Seven-year-old Bhabana was a hardworking third grade student. This year she won Rs 300 for topping her class. It was on the evening of 9 September, Bhabana was playing outside her home in Kalaun, 20km south of Patan, when a grenade killed her. Earlier that day four Maoists and their local commander, Saroj, were returning from Bhattedara and stopped near the ropeway terminal for some food and alcohol. By the time they reached Kalaun, Dilip, the bomb specialist, was roaring drunk. They stopped for lunch at Baburam Maharjan's shop where Dilip decided to teach his junior comrades how to use a grenade. He pulled the pin and threw the grenade out of the shop. The shopkeeper was showered with shrapnel but Bhabana, who was running towards her mother, was cut to pieces.
In the ensuing confusion, Dilip escaped. Although he got away, the villagers managed to detain his two comrades, Saroj and Prabin. By the time the local Maoist administrator Bhim Dwoj arrived, more than 150 villagers had gathered. Dwoj dismissed the incident as trivial. Incensed villagers tied up the Maoists and beat them up. They were so angry that they even turned on bystanders who urged restraint.
Dwoj left after saying he would bring Dilip along with local Maoist government chief Ram Kumar Syangtang alias 'Bikash' and the district secretary. The people released the Maoists after they signed a paper that acknowledged their error. It read: "An accident occurred due to our technical error. We shall give compensation. We shall return to help the family in the cremation."
But the next day the Maoists returned, threatening to kill one by one those who had spoken against them. That same night Rajkumar Darlami, his father and brothers from Kalaun were abducted. Rajkumar managed to escape, but the whereabouts of his father and brothers is not known.
Many Bhabanas are dying every day in Nepal. If her death on the outskirts of the city received so little media attention, we can only imagine what atrocities are going unreported every day. Instead of punishing their activists responsible for the death of a young child, the Maoists returned to her village to abduct and threaten the people who asked for justice. Their impunity will only make people more supportive of the government tagging the Maoists as terrorists. Prachandas and Baburams have to realise that the fathers of all Bhabanas will be living in this country for a long time yet.