By Jyoti Dhakal, KATHMANDU:- Lenin Bista was an innocent 12-year-old kid, when he was abducted and recruited by the Maoist militias in 2002 and was given guns to indulge in war, instead of carrying books and going to school.
Bista wanted to flee but was threatened to be killed on the spot by his Maoist bosses, in case of him ever trying to escape. Bista was exploited for seven years and lost his education and dreams. Only when the Maoists joined a peace talks with the government, Bista was then relieved from his work as a child militia in 2006 at age 19.
Bista always disliked the Maoists exploiting him, but he was unable to do anything. As he grew up, he gathered courage to expose the Maoists and their atrocities against children during what they called as the people’s war (1996-2006).
Bista travelled to various parts of the world, including Europe, to expose the Maoists’ war crimes and make them liable for their heinous crimes. He met with various European leaders and human rights activists to find out ways on how his case could be proceeded and whether the former Maoist militia commanders could be tried at the international criminal courts of law.
Bista’s activism for human rights and the zeal to fight against injustice was not a welcome move for the former Maoists, who had, by now, united with another party (CPN-UML) to hide themselves from their past crimes and thereby, obstruct the course of justice.
In August, 2018, Bista was about to board a plane to fly to Bangkok, Thailand for a seminar that would highlight the plight of children in conflict. In the mean time, some immigration officials approached Bista and told him that he was blacklisted and that he could not travel abroad.
Bista was not satisfied with the decision of the immigration officials and the government, who were guided by the Maoists to impose a ban on his international travels. He then decided to reach out to the Supreme Court for justice.
Bista’s case was delayed for several times and finally the Supreme Court delivered a verdict in his case and recently published the full verdict of the case in July 2020, stating that the government ban on his travels was unconstitutional and against the law.
“The government is hereby decreed that Bista must not be prevented from traveling abroad without any valid reason,” the Supreme Court said in its verdict delivered by its two member bench comprised of Justices Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Kumar Regmi.
“There is no any rule or law in the Passport Act or Immigration Act that a Nepali citizen cannot travel abroad without getting a written permission from the immigration authorities,” the verdict said.
“A citizen cannot be banned for international travels under a democratic system of governance. Answers should be sought as to how the government bodies should treat its citizens, especially when we are in the phase of strengthening our democratic practices,” the verdict further said.
Bista has, time and again, said that he will not quit highlighting the issues of child soldiers and how they could be prevented in future and that he was not scared with the threats of the former Maoists.
“What we all need is a fair treatment towards all former child soldiers forcefully recruited by the Maoists and who lost their youth to conflict,” Bista was quoted as saying in April, 2019 in a communication with some international human rights bodies.
“We want to live with respect and dignity, though our past is really scary and unforgettable,” Bista said.
It is estimated that the Maoists recruited more than 3,000 child soldiers in their militia and thereby, not only committed the war crimes, but also indulged in the crimes against children, depriving the minors of their future, parents and happiness, which they well deserved.
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