Bhakta Bahadur Regmi can't bear to look at his two children and their grievous burn injuries sustained during a firebomb attack on their bus by suspected Maoists on 4 October on Lakhanti Bridge, 70 kms from Simara.
"At least they are alive," is all Bhakta Bahadur can say. But he is heartbroken when he remembers how his wife, Anju, died trying to save their children as the bus caught fire. They were the last ones among the 55 passengers to escape after the Maoists threw petrol bombs at the speeding bus. The two others who died in the attack that preceded the three-day Maoist bandh were the bus conductor and an employee of Music Nepal
We ask four-year-old Rabina who hurt her. "Maobadi," she says simply. Rabina looks at her burnt fingers and touches her stomach which is covered in burn tissue. Her six year old brother Rabin has burns all over his face, a gash on his head and a deep cut on his leg. The two haven't yet been told that their mother is dead.
Anju Regmi was seven months pregnant. she was rushed to Malangwa hospital, where her baby was still born. she died three days later of trauma and burns.
Bipin Shah was on the same bus travelling with his family. He says the driver panicked and started speeding when he saw a group of men by the side of the road with beer bottles filled with petrol. But the attackers threw the bottles through the window-shield and the the bus caught fire from the front. Because of the speed of the bus, the interior quickly caught fire. the driver jumped out, and the bus fell into a ditch and overturned.
Bipin Shah remembers clambering out of a broken window. His hands and face are severely burnt, and his brother and wife are also badly burnt in the hands and face. Shah was going home for Tihar and was carrying Rs80,000 in savings, all of which he lost. Three other Sarlahi residents were returning home after three years working in Saudi Arabia, and they lost up to Rs 300,000 each in hard-earned savings which they were taking home to their families.
It has been over a month now. But for the residents of Simara who visit the Regmis, the scars on the children is a picture of our wounded nation. Even strangers look moist-eyed at Rabin and Rabina and they ask: "Why the children?"
It was International Children's Day last week when Bhakta Bahadur brought his children out of hospital in Birganj. The Nepali people have been numbed by news of violence over the past years, but the sight of the burn injuries on the children shocked and enraged onlookers outside the hospital. "How can Nepalis do this to fellow Nepalis?" they asked. Near Lakhanti Bridge from where the suspected Maoists fled, Bhakta Bahadur says, local villagers know the attackers, but are terrorised into keeping quiet of their whereabouts.
"The scabs are still thick on their faces. I really don't know what to do," says Bhakta Bahadur who is now worried about further medial care. He is a forest guard with the District Forest Office here and he gets a little help from his friends, but it is not enough. He is far away from his home in Hetauda. "Their treatment costs a lot of money and nobody I know can afford to help," he told us. The children need to go to a hospital in Kathmandu for specialised medical attention. He has given up expecting anything from the government.
And Bhakta Bahadur has to take care of himself as well. Having lost his wife is a deep personal tragedy, but now he has the future of his children to worry about. He can't even afford to grieve.
HELP RABINA AND RABIN
If you would like to contribute to the medical treatment and rehabilitation care of Rabina and Rabin Regmi, please send cheque to: Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) GPO Box 2726 Kathmandu, Nepal. If you want to make a direct bank transfer, please use INSEC's account at Nepal Arab Bank Ltd savings account number: 0810010016901 with an email to [email protected] The names of donors will be published end of December when the collection is handed over to the children's father, Bhakta Bahadur Regmi.