Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Tortured by both sides

Suchana Oli is an eighth grader of Banki in Dang district. Her tale of torture and detention shows that there is little difference between the brutality of the Maoists and the security forces.

Suchana's father was a policeman who was killed by the Maoists. Her mother died when she was little. She lived with her stepmother who was a rebel sympathiser and allowed the Maoists to come to her house, eat and stay overnight regularly. Last summer, a group of Maoists led by a local girl named Bihani came at night and took Suchana with them. Earlier, they used to come to Suchana's school and abduct children above grade six so this wasn't new to her. Suchana walked for six hours to a place called Panchakule and had to listen to their instructions. Two-and-half months later Suchana managed to escape from Maoist clutches at midnight. She walked all night fording rivers and across forests back to her home. Her stepmother refused to let her enter the house but Suchana forced herself in.

The next morning the Maoists came to the house and Suchana's stepmother told them she had returned. They interrogated her and Bihani took her knife out and cut off one of Suchana's right toes. She writhed in pain and bled profusely but before they left the Maoists warned that no one was to give Suchana medical treatment. Her sister finally came and took her to a health post. Her foot had been infected but despite that Suchana enrolled in grade nine of the local school. She covered her swollen foot in a plastic bag to cross a stream.

Barely three weeks after she started classes, six Maoists came, locked the school up and told the students to follow them. Most refused but 10 children were blindfolded and forced to walk. When the blindfolds were removed Suchana found herself back in Panchakule. They were then sent to Deukhuri and Bardiya to extort money. Suchana's group was assigned to travel to Kathmandu for three months and had to walk nearly all the way through jungles, coming to the highways only to cross bridges.

They were led by a comrade named Tarak and a woman named Pabitra. One night, she pretended to go to a toilet and escaped. But there was nowhere to go in Kathmandu, so she went to a police station and surrendered. The police took her to Hanuman Dhoka where they interrogated her but didn't believe her answers.

What the police did to her in Suchana's own words: "They blindfolded me and asked questions, I kept answering. Someone held my hand and another slapped me in the face, in the darkness I saw sparks flying. But I didn't cry. He asked me: 'Who sent you?' I said I couldn't go anywhere that is why I surrendered, if you don't believe me, go ahead and kill me. After that they slapped me again on both cheeks and boxed my ear.

They used dirty words. Next morning they said you are hiding something, we'll electrocute you. I was alone, and there were these two men interrogating me. They tried to take my T-shirt and trousers off. The next day six people took me in a van, they said it was Janai Purnima. They took me to the police headquarters. One of them whipped me in the thigh with his belt while another held my head. Then one of them hit me in the stomach with his finger. They made me do situps. I begged forgiveness but they beat me repeatedly. Again and again they told me I had to help them, they even told me they'd allow me to join the police force or go abroad. After they got what they wanted, they brought me back to Hanuman Dhoka and locked me up again. What do I do now? If I go back the Maoists will kill me. If I knew this was to happen I wouldn't have surrendered. My life is in shambles but I am worried about my brother. The Maoists had said they'd take him away him if I escaped again. I'm sure they have abducted him. I really want to study. If I could find a job, I'd work. What will my future be? How will I survive?"

(Suchana Oli's name has been changed to protect her identity.)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)