Nepali Times Asian Paints
Remembering not to forget



Since early morning Maoist party representatives and locals have been painting hammer and sickles and putting up welcome signs along the Dhading stretch of the Prithbi Highway. The women are readying vermillion and weaving garlands.

Salik Ram Jamarkattel who won for the Maoists in Dhading-3 arrives at Dharke around midday. He is followed by a truckload of supporters chanting victory slogans. His entourage moves fast as he stops to receive garlands and talk to the locals.

In nearby Thakre, Radha Subedi and her daughter Shrisha (pictured) have just come back from the fields. Radha's husband Navaraj Subedi was the UML VDC chairman when the Maoists took him away from his house in Dasain 2002. They shot him dead nearby. Radha and Shrisha are stunned by Jamarkattel's win and the Maoists' sweeping victory all over Nepal.

"We don't know what to think, have people forgiven the Maoists already for the years of violence? Are families who have lost someone ready to forget what they did?" asks Radha. It is still not clear why Navaraj Subedi was killed. Like hundreds of others killed by the Maoists all over Nepal, it could be personal grudge, they could have thought he was an informer, or it could have been mistaken identity.

Ruku Acharya who used to be a staunch UML supporter, this time she voted for the Maoists. The army came in the middle of the night and took Ruku's husband away five years ago. The family hasn't heard from him since, and doesn't know if he is dead or alive.

"I am so disappointed with the NC and UML and the governments they made. I went to the prime minister, to various home ministers and nothing happened, the Maoists have said they will find out," Ruku says.

"Our entire village voted for the Maoists because they liked my father," says Ruku's 19-year-old son, Rajiv.

Rajendra Pandey, UML representative from Dhading-3 who lost to Jamarkattel (25,075 to 14,580 votes) believes the YCL's terror tactics during the campaign brought about his defeat. From the day the UML filed nominations at the EC , UML cadre in Dhading started being threatened and assaulted, he says.

"They would call them and say that if they canvassed for the UML they would break their bones and make their wives widows," recalls Pandey. Many party workers were beaten up in March. The UML campaigned where it could but the YCL always attacked the meetings and rallies in Dhading had to be cancelled. Pandey's entourage was attacked. "How can the result of the election conducted in this manner be legitimate?" asks Pandey.

But local journalist Ramesh Acharya says the key to the Maoists' success was their ability to penetrate even the most remote parts of the district, ask people what their worries were and gain their trust.

"You could make the argument about intimidation if the Maoists had only won in remote areas, but they also won in Kathmandu and Lalitpur, the people voted for change," he says.

In Thakre, Shrisha and Radha wonder what the government run by the Maoists is going to look like. "I don't understand the Maoist ideology, because I have only seen them as agents of violence, but since they are in government I hope they understand that they have been given a great responsibility and Nepalis will throw them out too if they disappoint the people again."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)