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Lamjung’s ghost town

Sunday, September 7th, 2014
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More than eight years after the war ended, the displaced still haven’t returned to their village

The army came in the daytime and the guerrillas came by night to taunt and threaten the villagers of the tiny village of Maling. Finally, they couldn’t bear it any longer, and more than 100 families left their crops and livestock in the care of neighbours and abandoned their homes. They haven’t come back.

Such was the fear that they haven’t returned even after the ceasefire in 2006. Their houses are falling apart, the terrace fields are overgrown with weeds, the school building is dilapidated, and Maling is a ghost town.

It all started after the Maoists came in one night in 2002 and left a dozen bags and one of their fighters, Ramchandra Tiwari, in the home of Som Maya Tamang. The army had always suspected that the village located 10 hours straight uphill from the district capital of Besi Sahar was a Maoist stronghold. A few days later, they surrounded the village and went house-to-house, they caught and shot dead Tiwari even though the villagers tried to save him.

HOMELESS: The home of Som Maya Tamang in Maling village of Lamjung is falling apart, while she lives in a rented room in Besi Sahar working as a cook.

HOMELESS: The home of Som Maya Tamang in Maling village of Lamjung is falling apart, while she lives in a rented room in Besi Sahar working as a cook.

A few nights later, the Maoists returned and took away Ward Chairperson, Niru Maya Tamang and Som Maya and tortured them in a nearby primary school, accusing them of being spies. But the rebels let them go after they couldn’t find evidence that they were spying. “We were so afraid that we couldn’t stay there any longer, we left,” recalls Niru Maya.

All 127 families abandoned their homesteads in Maling. Some settled down in Besi Sahar or Pokhara, others went to Kathmandu and beyond to India and the Gulf to find work. None have returned.

Som Maya today lives with her family in a rented room in Besi Sahar, and worked as a cook to feed her two sons and two daughters. Her elder son dropped out in Grade 8 and went off to India to work, his younger brother followed him. Both are now in Saudi Arabia.

At the Lamjung office of the Peace Committee, there are only names of six individuals out of the 127 displaced families from Maling who have been given Rs 5,000 compensation. The current coordinator of the committee, Maoist member Mohan Hari Poudel, denies there are any displaced people in Maling, and maintains that no one can claim to be displaced by war anymore.

Parbati Tamang, is also displaced from her home in Maling (right), but never got any compensation, and lives off earnings sent by a brother who works abroad.

Parbati Tamang, is also displaced from her home in Maling, but never got any compensation, and lives off earnings sent by a brother who works abroad.

Former coordinator and ex-DDC chair Krishna Prasad Koirala, however, says it’s a shame that the displaced of Maling never got compensation from the state.  In fact, the Peace Committee doesn’t even have a record of how much aid it distributed and to whom. For example in 2007, there is a record of the local Peace Committee receiving Rs 2.7 million, but the cash books show that only Rs 7.85 million was disbursed.

After the ceasefire, the interim government decided to give families of those killed, tortured and displaced compensation.  Under this, the family of teacher Muktinath Adhikari who was executed by the Maoists in 2002, collected compensation for both his death and their displacement. Mohan Singh Ghimire, also from Lamjung, who was killed by the Maoists also got Rs 300,000 as death compensation and Rs 50,400 for being displaced.

Aside from high profile victims like these, or survivors with political connections, ordinary poor farmers who also suffered loss have never got any compensation.

Maya Nath Ghimire of Sribhanjyang was detained by the army and tortured, but he has no idea where to get the compensation he is entitled to. Bishnu Ghimire of Bhalayakharka put in an application at the District Administration in Besi Sahar, but he never heard back. Bishnu Pandey was abducted by the Maoists while in Grade 10 in his school in Bhalayakharka, then he was detained by the Army for being a suspected Maoist and beaten almost to death. He never got any money. Torture victim Chandrakant Poudel was detained by the Army, filed his application for compensation, but has got nothing.

Government records show only 15 people who claimed to be detained and tortured got Rs 25,000 each from the state. But while real torture victims have got nothing, there are questions about who these 15 are and whether some of them are genuine victims.

Yubaraj Shrestha in Lamjung

Read also:

Tortured past Naresh Newar 

Sharing sorrow to ease the pain  Juanita Malagon

Open wounds Mallika Aryal 

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