Ten-Year Armed Conflict Ends, Calls for Justice from Conflict Victims Persist
Following a decade-long armed conflict in the pursuit of radical change, the nation has finally witnessed the cessation of hostilities. Years have passed since the establishment of a democratic republic and the implementation of a new constitution that incorporates federalism. However, the plight of Marika families on both sides of the conflict remains unchanged, with no justice served for the maimed, injured, and victims of torture.
Bishnu Prasad Acharya from Naukunda Rural Municipality-5 and Savik Bhorle Village Development Commitee-7, who was left crippled due to the armed conflict, expressed his frustration over the government’s failure to deliver justice to those who suffered at the hands of both the state and the former rebels. Acharya implored for support in advocating for the relief of conflict victims, highlighting the absence of respite even though the former rebel side had been part of the government on several occasions.
Acharya, a teacher who fell victim to Maoist brutality, recounted the horrifying incident when he was viciously attacked by Maoist activists wielding sharp weapons and hammers on August 22, 2019. Despite undergoing treatment, he lost one of his legs and currently lives with a disability.
Sixteen years have elapsed since the comprehensive peace agreement that marked the end of the conflict in the country. However, the pursuit of justice for conflict victims has been an enduring struggle. The government has failed to assuage their pain, and political parties and authorities have been perceived as disingenuous in addressing human rights violations and seeking truth, justice, compensation, and social harmony.
The commissions established to investigate conflict victims and the disappeared, namely the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, have fallen short in delivering justice. Despite the passage of time and the creation of a new constitution accompanied by the declaration of federalism through the Constituent Assembly, the grievances of those who lost their lives or suffered injuries during protests for fundamental change in the country have remained unaddressed.
Ironically, the current government is led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda,’ the leader of the former conflicting party CPN-Maoist. The removal of Devki Dhakal’s name from the government’s list of martyrs serves as a painful reminder of the continued neglect faced by conflict victims.
Dhakal, a 19-year-old from former Dhaibung Village Development Committee -3 and now Kalika Rural Municipality-3, lost her life on November 9, 2022, due to persistent summoning, beating, and torture by the Nepali Army, under the accusation of supporting the Maoist movement.
Despite the Maoists recognizing Dhakal as a martyr and including her name in the list of martyrs on the martyr’s gate erected in Kalika Rural Municipality-2 Kalikasthan Bazar, her name was excluded from the government’s official list of martyrs published in the Niyatbas Gazette on March 13, 2023. Manshyam (Mohan Prasad) Dhakal, the grieving father of the deceased, expressed his sadness and claimed that some Maoist district leaders deliberately omitted his daughter’s name. He pointed out the heartache caused by a government led by Prachanda, a leader with a history in the armed conflict, removing his daughter’s name from the list of martyrs.
After being informed by the district representative of INSEC (Informal Sector Service Center), Dhakal submitted a request through the District Administration Office on June 10, 2023, to include his daughter’s name in the Ministry of Home Affairs’ records of martyrs.
While the government has listed 8,470 individuals who lost their lives during the conflict as martyrs and published their names in the gazette, Dhakal condemned the actions of the current government, accusing them of exacerbating wounds that are already festering. This contradicts the very essence of the radical change they sought.
Meen Bahadur Pudasaini from Savika Bhorle Village 1 in Kalika Rural Municipality shared his harrowing experience of being abducted and subjected to mental and physical torture by CPN-Maoist workers during the armed conflict in 2005. After 92 days in captivity, he managed to escape but was left with a complex back problem. Pudasaini now requires surgery, but his family’s financial constraints have left them grappling with the challenges of accessing proper healthcare.
Similar stories of neglect and lack of attention from the state and related agencies were echoed by families who lost loved ones, those with missing family members, and the injured victims of the conflict. Santhosh Adhikari, a 36-year-old conflict victim from Uttar Gaya Rural Municipality-2, shared his ordeals of being beaten, kidnapped, and tortured by CPN-Maoist activists during the conflict. He further highlighted the lack of financial means preventing the disabled and injured victims from receiving the necessary treatment.
The cries for justice and protection of the rights of conflict victims reverberated throughout the affected communities. Suku Bahadur Tamang, a 59-year-old from Naukunda Rural Municipality-1, lamented the absence of relief despite enduring extreme physical and mental torture after being arrested by the state in 2005, under the label of a ‘Maoist terrorist.’ Tamang, who became disabled due to the torture, expressed disappointment in both the state and his own party for failing to address his grievances.
Amar Bahadur Dhakal, an 85-year-old conflict victim from Kalika Rural Municipality-2, voiced his plea for justice and relief from the local level and the then-peace committee, as he endured multiple instances of torture by the Nepalese army for aiding the Maoists. He conveyed his dismay, emphasizing that the ten-year armed conflict exposed the selfishness of leaders while failing to bring about the intended change and improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
Families of victims including Sarita Pant, Pavitra Moktan, Suryalal Dangol, and Bhimalal Hirachan, shared their stories of loss, abduction, torture, and the absence of justice. They implored rights workers and activists to take the initiative and raise their voices in support of conflict victims, who have not received relief and have been disregarded by the state and local authorities.
As the country grapples with the aftermath of a transformative armed conflict, both Maoists and state victims continue to bear witness to a lack of tangible change in the lives of citizens. The ongoing neglect experienced by conflict victims highlights the urgent need for justice, healing, and redress in order to move toward a more inclusive and equitable society.
- Hemnath Khatiwada
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