Nepali Times
Wounded in action


Eight-year-old Bed Raj Timilsina ran out of his family's home in the village of Binayak in Accham when he heard the sound of the helicopter.

He headed to the school where there was a Maoist meeting going on. Suddenly, the ground around him erupted in explosions of dust. The helicopter had opened fire with its pod-mounted guns and Bed Raj got two shells in his legs.

Nara Bahadur Khadayat lives near the school, and his 11-year-old son, Netra Bahadur, also ran out when he heard the helicopter. He got a direct hit to the chest. Nara Bahadur weeps inconsolably remembering that day four months ago, the wounds of bereavement still fresh in his heart: "I had spoken to my son half an hour before, and I found him dead in a pool of blood."

Nara Bahadur Sodari is from Kalagaun and saw puffs of smoke from the helicopter and bullets hitting the houses and the ground. He saw two of his friends die in front of his eyes.

Six people were killed and dozens injured on 12 April in the aerial attack on the Maoist meeting at the Binayak school ground. The Maoists used the incident to highlight the army's indiscriminate firing, while downplaying the fact that they had organised a meeting in the school. Although none of the Maoists at that meeting were armed, many villagers say they were pressured to attend. Farmers here have learnt to do what the local Maoists tell them to, and know what happens to those who don't.

Bed Raj's father, Tika Ram Timilsina doesn't even know he is eligible for government compensation for his son's treatment. He has spent Rs 130,000 taking his son to Nepalganj for treatment. "I sold my farm, I sold my buffaloes, I sold my wife's ornaments and I am still Rs 55,000 in debt," Tika Ram tells us. Netra Bahadur's father, Nara Bahadur hasn't received any compensation for his son's death. He knows it was an army helicopter that killed his son, but he doesn't even know where to start asking.

On 21 July, the Maoists had a much larger meeting than the one in April in the same school ground. This time they were heavily armed. A helicopter appeared again, circled thrice and, on the third turn, started firing. Urmila Debi Neupane and her friends screamed and started running for cover. The army says it was firing to warn the Maoists, and was careful not to repeat the mistake it made in April (See 'Gun men', #207). The Maoist military commander in Binayak boasted that the army was scared away by their long-range weapons, which could have shot down the helicopter if it came within range.

For Urmila Debi, it doesn't matter who scared whom away. She just remembers the sight of one of the participants at the gathering in the school in April losing grasp of her six-month-old son as she ran for cover. The baby fell in the dust and was hurt. She shakes her head: "What bad luck this village has, all they do is shoot at us."

More Photos frmo Achham

Village women, some nursing babies, were made to attend the meeting at Binayak announcing the Maoist 'unified command' on 12 July.

A woman cleaning her pots watches the newly-formed village militia drill with mock wooden rifles at the school ground.

Urmila Debi Neupane lives near the school and witnessed both helicopter attacks.

Nara Bahadur Khadayat grieves for his 11-year-old son, Netra Bahadur, who was killed in the air raid in April.

Nara Bahadur Sodari and his friends, who saw friends killed in the helicopter attack in April.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)