NOT MISSING: Asta Raj Bajracharya, one of the people on the OHCHR 2003 list of Mssing Persons, at his home in Patan.
On 28 August 2003, Asta Raj Bajracharya, a member of Maoist-affiliated Newa Mukti Morcha, was detained by the Army. He was kept at the infamous Bhairabnath Battalion base in Kathmandu for two months before being moved to the Rajdal Battalion in Jawalakhel, where he spent another five months in detention. He was released after that.
But, even so, the coppersmith from Patan was included in the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 2003 list of Missing Persons as ‘Disappeared #5’.
“I asked them why my name was included when I am alive and free, and the UN staff were shocked,” says Bajracharya recalling his visit to OHCHR in Chhauni when the list came out. Scared that the Army would come for him, the OHCHR sheltered him in the Baluwatar house of a senior British diplomat named ‘John’.
For Bajracharya, the time spent in hiding proved to be almost as difficult as the Army detention. He was allowed only one visitor. “Although the kitchen was fully stocked, I couldn’t cook a meal because I didn’t know how to use the appliances there,” he recalls. “I asked OHCHR to take me away because I couldn’t eat or sleep.”
But the UN told him to stay put. They offered to send him abroad, but he refused saying he did not want to abandon his party. A case was filed at the Nepal Bar Association (NBA) on his behalf, and after nine days in hiding, he was taken by the OHCHR and NBA to the Rajdal Barracks. Following a meeting with an Army major, he was assured that he would be left alone and allowed to go home. “The OHCHR knew they had made a mistake,” Bajracharya recalls.
Three others among the 49 people listed as ‘disappeared’ by the OHCHR in 2003 were later found to be safe. Bal Krishna Shrestha of Lamjung is abroad while Nirmala Bhandari and Janak Kunwar of Nuwakot were living at home.
While at Bhairabnath, Bajracharya’s hands and feet were tied, and he was physically and mentally tortured. “They often put us in trucks and told us they were taking us away for execution, and they told us they’d also kill our families,” he recalls.
At Rajdal Barracks, Bajracharya and other prisoners were treated slightly better before they were released. However, his wife Nishova remembers that he had a thick beard and was just a skeleton when he came home. “He didn’t look human at all,” she remembers.
Bajracharya is no longer associated with any of the five factions of the Maoist party, and says although he gets phone calls to rejoin, he feels let down by a party that had promised a better future for members like him. He is especially outraged by the party executing his comrade, Nawaraj BK, on trumped up charges. Bajracharya’s anger runs so deep that he actively campaigned against his own party in the 2013 elections.
“The party murdered my friend, Nawaraj BK, accusing him of financial irregularities. Shouldn’t the same be done to the Maoist leaders? From where did Prachanda get all the money to live like a king?” he asks.
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