Dambar Krishna Shrestha in Myanglung
The ceasefire is two months old now, but Dambar Bahadur Katuwal's family has not dared return home to Sankranti bazar in Terathum. The family has been living in the district headquarters Myanglung for a year. The Maoist rebels still hold the three-storey family home whose head, Dambar Bahadur, is a retired Royal Nepali Army soldier and an adviser to the Nepali Congress (Democratic).
"I hoped that my six-member family would be able to return after the ceasefire, but now it turns out the rebels are using our house to conduct their roundtable meetings and cultural programs," says a frustrated Katuwal. Maoists tried to abduct him last year when he refused to recall his son, Birendra Katuwal, a soldier in the army to join the rebels. Katuwal came to Kathmandu, but found the cost of living too high and shifted to Myanglung. He was unable to go back even for the last rites of his father. "They threatened to kill me and I dared not go," he says.
Others have similar stories to share. Bhairab Chaulagain, former chairman of Oyakjung Village Development Committee has also been living in Myanglung for a year. He is a UML supporter and his ideological inclination automatically pitted him against the Maoists. He moved when the rebels threatened to abduct him after he helped organise a UML protest rally against the Maoists.
Point 17 of the code of conduct signed by the government and the Maoists says both parties will help create an environment for the internally displaced to return home, but the affected are not convinced about their safety. "I still feel threatened, I cannot even think about returning home yet," Chaulagain says.
A majority of elected members from 32 VDCs in Terathum and other political workers live in Myanglung, some have been here for two years. Ganga Maskey and Sriman Pitha Magar, VDC secretaries of Jaljale and Oyakjung, conduct their administrative duties from the district headquarters. They have little to return to because rebels destroyed most of the VDC buildings. Jirikhimti VDC secretary Rajendra Kumar Shrestha told us his office has been operating from two rented rooms at Myanglung.
The acting district president of Nepali Congress, Bhim Prasad Ispo and former policeman Moti Gurung are also refugees here. Gurung was forced to leave when he could not afford to shell out the Rs 50,000 that the Maoists demanded as a donation. "To our knowledge, only one family has been able to return home so far," says Hari Lochan Sharma, the chief district officer of Terhathum.