Nepali Times
"The last thing we expected in Nepal"


At 10:30 AM on Wednesday 42-year-old Nisar Uddin and his friends in Naya Bajar were so upset by news of the brutal slaughter of Nepalis in Iraq that they began preparing a statement condemning it.

Just then, they heard the roar of an approaching mob. On the street below people were running house to house, shouting anti-Muslim slogans and banging on their main door. The family rushed up to the first floor balcony and screamed for help. Nisar's Hindu and Buddhist neighbors helped throw blankets, mattresses and pillows into the courtyard below their house. One by one, family members jumped the 7m to the ground. Nisar wrapped his two sons, aged three and five, and threw them off the balcony, their fall cushioned by the mattresses below.

They escaped in the nick of time. For one-and-a-half hours the mob vandalised their house, burnt their car and destroyed almost everything they owned. They looted jewelery and about Rs 200,000 in cash. "If we had not escaped they would have definitely killed us that day," recalls Nisar's 21-year old daughter, who studies in Dubai and was home on holiday. "We have never experienced such horror."

There are many similiar tragic stories and close escapes. But there are also many heart-warming instances where non-Muslim Nepalis prevented mobs from burning Muslim houses and rescued their neighbours.
In Battis Putali, Mohamad Salim and his family cowered in the bathroom for five hours as the mob completely destroyed their house and made off with Rs 700,000. "They weren't religious fanatics, they were just looters and gangsters" a Nepali muslim told us. "This is the last thing we expected in Nepal."

At Raqi Bajar in Indra Chowk, some Newari-speaking Muslims, whose ancestors came to Nepal more than 300 years ago are so traumatised by 1 September that they refused tell us what happened. "What is the use of talking about it now? Whatever happened is in the past. We just pray this doesn't happen again" a 50-year-old Nepali Muslim told us in Newari.

His neighbours, however, are more than willing to talk and say the only way to heal the new communal rift in society is to bring the crime out in the open. "The saddest part for us was the burning of the Koran. We didn't really care about the money looted and houses burnt," says Jubir Ahmed, who lost everything in his small eatery, where most customers are labourers and street vendors. The mob burnt all his tables and chairs. They also looted all his savings from the past month. Jubir tells us in fluent Newari, "I don't know where to find money to start my shop all over again, but I'm more worried about my children."

Five days after the orgy of violence, Matim Baks is still sifting through the ashes that used to be his watch repair shop in Dilli Bajar. "I'm a poor man and I want to tell them in person that I had nothing to do with the terrorists who killed my fellow Nepalis. They were also my brothers," says Matim, wiping away a tear with his scarf. His main worry now is how to pay back the Rs 70,000 worth of watches belonging to his customers that were destroyed by the vandals.

Down the road in Bagh Bajar, Tabassum Ansari and her children hid upstairs in a room while her kurta shop was being ransacked and looted. She kept praying and crying to drown out the noises of hatred and destruction from below. It went on for an hour, her entire stock of kurtas and pashminas were burnt, mirrors, furniture and shelves were broken. The mob looted the Rs 200,000she had in a clay pot to pay her dues and rent. Tabassum has no hope she will ever be compensated, instead some of her customers have stopped by demanding compensation for their clothes that were destroyed.

"Moral support from our Hindu neighbours is the only reason we have hope for a better future," says 40-year-old Khursid Alam, who owns a meat shop near Dharara and recounts how many non-Muslims in his community came to their rescue. But Alam still shivers with fear when he recalls the slogans he heard the mob chanting that day. "They were shouting 'kill Muslims, kill Muslims'. I have nightmares at night," Khursid says. He hid on the roof of his meat shop the whole of Wednesday until long after the curfew went into effect.

"Let no innocent Nepali suffer like we did that day," says Farukh Ajam, whose tailoring shop in Bagh Bajar is still littered with broken glass and all that remains of his shop are broken shelves. "If the government won't help us, then we might end up on the street," he says.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)