Two months after he was suspended over a critical story on Chinese occupation of Rui village in Nepal, 50-year-old journalist Balram Baniya was reportedly found dead near the Mando Hydropower Project in Sisneri in Makawanpur, Nepal on Tuesday.
As per reports, Baniya was out of touch with his family since Monday. His last communication with his office was regarding a news article on Ram Chandra Poudel, a Nepali Congress leader. His dead body was found afloat in the Bagmati river adjoining the Balkhu bridge and was kept at Hetauda hospital. Although his corpse was recovered on Tuesday itself, it took a day for the police to confirm his identity.
Reportedly, Baniya was interrogated by a police team in Balkhu on Monday and he informed them that he was going home. As per reports, the veteran journalist was seen moving in the direction of the vegetable market near the Balkhu bridge, located on the banks of the Balkhu river. Baniya, who is now survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter, spent his journalistic career working at ‘Kantipur Daily’. He had extensively reported on politics, parliament, bureaucracy, governance, energy, hydropower, and infrastructure projects.
Nepalese journalist Balaram Baniya, who stoked a huge controversy following his story in June on Chinese encroachments, has been found dead under mysterious circumstances.— WION (@WIONews) August 13, 2020
Senior journalist @arzoo_hamal joins with more details from Kathmandu@akankshaswarups pic.twitter.com/KoBGG2WsIB
The critical story by Balaram Baniya: The Chinese occupation of Rui village
While the landlocked country of Nepal has been at loggerheads with India over the supposed encroachment of regions such as Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura, China has reportedly occupied the Rui village in Gorkha district of Nepal. This story was originally brought to the limelight by Balaram Baniya. As such, the village was annexed to Tibet, an autonomous region of China.
The President of Chumubari Rural Municipality ward number 1, Bir Bahadur Lama, conceded that even though the people of Rui had deposited their share of land revenue to the Nepal government, yet they had become Tibetans following the encroachment by China. Khabarhub reported that pillar number 35 was demarcated as the border between Samdo and Rui village. However, during the restoration work of the pillar no. 35, owing to negligence, the village came under Chinese occupation, Dhungal was quoted by News 24.
Nepal Journalists’ Union demands independent probe
Reportedly, the Federation of Nepali Journalists, Freedom Forum, and Nepal Press Union had demanded a free and fair probe into the death of the veteran journalist. “We demand that the government investigate and make public the truth about the mysterious death of the journalist,” the federation said in a statement.
According to the Nepal Press Union, the death of Balaram Baniya remained mysterious as deep cuts were found on his death. Ajay Babu Shuwakoti, General Secretary of Nepal Press Union, pointed out that his death could be connected to his critical and daring stories.
Colleagues remember veteran journalist
The deceased journalist is remembered by his colleagues as an amiable, honest and a soft-spoken personality who never compromised on journalistic ethics. Baniya, who served as the former secretary of the Federation of Nepali Journalists. According to the former editor of Kantipur, Hari Bahadur Thapura, Baniya was dedicated to journalism and had a comprehensive understanding of the governance, and bureaucratic system in Nepal.
“I always felt the need of Balram in the newsroom to keep an eye on the proceedings and to raise questions. He maintained the highest level of integrity and would spare none,” another editor of Kantipur, Narayan Wagle was quoted as saying.