Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
Driven away

More than 100 families living on the west bank of the Saptakosi have been forced to leave their homes because of atrocities by the madhesi Tarai Tigers. This is supposedly the first time such a large number of families have been displaced from the same village at the same time.

When the violence began to worsen in the village, the people kept quiet for nearly nine months. Those who suffered say they did not file any case against the group because they were threatened by members of the Tarai Tigers. Those displaced have taken refuge in the homes of relatives in Urlabari and Pathari, in Damak and Birtamod, and in Dharan. There are also 19 families now living in temporary camps on the banks of the Kosi in Khasre in Sunsari district.

Those residents of Haripur of pahadi origin were forced to leave their land and food and live like refugees in their own country because of the acts of groups such as the Tarai Tigers and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, claims Kulbahadur Limbu, one of the displaced. Not only did those violent groups take away their material possessions, they also created an insecure environment for the girls and women of the village. Of the 556 families of both pahadi and madhesi origin residing in Haripur, about 150 have been driven out.

Under the leadership of the self-proclaimed local commander of the Tarai Tigers, armed Indian men named Sitaram Yadav, Suresh Yadav, Sajim Miya and Ram Mandal told the pahadi residents to leave. When the villagers refused, the men kidnapped and killed Tek Bahadur Kunwar in the name of Tarai Andolan. They shot Thapa on 30 July, claiming that he had spied on them. Before this incident, the group had kidnapped and killed Tanahang Limbu, whose body was found near the Indian border.

The armed members of Tarai Tigers have been threatening to kill those who stay in the village. They asked for more than Rs 10,000 in 'donations' and released cattle in the fields. They also misbehaved with the girls in the village which made living there not only insecure but also intolerable. Some residents had to sleep in the jungle for more than five months. When they could stand it no longer, they left the village.

However, neither the political parties nor the human rights team have looked into the situation. Even the police have chosen to remain silent on the issue. The villagers asked the Sunsari District Administration to provide peace and security, but their requests have been ignored, says one of the displaced, Dhanasingh Magar.

Of the 150 families displaced, 19 received clothes, utensils and food from different organisations on 22 November. The families have asked the authorities to help with their children's studies. They have also asked to be treated as internal refugees since they cannot return to their villages. They claim that if they were given jobs, they could raise their children.

CPN Maoists, who have been helping the displaced families, have constructed temporary camps in unoccupied grounds in Barahachetra, near the homes of people of pahadi origin. The families are still too scared to talk to the media as their new home is only 10km from Haripur.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)