Parents wait for missing son, two decades since his disappearanceIn November 2000, Maoist rebels took a grade five student and several other young boys from their school. That was the last the parents saw their 13-year-old son.
Bimal KC and Nandakali KC have been waiting for their son, Ganesh, to return for 22 years since the 13-year-old was taken by Maoist rebels.
The KC couple, residents of Rangkhani in Jaimini Municipality-10 who are now in their late 50s, still hope to see their son. Bimal leaves home regularly in the search of Ganesh. There are hardly any authorities he hasn’t visited in the last two decades with questions about his son’s whereabouts.
Nandakali spends her days in a daze, straining her ears in the hopes of hearing Ganesh’s footsteps enter the threshold of the family house. In her desperation, she seeks out every new face that appears in town and asks the strangers if they have seen or heard about her son.
Her mind hasn’t had rest ever since her son went out of contact, she says.
“We don’t know whether he is still alive or dead already. But we still hope to see him someday,” said Nandakali. “When somebody calls their mother I think it is my son calling me. I wake up at night and go out to see if it’s my son calling me.”
In November 2000, Maoist rebels took Ganesh, then a grade five student, and several other young boys from their school for the party’s programmes being held in Jaidi and Chhisti of Baglung, according to the KC couple. The rebels told the parents that their son would return the next day.
“We couldn’t say no to them. Also, they had said they would return Ganesh the following day,” said Nandakali. “But he didn’t come back. We heard from the Maoist rebels four months later. They told us Ganesh was with them, safe and sound.”
That was the last the KC couple heard from the Maoist rebel leader who had taken Ganesh.
The Maoists launched the “people’s war”, an armed struggle against the state, in 1996. In 2006, the rebel forces joined the political mainstream. In the decade-long armed conflict, around 17,000 people were killed. The latest report by the International Committee of the Red Cross says 1,333 people are still missing.
A few months after Ganesh’s disappearance, his family received the news of him detained by the Nepal Army. The country was in a state of emergency so the parents could not search for him and instead had to patiently wait for his return.
In 2002, the KC couple registered a complaint at the District Administration Office, Baglung seeking help to find the whereabouts of their son. The then chief district officer, human rights activists and officials of the District Red Cross had assured help to find their son. The couple visited the mid-command headquarters of the Nepal Army in Pokhara and a local Maoist leader in search of their son.
But there was no information about Ganesh.
The same year, Bimal heard that the Nepal Army personnel had raided a Maoist programme venue and detained Ganesh. He then immediately went to the army battalion in Baglung. An army officer asked him to return stating that his son was now in training to join the Nepal Army. “I visited the barracks several times and he gave me the same answer every time,” said Bimal.
According to Bimal, a rumour of his son wearing the army uniform and manning the entry point of the district reached him. “I went to Maldhunga but the army officers said my son was in Balewa. Then I went to Balewa but he wasn’t there either,” he said.
In August 2021, Bimal attempted to file a complaint against Nepal Army stating that he believed that the army was behind Ganesh’s disappearance during the insurgency. “But the district police office refused to register my complaint,” said Bimal.
Bimal then approached the Baglung bench of the High Court, Pokhara, which issued an order to the District Police Office directing it to register the complaint. Advocate Ram Sharma and Sabitri Khadka, the secretary of the conflict victims’ society in Baglung, took the initiative to register the complaint on behalf of the KC family.
“The KC family has gone through a lot and the police’s refusal to register a complaint has broken them,” said Khadka. “The state has failed to guarantee the victim’s rights to information in Ganesh’s case. His family is seeking closure and the state should ensure the family receives it.”
In his complaint, Bimal claims that his son was a minor when he was detained under the instruction of Chandra Bahadur Pun, the then chief of Kalidal Company of Nepal Army. He demands to know what happened to his son. “I need my son alive or dead. If he was killed, they should give me the reason for his death,” said Bimal.
A total of 22 people were enlisted as ‘force-disappeared’ in Baglung during the insurgency. Five of them came into contact later.
“Seventeen people have disappeared in Baglung district. The search is on to find their whereabouts through the International Committee of the Red Cross,” said Jabbar Bahadur Lamichhane, Baglung chairman of Nepal Red Cross Society. “We have been pressuring the state to make public the list of disappeared persons.”