Nepali Times
War wounds


BEDRIDDEN: A bullet wound from ten years ago has left Til Bahadur Gurung paralysed from the waist down.
For Til Bahadur Gurung, the morning of 22 November 1998 started like any other. But it was not to be an ordinary day, as at 7AM, a group of three Maoists came to his shop to buy handkerchiefs and somehow ended up firing bullets at him. From that day on, Gurung's life has been anything but the same. Although he ran for his life, a bullet pierced his spine and left his lower body paralysed.

Today, Til Bahadur lives with his family in a rented room in Samakhusi. The native of Gorkha is a good-looking middle-aged man, but the paralysis has broken his spirit. Between cries of pain he says, "I am a living corpse. Sometimes I think it would have been easier on my family if I had died then. Now I constantly need someone to take care of me and I can do nothing but sit and cry in this room."

The government did foot his medical expenses for the first two-three years but his treatment is far from over. His old wounds resurface and he needs to go to the hospital at least twice every month. Although 10 years have passed since the incident, his troubles are ongoing. With no income of his own, he relies entirely on his son's earnings to take care of his family.

The government has been the major provider of relief for those wounded in the war. "The wounded are the liability of the government. The government has provisions to cover the first time treatment of all those wounded. It has also worked on a relief package for those disabled due to the conflict," joint secretary of the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction, Shyam Sundar Sharma told Nepali Times.

At the Relief and Rehabilitation Unit, hordes of affected people, including the war wounded, come everyday in hope of some assistance. Lal Bahadur Rokka, 75, has come all the way from Okhaldhunga for the third time to find out whether he will receive the money that he spent on his treatment from his own pocket three years ago.

When the Maoists beat him up after a case was filed against him in the Maoists' people's court, his urinary bladder burst open. "Then I did not ask for any help because people said that the Maoists would take away half of any financial aid. Instead I sold a plot of land and took a loan for my treatment," says Rokka. "I submitted an application for reimbursement of Rs 41,700 ten months ago so that I can repay my loan, but coming here to try and get the money has cost me another Rs 9,000."

Rokka is not the only one who is still waiting. His fellow villager Shyam Babu Poudel who had his jaw broken by the Maoists is still in the village. The Relief and Rehabilitation Unit took over the treatment package for the wounded last year but this guideline was withdrawn only a month later. According to a new guideline, which has been sent to the cabinet for revision, the treatment of the wounded will now come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Population.

For the last nine months the Relief and Rehabilitation Unit has just been collecting applications from those who need relief. Although some have been afforded some help, most of them have had to return home empty-handed. Until the cabinet approves the new guideline their situation remains unclear, and even after that it is likely to be a long time until the wounded can get the provision they need.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)