirred up a controversy. Human rights activists and civil society members have slammed the government over the death in detention, calling it an act of extra-judicial killing. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has launched an investigation into the death and the condition of other detainees.
A group of activists also submitted a memorandum to NHRC Chairperson Anup Raj Sharma seeking independent investigation into the matter, punishment for the guilty and compensation for the victim’s family. The NHRC asked the government to guarantee the right to life by ensuring immediate medical examination of detainees and arranging for effective medical treatment if they fall sick in custody.