16-22 May 2014 #707

“I need to know why”

The war is not over for relatives of those killed and disappeared during the Maoist insurgency
Gopal Gartaula in JHAPA

PICS: GOPAL GARTAULA
THE WHOLE TRUTH: Tika Maya Bantawa holds a photograph of herself and her husband, Chetan, who was killed by the Maoists in 2004. Narmaya Chapagai’s husband bled to death in her lap after the Maoists shot him in Ilam in 2002. When they returned and threatened to kill her son unless she gave them money, she fled with her four children to Jhapa.
Samjhana Adhikari of Surunga was 22 when she decided to join the Maoist party. She was among a group of six other comrades who had left for Siliguri in December 2002 for training in India. She was never seen again.

Her group was caught by Indian Police at the Siliguri bus park and extradited to Nepal. Till about a month there were reports that the group was being held at the Charali Army Base in Jhapa district. But no more information after that. “Whoever it was who disappeared that group, we want to see them face justice,” says Samjhana’s brother, Netra.

In the group was Suresh Pokhrel. His brother Gopal tried everything to find him, but still clings to the hope that he is alive. “We want to find him or his body, if they think they can get away with politically-motivated pardons, our patience will break.” Along with Suresh and Samjhana, the others last heard to be in the notorious Charali Base were Chaturman Rajbanshi, Ghana Subedi, Tara Rijal, Misi Dhimal.

The conflict intensified after the Maoists took on the Royal Nepal Army in November 2001, with massive human rights violations by both sides. While the security forces detained, tortured and dissappeared suspected Maoists, the rebels targeted “class enemies” using extreme brutality to execute them and sow terror.

Nagen Sunuwar and Sambhu Khadka were teenagers living in Dharampur of Jhapa. The Maoists abducted them from their homes, and took them to a forest in Mainachuli in southern Ilam. After torturing him mercilessly, the Maoists decapitated Sambhu in front of Nagen’s eyes, later they dismembered his body and scattered his limbs.

Nagen was also beaten, slashed with knives and left for dead. He was still breathing when a forest caretaker found him two days later. Nagen says he has so far spent Rs 1.3 million in treatment for his wounds, and 12 years later pus still oozes out of a deep cut in his hip.  He is now homeless, and lives in a shack by the river in Mechi Nagar. “I want to know why they did this to me,” says Nagen, “let the government set up a commission and investigate those who did this and take them to the courts.” Narendra Chapagain was a member of a school management committee in Ilam’s Chulachuli. His wife, Narmaya, had just served dinner at 7pm on the night of 6 September 2002 when a group of Maoists came into the house, took Narendra out to the vegetable patch and shot him.

Narmaya (now 52) remembers hearing the shot, and then her husband staggered into the house trying to stop the blood squirting out of his chest. An hour later, his body went cold on her lap. The neighbours were so scared no one came to help.

Narmaya’s agony wasn’t over. A month later, the Maoists returned and threatened to kill her son if she did not give them Rs 60,000. She borrowed Rs 15,000 to pay them off, then immediately fled to Jhapa with her four children.

Narmaya heard this week that the president has ratified the Truth and Reconciliation Bill in Kathmandu. She broke down in tears as we asked her for her reaction. “I don’t want compensation, I will return what they gave me. But I need to know why they killed my husband.”

Tika Maya Bantawa was 30 when Maoists came to their house in Damak and tried to force her husband, Chetan, to join them. Their three daughters, Sumnima, Pratima and Paruma were small then and Chetan had said he needed to take care of them. A few days later, on 23 March 2004, the Maoists returned in a motorcycle and shot him dead.

In the past ten years, Tika Maya has raised her children on her own, subsisting on a farm without irrigation, and owes money lenders Rs 300,000. From time to time, she admits wanting to just give up, but says she has to keep struggling till her daughters are older. She tells us: “I want to look the perpretrators in the face and ask them why they made me a widow. I want them to face justice. That would give me some relief.”

Read also:

Just want justice, BHRIKUTI RAI

The tale of two commissions, BINITA DAHAL

“Forgive and move on”, ANURAG ACHARYA

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