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A lost decade for conflict victims

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In 2003, when the Maoist insurgency was at its peak, Pushpa Basnet, 26, and his brother Dhirendra Basnet, 20, were arrested by then Royal Nepal Army (NRA). Their mother Chandra Kumari Basnet was told that they were detained in the Bhairavnath Battalion “for their allegiance with then CPN (Maoist)”.

Following a peace deal signed in 2006, then rebel Maoists joined mainstream politics. But what appalls Chandra Kumari is she still does not know the whereabouts of her two sons who “disappeared” from the infamous barracks in the heart of the city from where, according to the National Human Rights Commissions, as many as 49 people were “disappeared” at the hands of then NRA. It’s a lost decade for the conflict victims like Chandra Kumari.

“If the state considers us Nepali citizens, we have every right to know the whereabouts of our children,” said Chandra Kumari, 67, during an event organised to mark the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims, on Thursday. “They always excelled at education,” she said. “They would take initiatives to organise social events and engage in volunteer works.” She still recalls how her two sons used to keep telling her that they would bring to her all the happiness in the world. “I still believe they would have kept their promises. But even if they did not, them being around would have made me happy,” she said.

During the insurgency, around 77 percent of 1,400 disappearances were committed at the hands of state and 10 percent by the rebel Maoists. Even after a decade since the end of insurgency, families of the disappeared are asking: “What happened to our dear ones?”

As they marked the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims on Thursday, they remembered their loved ones. Some of them organised a protest in Baluwatar.

The country in 2008 turned republic. The new constitution was promulgated in 2015.

“The regime may have changed, but nothing has changed for the families of the martyrs, disappeared, disabled and tortured, as they are grossly ignored with leaders scrambling to get to power,” said Gita Rasaili, sister of Reena Rasaili, a teenager who was gang-raped and killed by the then NRA soldiers in 2004.

The former rebel party UCPN (Maoist) is now a major coalition partner in the incumbent government. However, its cadres like Rasaili are forced to take to the streets calling for making those involved in extra-judicial killings, torture and disappearance during the conflict period hold accountable.

Phanindra Luitel, whose father was killed by then rebels, said the armed insurgency promoted violence in society.

 

“The government failed to address the grievances of the conflict victims. The transitional justice commissions, which have been unable to start their work, have failed to raise hopes for the victims,” he said.

Ram Bhandari, general secretary of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, said the commissions failed to give the conflict victims the reason to believe truth would be established. “But we’ll continue our fight for our right to know the truth.”

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