29 Dec 2017 - 4 jan 2018 #890

To forget or not to forget

Can new provincial governments address hardships of war victims?
Shreejana Shrestha in Kanchanpur

WAR WIDOW: Pavitra Chaudhari's husband was killed during the conflict, and although she got compensation, she says the wounds are still fresh and she can never forget what happened. She hopes the new provincial government will address her concerns.

Ram Lal Dangora lost his mother and elder brother 15 years ago during the conflict. As a child he carried out the funeral ritual of his mother, but there was no cremation for his brother who was never found.

“I may have carried out the final rites for my brother if we had got justice for his death, but it never came," said Dangora, now 27, who lives in Suklaphanta in the western Tarai.

He did not vote in any of the elections this year because he says he has lost faith in politics and all political parties. He reckons nothing can compensate for what he went through.

Local Maoist guerrillas charged his mother with spying for the Army and butchered her in their front courtyard. His brother was disappeared.

However, Dangora’s wife Pashupati Chaudhari holds a different view. She voted for the same political party responsible for the murder of her mother-in-law and brother-in-law.

Chaudhari says: “We cannot forget the pain of losing family members. But I voted for the Maoists thinking that they will change and feel guilty for their deeds and do something for victims like us.”

When asked about the family’s expectation from the new provincial government, she replied: “We need to have jobs and our children need good education to feel the existence of government here.”

Chandra Kadayat was just 19 and had two children, one a toddler, when she lost her husband in 2002. A group of Maoists dragged her husband out of the house in Bhimdutta municipality, took him to a nearby river and killed him.

Her life has been turned upside down since then. She did not vote for the Maoists in the last elections, but she is ready to accept a Province 7 government led by the Left Alliance of which the Maoists are a part.

Almost 16 years after losing her husband, she is hopeful that the new government will finally provide some relief for her family. She says Maoists are already in the government, so there is no alternative but to accept them.

“It is not possible to forget that the Maoists killed my husband and destroyed my happy family,” she says, “my only expectation is free education for my children and guaranteed jobs for them to lessen the pain”

Ram Lal Dangora whose mother and brother were killed during the conflict, sits with his wife in the courtyard where it happened 15 years ago. Ram Lal did not vote in the last elections because he saw no point.
Pavitra Chaudhari was also widowed during the insurgency. She got Rs 1,000,000 compensation from the government, but the pain of bereavement never subsided.

“There is not a single day that I don’t miss my husband. It is impossible to forget him,” says Chaudhari also of Sukhlaphanta municipality.

Like many other families who suffered during the war, she also wishes that her children have free education and job opportunities after the formation of the new government in Province 7.

Provinces 6 and Province 7 have one of the most war affected districts, with Banke and Bardiya also having the highest number of people disappeared by the security forces. Both provincial governments here are likely to be led by the Maoists.

Wartime victims in these provinces don’t have much hope that they will get truth and justice: they just want to be compensated so their lives will be easier, their children get free education and jobs so they do not have to migrate.

Komal Niranjan Bhat of the human rights group INSEC Kanchapur told us: “We have two national bodies to sort out the issue of transitional justice. The provincial government should take it up for faster justice delivery and relief to the victims.”

A member of the Province 7 assembly Tara Lama Tamang is doubtful whether the upcoming provincial government can actually focus on development.

“I am worried that the provincial assembly will not be able to rise above the administrative matters and pay for its cost given its size,” says Tamang of UML who was elected from Constituency 1 (A) in Kanchanpur.

The provincial assembly in Province 7 will have 53 members, 32 are directly elected and 21 from the PR list. Another assembly member Jhapat Bohara from Achham says: "The foremost task of the provincial government will be to provide justice to wartime victims by providing jobs for conflict widows and free education for their children. We also need to address jobs and medical treatment."

However, given that the UML shares power with the Maoists in most provinces of the far-west it is not likely that conflict victims and their families will receive truth, justice and compensation any time soon.

Read also:

'Pokhara gets ready', Yuvaraj Shrestha

'Thinking and acting locally', Om Astha Rai

The rise of the red

The promised land, Editorial

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