By Kosh Raj Koirala (Source: The Kathmandu Post)
He had nothing to do with the Maoist. Nor had he anything to gain from the state parties. With repeated threats and physical assaults from the Maoists, Sharan Bahadur Bhandari, 73, is forced to desert his ancestral home at Chattiwan VDC-7, Makawanpur four years ago and lead a miserable life along with his family members in the capital city.
According to Bhandari, Maoists had first asked his family Rs 100,000 as donation. "As we failed to pay off the amount as demanded, they [Maoist] first abducted and tortured my eldest son and then to me, alleging that we supplied their information to army. As luck would have it, we both were spared death then," told Bhandari, recounting his harrowing experience in March 2003.
While insecure as always, Bhandari and his eldest son Ganesh then chose to desert the village. This, however, made their family members the Maoist target.Local level Maoist cadres started threatening to kill their family members if the latter failed to call them back to the village. "They [Maoist cadres] would come at the house mostly in the night and ask whereabouts of my husband and father-in-law," said Gyanu, the eldest daughter-in-law of Bhandari. "Once Maoist cadres stormed into our house in the afternoon and brought me and my three daughters at the courtyard. They started pouring kerosene on us, threatening to burn them alive. Luckily, one of the cadres proved kind enough that we were left unharmed."
In April the same year, the Maoists put on their flag at the house and declared seizure of all 7 bigha of farming land. They also took away five milking buffaloes, one cow, four oxen, 62 goats, 150 chickens and a large amount of food grains. "We then had no option but to pack off things that came handy and flee the house for life," said Gyanu. "Maoist cadres still continue to threaten us. They have also denied returning our seized properties."
Bhandari family is just a case in point. According to Maoists' Victims Association (MVA), as many as 15,000 of the total 27,000 Maoist-displaced families are still languishing in the capital city or district headquarters, mostly for fear of Maoist attack.
In the historic peace agreement signed between the government and the CPN (Maoist) on November 21 last year, the Maoists have expressed commitment to help return the displaced people voluntarily to their respective ancestral village and also give back their seized properties.
Dharma Raj Neupane, president of MVA, said Maoists are not fully abiding by the peace agreement. "Only thing they [Maoists] have stopped after signing the peace agreement is they have left killing people. They have denied returning the seized properties. Lower rung Maoist cadres continue with their tactics of threat, intimidation and abduction even these days," said he.
Neupane asked the government to take initiatives for forming a committee that includes representatives of Maoist, Maoist-victims and the government in central, district and local level to help resolve the problem. He also said that the assistance the government decided to help rehabilitate displaced people is far less than adequate. "The important thing is building a sense of security among people. It also needs certain investment from the part of the government. It is obvious that people do not want to return to their home only to find their properties either destroyed or robbed," he added.
(The writer is sub-editor at The Kathmandu Post, the largest selling English in Nepal).