Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
"I can’t be happy anymore."

For nine days the guns have been silent. Here in the capital, the auspicious melody of Dasai over Radio Nepal brings on the heartache for those unable to return to their villages for security reasons or those who lost their near and dear ones in the violence (see pic). About 10,000 people are now registered as Maoist victims in the Nepal Maoist Victim Association.

The widows, orphans and bereaved say festival time means nothing to them anymore since they are forced away from home, tormented by memories of relatives killed. Seventy-year old Komal Kumari of Ramechhap says Dasai carries no meaning anymore. "Everybody else has bought goats, new dresses and delicious food but what do we have? Nothing except sorrow. None of the ten days of Dasai will be a happy for us." She says Maoist rebels threatened to kill her if she did not ask her sons to go back to the village to join the rebels. Komal and her sons now live in the Valley.

Dharma Raj Neupane says he was the first civilian to be targeted by the Maoists six years ago in his home district of Achham. "Ever since then, I have stayed in Kathmandu and there has been no Dasai celebrations for me," he says. "My wife and children are far away from me. I don't have the opportunity to meet them and if I go home, the Maoist terrorists will kill me."

For Jamuna Rokka of Okhaldhunga, finding her husband is far more important than Dasai. He was a Nepali Congress worker who was abducted by the rebels almost three years ago. He has never returned home. "How can you celebrate Dasai or Tihar when your husband is missing? I just want the rebels to say whether he is dead or alive." The mother of two's other major concern is raising her children.

Jana Kumari Koirala fled her home in Gorkha because of continuous harassment by the rebels who killed her husband, a teacher, last year. "I could not stay back because it was very traumatic," she said. "I have lost my life partner, I cannot be happy whether it is Dasai or Tihar. I can never be happy anymore in this life."

When adults are so frustrated, one can only wonder about the psychological impact on children. Seven-year-old Usha Kumari of Ramechhap remembers how she had to run away from home at night because the rebels threatened her family. That was two years ago and Usha is unhappy in the city. "I don't enjoy it here at all," she says. "I remember our village, our cows, and I liked to play with them."

Ten-year-old Gaurab Koirala's father was murdered in Gorkha, and he is homesick for his village. "I know no one here. Every one treats us like strangers in Kathmandu. It wasn't like that at home. We used to have so much fun at Dasai."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)