Saptari villagers and the Maoists seem to have a common enemy: dacoits who roam the district. A fortnight ago, seven notorious robbers were caught looting a household in Belhi village. They were taken to a 'peoples court' where they were passed the sentence: death by lynching. The order was carried out in public and their bodies dumped on the road, where they lay rotting for three days (see pics). Two more robbers were captured and hanged on 3 March at Balan river, near the Nepal-India border.
Robberies have been on the rise, with around 100 households looted in the past month. The Maoists' severe measures came as a surprise, but villagers are still happy that such action will deter other looters. "Now the looting will stop," says a villager, who hopes that they won't have to deal with the constant robbery.
Even so, the looters are still finding it easy to raid the villages. In several places both security forces and Maoist militants are absent, leaving villagers defenseless against the heavy arms and weapons the dacoits carry. The Maoists have prohibited the villagers from keeping guns at home, and the police are of no help either. They do not make any inspections in the villages vulnerable to constant robbery. Most of the villages targeted by the robbers from across the border are in Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Janakpur, Sarlahi and Bara districts. (Manoj Shrestha in Rajbiraj)