Doti villagers ‘celebrate’ death of HIV victimsWhen a person dies, his/her family members and loved ones mourn the death while neighbours and friends visit the bereaved family and offer their condolences.
However, people at Jhikabasti in Basudevi VDC in the district neither perform the last rites nor mourn the death of their family members who were living with HIV. Surprisingly, they are found to rejoice the death caused by HIV by organising family feasts. This is not a one-off instance in this village-some 25 people have died of HIV/AIDS in the past one decade and a majority of families opted to celebrate the death instead of performing last rites and mourning as per the Hindu tradition.
Surya Bhul, a local resident and member of district chapter of the UCPN (Maoist), said the trend of celebrating the death of an AIDS victim by eating meat (which is prohibited for people mourning death in Hindu community) and not performing last rites gained ground due to the misconception that the family members will not contract HIV if they rejoice such death.
“This has become a sort of a local tradition and everybody does the same,” said Bhul, who himself celebrated the death of his HIV-affected uncle by eating meat. “Though some people in the village do not partake in this kind of practice, many are still living under the illusion that they will not contract HIV/AIDS if they celebrate the death of their family members who die of the disease,” he said. Likewise, local resident Kali Parki, around two years ago, celebrated the death of her husband who was suffering from HIV/AIDS by not performing last rites as per the Hindu tradition and eating chicken.
Similarly, Birma Bhul, whose husband died of AIDS, said she also avoided conducting the funeral ceremony for her deceased husband. “We just threw his body into the river as if he was some kind of discarded animal. We did not even mourn his death,” she told a group of media persons who reached her village to report on this surprising trend.
Salepa Bhatta, a staffer at Basudevi VDC Office, claimed he came to know about the trend of celebrating the deaths of the HIV-infected people only recently. He, however, said apart from a Dalit settlement at Jhikabasti, he has no knowledge of people celebrating the death of HIV-infected people in other areas in the village.
Most men from the settlement go to India as migrant workers and return with HIV. Though millions of rupees is spent in controlling HIV/AIDS and raising awareness, people in the village continue to believe that they will not contract HIV if they eat meat and celebrate the death of a person afflicted with the virus.
Currently, there are 1,006 people living with HIV in the district. Bardan Karki, coordinator of District AIDS Coordination Committee, said people in some other villages in the district also do not attend the funeral ceremony if the death is caused by AIDS and mistreat the concerned family members.
Dambar Bhatta, assistant accountant at the VDC Office, said his office has been providing Rs 3,000 each to four people living with AIDS in the village annually.