Police seize Ram Manohar’s body on the way to funeral

  • Hundreds of supporters of the Free Madhes movement showed up for the last rites despite the arrest of scores by the authorities

Feb 5, 2019-

The final rites of Ram Manohar Yadav, the Free Madhes activist who died in police custody five months ago, was performed in his home village of Kapasi in Banke district in a tense scene after police seized his body and arrested dozens of supporters who had come to his funeral.

Ram Manohar’s body was retrieved from the hospital in Kathmandu on Sunday and was being ferried to Banke by his brother, Bishu Yadav, and three other locals.

However, the ambulance van and the casket was stopped and seized by police officers at the Kohalpur Area Station on Monday morning, leading to a day-long protest in the area.

Hours before the incident, police in Banke had also arrested a large number of Free Madhes supporters who had come from the eastern districts to attend the funeral of Ram Manohar Yadav.

According to Abdul Khan, the spokesperson for the Alliance for Independent Madhes, hundreds of people travelled several hours by bus from Saptari and Siraha districts to pay tribute to Ram Manohar.

“After police captured the bus, many Madhesis managed to flee, but the police arrested as many as 40 supporters,” Khan told the Post in a phone interview.

When the news of the police capturing Ram Manohar’s body reached Kapasi, local villagers started protesting and marched towards Piparahawa, a nearby village, shouting slogans against the local authorities.

Several videos of the march were live-streamed on Facebook profiles sympathetic to Ram Manohar, including one owned by CK Raut, the leader of the Free Madhes movement. The video showed people of all ages—several of them women—demanding the release of detained supporters and the return of the van and the body.

Ramesh Bahadur Singh, in charge of the Kohalpur Area Police Station, denied that his officers had seized the van.

“Nothing has happened at all,” Singh, the deputy superintendent of police at the station, told the Post. When probed further about the arrest of dozens, Singh admitted that they had taken about 35 to 40 people into custody.

“How could we let them attend the funeral and shout slogans in support of the person [CK Raut] who has been charged with sedition?” Singh said.

An ardent supporter of the CK Raut movement, Ram Manohar had died in police custody while being taken to Kathmandu for treatment last September. Since his death, the government has not released the postmortem report, and his family members have accused the police of torturing him to death.

Family members and supporters of Ram Manohar had been planning a funeral march since late last week after the family decided to retrieve the body from the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital morgue. Local authorities had been on high alert as the plans for the march had been widely circulated on social media platforms and through pamphlets.

According to Suresh Yadav, ward chairperson of Janaki Rural Municipality-6, the police didn’t want locals to organise any events that involved CK Raut sympathisers and had been waiting for the hearse from early morning at Piparahwa.

“When the vehicle didn’t arrive on the expected time, a team of police officers went on the highway to track and seize the van,” Yadav told the Post. The van was in control of the police for several hours before it was handed over to family members after protests intensified on Monday afternoon.

But Singh, the police chief, once again denied the description of events.

“What I am telling you is the government version,” he said. “You can write if you wish to write.”

The Post then directly contacted the police station where the officers had been deployed from. An officer, who agreed to speak to the Post but didn’t reveal his name because he wasn’t allowed to contradict his superior, said the van was captured and kept somewhere else.

“It might have been taken in control for the sake of safety,” the officer said.

The van was finally released at around 3pm after the chief district officer and the district police chief reached the village where locals had blocked the road and were protesting for the release of the detained supporters.

Published: 05-02-2019 10:35

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