26 Sep - 2 Oct 2014 #726

Children of war

The most vulnerable victims are still those who were children during the war.
Kunda Dixit

Purnima was 13 when the Maoists took her father, they tortured him by cutting off his leg, then they shot him. Her brother was also severely tortured, and is disabled. Purnima herself was forced to become a child soldier. Today 23-year-old, Purnima earns Rs 3,000 a month and supports her remaining family including her cancer-ridden mother. She didn’t get any support from the government.. Here she is holding a picture of her murdered father.

The death this week of Nanda Prasad Adhikari after nearly a year-long hunger strike demanding justice for the torture and murder of his son in 2004 has thrown into sharp focus the violent legacy of the conflict.

Adhikari’s death exposed the apathy of the state, the collusion between former enemies to forget past atrocities, and the unfinished business of setting up commissions to look at truth and reconciliation and enforced disappearances. The state, under successive governments since 2006, would like to conveniently forget gross violations of human rights during the war.

Now, there is concern about the health of Nanda Prasad’s wife, Ganga Maya. Women and children witnessed unimaginable cruelty during the conflict, and they have been forgotten during the peace process. Many of the children are now young adults, and besides the physical wounds they also carry emotional scars. Some wounded got artificial limbs, but we largely forgot the psychological injuries suffered by children.

The state now pretends the war is finished business. But as long as the physical and mental trauma of the survivors remain, it will not be over. The government says the emphasis is now on repairing bridges and building highways, it wants to move on. There are just too many loose ends to do that.

All photos: Jan Møller Hansen

Post-traumatic stress is still rife among women and children who witnessed and suffered brutal violence, and it afflicts young combatants too. Many lost their homes and property and haven’t been able to go back. Thousands of others were internally displaced, or migrated to India with their entire families, never to return.

Many of them never received any support from the government. Resources earmarked by donors through the Peace Ministry and distributed through local Peace Committees have often been siphoned off by party faithful and fake victims.

Among all the victims, the most vulnerable are still those who were children during the war: whole-timers who became child soldiers, students force-marched to reeducation camps, the wounded, and orphans. Many thousands of others were victims of gender-based violence, sexual abuse,unlawful recruitment by armed groups. Even after the war ended, it is the children who have been killed or have lost limbs to unexploded ordnances.

Eight years after the war ended, at least 740 children are still residing in childcare homes across Nepal and waiting to be reintegrated with their families. No one knows the real figures, but it is accepted that the official statistics grossly underestimate the numbers of war-affected children in the country.

After the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord, the emphasis was on identifying, reintegrating and supporting children associated with armed forces and groups. Some verified minors below 18 and late recruits got support for reintegration. The government endorsed a ‘National Plan of Action for Reintegration of Conflict Affected Children’ in 2010, but not much has happened. The international conventions on rights of children that Nepal has ratified do not make any difference for those who were minors during the war.

All photos: Jan Møller Hansen

Read also:

Death of justice, Editorial

Statute of denial, Mallika Aryal

Still missing them, Deepak Gyawali

The sad saga of the Adhikari family, Damakant Jayshi

Post-conflict stress syndrome, Taylor Caldwell

On the sidelines of justice,Trishna Rana

Nine years later, still in shock, Michelle J Lee

Why the children?, Naresh Newar

This conflict is child’s play, Rameshwor Bohara