On 19 January, protestors in Lahan torched five buses carrying over 350 passengers. Most of them lost their luggage and did not have even a change of clothes. The town's hotels and guest houses were overflowing and at one point there were 20 people to a room. Sick people couldn't get to hospital, food was in short supply, shops remained shut. News was sporadic and people were desperate: far from home, cold, hungry, tired, and fearful of what could happen next.
Kumar Sah, a 29-year-old resident of Lahan, felt enough was enough. He defied curfew, crossed barricades, and put his own life at risk to help stranded travellers.
Sah mobilised his social welfare and human rights organisation, Jana Uthan Kendra, and got a group of young people to start helping travellers who were stranded. The group went to the Marwari Samaj Sewa and requested free food and shelter for the travellers, and then canvassed Lahan's Naya Bajar for funds for the sick who needed immediate medical help and to buy bus tickets for others. The Jana Uthan Kendra organised an ambulance to take a cardiac patient to Kathmandu and a week after the bus burning, Sah got 53 women and children airlifted to Kathmandu.
Through all this, Sah, who contributes to the Lahan-based Nawajagriti weekly, took part in protests. "We were agitating against the state's discrimination," he explains, "but the travellers were just caught in the middle, it was my duty to help them."
"Every Nepali has the right to travel and be safe, and I was only respecting that," he adds.
When asked if serving people during protests was difficult, Sah answered: "Asking for what is rightfully yours is never easy, but not to help those in need because you have to sacrifice a little is not humane."
Devraj Pokhrel in Lahan