Nepali Times Asian Paints
Review
No illusions anymore



You get hit by statistics all the time in post-conflict Nepal: 16,000 killed in ten years, 1,387 disappeared, 19,602 ex-Maoists officially in camps, 3,000 not in camps anymore and more than 6,500 opting for integration.

Then there are the 12,648 Maoist fighters who were disqualified by UNMIN because they were either not fighters at all, did not appear for verification or were below 18 when they joined the Maoist Army. Of these, 2,973 were minors.

After a while, these numbing numbers don't mean anything . Yet by following one former Maoist guerrilla from the time he got 'disqualified' by UNMIN to the present, film maker Subina Shrestha has brought out the sacrifice, pain and loss to an international audience. Shrestha's documentary, 'The Disillusioned Soldier', was aired on Al Jazeera this weekend and humanises the war like no other recent television report.

Chandra Bhakta Shrestha was just 15 when he joined the Maoists in his native Gorkha. His sister was among a group of female guerrillas captured by state security, raped and killed. Chandra left his simple farmer parents, and became a Maoist 'whole timer' taking part in the battle of Syangja and the ambush at Krishna Bhir in 2005, losing some close comrades.

The documentary traces Chandra's life in the Shaktikhor Camp after the war, his involvement in the cultural trope in which he was a flutist, how he met his wife-to-be Rupa. In one poignant scene, Chandra is leaving the camp in January 2010 after being 'disqualified' and bids a camera shy goodbye to his pregnant wife.

Chandra signs up for a UN-sponsored skill training and learns to repair mobile phones, and the return home to his scenic village below Himalchuli feels a bit like a boy coming home from boarding school. His favourite goat doesn't recognise him, he fixes things around the house. Soon, his wife and daughter join him.

Chandra's mother recalls how during the war, her smiling son often came to her in her dream to say he was all right. But Chandra himself had nightmares of the battles he fought in. "We were confident that our vision of a new Nepal would come true, it is very disappointing that our own party abandoned us," Chandra says wistfully to the camera.

Chandra soon has to return to the city (he has joined the YCL) but gets more and more disillusioned that his party has gone 'off track', and of sitting around doing nothing. His life now revolves around his family.

He says: "We wanted to build the country. But I feel I haven't even been able to help my family, how can I help my country?"

Kunda Dixit

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MP6nBDqeWuU



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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