Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
"We are not terrorists."


NARESH NEWAR


It was politics that nearly killed Ramesh Wada. He was abducted by Maoists in Ramechhap for being an NC supporter but escaped to Kathmandu leaving behind his fields and home.

Two years later, 60-year-old Wada is still living alone in Kathmandu in a rundown rented house. "Politics is the least of our concerns now, we just need the government's support and sympathy," he tells us, "is that too much to ask for?"

Over 25,000 families displaced by the Maoists are in Kathmandu asking the same question. If the government doesn't help them, who will? They set up the Maoist Victims' Association (MVA) five years ago but despite dramatic street sit-ins and setting up a 'refugee camp' at Tundikhel the authorities have failed to be moved by their plight. (See: 'What about us?' #244). MVA protests have been forcibly dispersed and members taken into custody.

Even the displaced whose association with political parties like the NC caused them to flee their home villages have not recieved support from the parties.

"First we were hounded by the Maoists, now we are hounded by the government," says Mahili Sunwar, a 35-year-old mother of five children who has been living in a rented house in the capital for the past year. She can't afford to send her children to school.

It's not just the government and political parties, even relief organisations haven't shown much interest in the plight of the Maoist victims. But after they set up their Tundikhel camp, took to the streets, blocking roads and sitting in outside the UN, media coverage picked up and the MVA has been able to galvanise attention.

On 6 June, nearly 150 MVA members living in the camps were detained (see pic). The government justifies its action by saying that demonstrations were held in prohibited areas but some MVA members say they are being targeted by the state because of their past political alignment.

"We are desperately looking for our friends, family members and our leaders. We don't know where the police took them," says MVA member Padma Raj Kandel. Padam Bahadur Sunwar, just shakes his head and says: "What will the government really gain by arresting poor and helpless victims? We aren't terrorists." Sunwar ran out of money and was living in a temple but now has been told to move on.

Many of the displaced families have brought their children with them and they aren't going to school. "There is a danger that they might become street children," says Bishnu Neupane. Others accuse the government of turning a humanitarian crisis into a political issue to wash their hands off it.


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


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