BARGADAWA-The vigilantes that started with the intention of fighting injustice at the hands of the Maoists, is now following their lead by torturing, looting and killing innocent civilians. Unarmed villagers are now forming groups to defend themselves against the gun-toting vigilantes led by the notorious Muna Khan. The vigilantes have subjected many villagers to interrogation, house search, extortion and even forced them to join their retaliation committee and buy arms from them.
On 21 March, committee members including Radhe Mukhiya Yadab and eight others beat up Rajendra Malla, a small trader, during the village market day at Rupaulia when they did not get the money demanded to buy alcohol. "They were drunk and armed when they beat me up with the butt of their guns," said Malla. They had been going around the marketplace shooting in the air and raising false alarm by shouting that the Maoists had come. More than a dozen people were injured while trying to escape, some were children, women and elderly citizens. The vigilantes forced 15-year-old girls Bimala Chaudhary and Parbati Chaudhary to take off their clothes. "There were about 20-25 of them and when we requested them not to mistreat the girls, they attacked and beat up five of us cow herders with their guns," recalled Bhimlal Dhakal. The vigilantes, supposedly fighting against the Maoists, have planted the seeds of a communal rift between the hill and tarai populace. Now they are targeting those wearing dhaka topis. Girija Prasad Basyal was victim to such mistreatment. He was told that there were "orders to kill anyone wearing dhaka topis."
On 23 March, a group of 300 villagers from Rupaulia took a delegation to the district administration office in Somani to punish the perpetrators and to request security. Despite assurance from Police Officer Ram Kumar Khanal to control the vigilantes, the violence is getting out of hand. On 27 March, the vigilantes mercilessly thrashed shopkeeper Keshab Raj Sharma for failing to pay the money demanded. Almost 60 of the vigilantes came and ransacked his house, plundered his belongings and beat him up badly. "They even took my wife's jewelleries. Even now they come everyday and threaten to kill us if we don't pay," said Sharma. The vigilantes beat up 82-year-old Saraswati Chapagain and broke her arm. Many villagers south of Nawalparasi have become prey to the vigilantes' atrocities. On 26 March, they forcefully amputated Somani's 40-year-old Ram Kishor Chamar's arm and made him eat it before shooting him in cold blood.
On 31 March, they beat up teachers Shambhu Prajapati and Satyadeb in the school compound and on the same day, thrashed dozens of villagers for protesting their activities. Now, the vigilantes have started to speak like the Maoists, justifying extortion. "Why should the public complain about helping those fighting for the people?" said Murari Pahalman, president of Nawalparasi Pratikar Samiti. There are over 150 youths involved in the committee, whose advisory team is led by Muna Khan. Almost all members carry guns and bullets. "We still don't have enough arms. The administration should aid us," said Bhagwan Chaudhary, president of the Somani Committee. The local administration still does not acknowledge the vigilante group walking armed in broad daylight but the people see them accompanied by the security force, also carrying guns. But Police Officer Sharma denies this saying, "We would have taken action against those carrying arms."