Khagendra Singh Dhami still returns to his ancestral village every year for Dasain to cut a goat and enjoy a meal of meat. But he hardly manages two meals on a daily basis. Prem Raja Joshi has celebrated eight Dasains in a rented room. This Dasain might not be any different, and he has not been able to manage food for his family.
Khagendra and Prem Raj are among the thousands of Nepali victims of the Maoist land seizure drive. NC cadre Khagendra is from Siddheswar-4 of Baitadi. In 2001, the Maoists set his house on fire and labelled him a feudal element. They dispossessed him of all his property and kicked him out of the village just before Dasain. His family has been living in a hut in Attariya, Kailali ever since. His 80-year-old father Nain Singh says, "Never had I thought my hard-earned savings might turn out to be a bane for me, that too at this age."
Prem Raj's family was chased out of their village in Khailad-4, Kailali on a similar charge. They now live in Kalakheti. "I was forced to take my daughter out of school as I was unable to buy books for her. How can I celebrate Dasain?" he says.
Bam Bahadur Oli, too, was displaced from his village a day ahead of Dasain, nine years ago. The Maoists demanded he donate money to them rather than spend on traditional festivals. Oli now lives in a squatters' camp in Attariya. His children go around the village looking for jobs instead of going to school. He had bought some land from savings made working as a security guard in India, but he says, "My hard-earned money caused me trouble instead."
The Maoists have not spared those already deprived either. Krishna Kumari Lamichhane owned just three ropanis (1,000 square metres) of land in Pawera-1; Gore Kami and Janga Bahadur Sunar had seven ropanis (2,333 square metres) together; and Moti Ram Chaudhari owned 1.5 ropanis (500 square metres). The Maoists captured all their land. However, Maoists Lekharaj Bhatta and Khagraj Bhatta own 30 ropanis (1 hectare) of land each but they have been left unmolested.
Most seized land has been distributed to Maoist supporters, squatters and freed Kamaiya, and some of the land has been given on lease. While there is no exact record of captured land in Kailali, the District Administration Office estimates that 3,750 ropanis (125 hectares) of land belonging to 237 households was captured during the insurgency, and that about 5,000 households live on this land in Kailali today.