A Free Man at Last
Arjun Lonia was arrested twice for being a suspected Maoist before he with help from HURON can call himself a free manBy Malene Lærke
27. April 2006
It was six o’clock in the morning the 4th of Saoon 2061 when the security forces knocked on Arjun Lonias door with their rifles. A police officer ordered him to wake up and he was told he would be transported to the police station in Nepalgunj. His hands were tied and his wife and five children were crying. Arjun Lonia had been arrested under suspicion of being a Maoist.
“I was so scared and sad because if my husband is not here how can I fulfil the needs of the children? I was afraid because there would be no one in front or behind me when my husband is not here,” recalls his wife Ramkala Debi who sits outside the family’s house in the village of Bhangghata in Banke district.
Feet tied up and beaten
Arjun Lonia was too scared to be thinking about what was going to happen to him. He was brought to the police station where his feet were tied together and then thereafter, he was beaten under his feet and on his body with sticks.
“The pain travelled from my feet all the way up to my head. They kept asking me whether I am a Maoist but my brain was not working and I could not say anything. For days after I could hardly walk. There were no visible signs but there were inner injuries on my back and under my feet,” tells Lonia Arjun, who has no idea why he was arrested by the police. He kept asking, but never got an answer.
“I have never been close to the Maoist movement. I am just a farmer and I am busy with my work in the fields. I am not a Maoist” he firmly states.
Arjun Lonia had been in his cell at the police station for 28 days when the police inspector came and told him that for 500 rupees bail he would be a free man. He was transferred to the district administration office where his family was waiting.
“They opened my handcuffs and asked me to give my thumb sign on the release paper. Right after I had done that I was arrested again. My family was crying and kept asking the police why I was arrested again. But the police did not give any reason,” he recalls.
Arjun Lonia spent the next three months in jail, charged by the Public Security Act 2046. His father, Saktu Lonia spent 1050 rupees in order to hire a private lawyer so as to file a case, questioning his son’s arrest, but the case never came to court. Saktu Lonia had asked political leaders for help but with no result. He began to loose hope that his son would ever be released. Then he went to HURON.
The political leaders said they would help but they never did. I had heard that human rights organisations help poor people to get their rights, so I went to HURON. I hoped they would be more effective than the private lawyer and the political leaders,” says Saktu Lonia.
HURON filed the case at the appeal court the 20th Asaar 2062 – nearly a year after Arjun Lonias arrest - and the next day he stood in front of a judge. The judge asked the police why Arjun Lonia had been arrested. They answered that he was a terrorist and that he could be a person that could create disturbances in the future and affect national peace.
“As for our knowledge he is active in the Maoist movement,” the police stated in court. The police only had oral proof, but also claimed that they had found a Maoist flag and documents in Arjun Lonia’s house. However, they never produced the evidence. They also claimed that Arjun Lonia had confessed to be a Maoist and that Arjun Lonia had been arrested while hanging up a red banner.
HURON answered that Arjun Lonia is not a Maoist, but a farmer and a villager - and stressed that the police had no concrete proof of Maoist activities; therefore the police could not detain him. The judge ruled that Arjun Lonia was illegally detained by the police and the 5th Bhadou 2062 he could leave the prison and go back to his family that had been struggling to survive during his absence.
“If it hadn’t been for the help and support from HURON I would still be in prison. We have no money to pay for help. I don’t think I’ll be arrested again because I have support from HURON,” says Arjun Lonia today.
“The judge takes it more seriously when it is a human rights organisation that runs the case pleading that human rights are violated,” says Saktu Lonia.
Today Ramkala Debi is happy to have her husband back in the house. During his imprisonment she and the children survived by doing labour work for a landlord. Now she has support both in front and behind.
Fact about Public Security Act 2046
The purpose of this act is to secure, control and maintain public peace and security. The act is used if there is doubt that any person or there is the possibility of that a person can disturb the security and peace of the nation. The CDO can order the arrest of a person and detain him for three months without having concrete evidence.