Nepali Times Asian Paints
Without a trace


Those who were disappeared during the 'people's war' were the direct victims but the families they leave behind are also victims. Their relatives are still unaccounted for, and now they have to endure the agonising uncertainty of whether or not they are dead or alive.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nepal this week released the report Families of Missing Persons in Nepal: A Study of Their Needs. It emphasises the needs, rather than rights, of the families. The study is based on interviews and discussions in 10 districts, accounting for 43 per cent of the missing persons in Nepal. For most families the right to truth, justice and reparation are not as important as survival and knowing what happened to their loved ones.

They talk about their daily struggle for livelihood, lack of jobs and money. They still don't want to believe their loved ones are dead. Although last rites can be performed in the absence of a body in our culture, many families refuse to do so. Wives of the disappeared face discrimination and ostracisation by their family members and live in terrible conditions.

Although justice is not a priority, families want those responsible for the disappearance of their relatives to be prosecuted and they reject amnesty outright. They believe that the trials should be accessible to victims and should be held in their local area. Most families think reparation and compensation must await truth. However, they do demand interim relief and to have the missing acknowledged as martyrs and memorials built if and when the truth of their fate is known.

Yasodha Sharma
of Baglung is the wife of Surya Prasad Shrama, 35, who was taken by Nepal Army in January 2002. "I have been dying every day since my husband was taken away seven years ago. First tell me who gave the orders to take my husband away. Tell my three children why their father is not coming home so they don't wait for him anymore. If he is dead tell us how he was killed and give me the names of those who ordered his prosecution. Give me his dead body and then only come and talk about reparations."

Ram Kumar Bhandari of Lamjung is the son of Tej Bahadur Bhandari who was 55 when he went missing in December 2001. "The government is trying to pass the disappearance bill through ordinance. Why weren't we consulted? As families of the victims, don't we have a big stake in the process? They are just not ready to face us and discuss why innocent people were taken, which is why they are trying to rush the process."

Jai Kishore Labh
of Dhanusha is the father of Sanjiv Karna, 23, who went missing in October 2003. "I dream at night that my son is back and when I wake up he is not there. Loss of a son means loss of pension. If a person kills another they are severely punished. Our laws even have provisions to punish those who are involved in petty crime. So why are the laws silent when a person is involved in the disappearance of another?"

Prem Neupane
of Gorkha is the brother of Dipak Neupane, 30, who was disappeared in February 2004 in Kaski. "Only the families of those who went missing know what it is like to live in the uncertainty of whether or not their loved ones are dead or alive. Give me his corpse if he is dead or tell me where he is if he is alive."

Ram Ujagir Chaudhari
of Kapilbastu is the brother of Hari Ram Chaudhari, 27, who was disappeared in October 2003. "Any news of my brother makes the family alive but we are met with disappointment again and again. My family dies every day. We haven't performed his last rites and we are stigmatised by society. Who is going to restore our social prestige? Who is going to educate my brother's kids? Who is going to look after us?" l

See also:
The long, long wait', # 409
'How can we forget?' # 389

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)