The then underground Maoist party had just launched its armed struggle in February 1996, and Rukum-based primary school teacher Narjit Basnet was one of the first casualties. The rest of Nepal wasn’t even aware a war had started.
Basnet was returning home one evening when he encountered a group of Maoists. They hacked him with khukuris, chopped off his left arm below the elbow and left him for dead by a river. He had been mistaken for his brother who was a Nepali Congress member. Luckily Narjit was rescued, and despite the heavy loss of blood, survived. While he was recuperating in a hospital, his brother was hunted down and killed anyway.
We tracked down Narjit Basnet last week. He is still teaching (above) at the same school where the famous photograph of him in class was taken 20 years ago (pic). Balancing a text book on his left elbow while teaching a classroom, he is still waiting for government compensation that hasn’t reached this remote town. The attackers never had to answer for their crime, instead they walk around freely in Musikot. Narjit Basnet has not pursued them because he doesn’t expect any justice from an uncaring state.
The Saraswati Primary School in Musikot has expanded and will soon house 10+2. Twenty years ago, the classroom had a mud floor, dilapidated furniture and a boarded up window. Today, the students have uniforms with ties, the rooms are brighter and older students no longer have to go to Surkhet for higher education.
Rukum is no longer at war, Nepal has transitioned from monarchy to republic, but Narjit Basnet is exactly where he was two decades ago.
Narjit Sir, Prabir Dadel
The tears never stop, Om Astha Rai
Frontline teachers, Naresh Newar
We won’t forget, Kunda Dixit
The conflict's first victim, Dhanbir Dahal
20/10 anniversary, Om Astha Rai