Bardiya municipalities unite to keep memories of war victims aliveLocal and provincial governments can now do their bit to provide relief for victims of the conflict, experts say.
In December 2001, Chaite Lal Chaudhari (25 back then), and his wife Sita Janaki (24 back then) from Barbardiya Municipality in Bardiya district were arrested by the then-Royal Nepalese Army for supporting the then-CPN (Maoist), which was at war against the state. They were taken to the Chisapani Army barracks in the district but were never released.
Two decades have passed since their arrest. But they have neither been declared dead nor made public. The couple is on the list of 1,333 victims of enforced disappearances during the decade-long Maoist insurgency.
Successive governments formed after the Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2006 didn’t take any initiative to make the status of people like the Chaudharis public. The Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons formed years after the accord have also failed to investigate the cases and provide their kin justice.
Amid the failure of the federal government and transitional justice commissions to provide justice, local governments from Bardiya district have taken a step towards providing reparations to the victims and their families.
Under an initiative by Barbardiya Municipality, a profile book featuring people who were killed, forcefully made to disappear or seriously injured has been published.
The 800-page book includes the profiles of 680 people murdered, disappeared or injured, by the security forces and the Maoists during the decade-long conflict that claimed 13,000 people.
“This is a good initiative towards the memorialisation of my brother and sister-in-law,” Dashrath Chaudhari, Chaite Lal’s younger brother, told the Post. “I believe this will pressurise the federal government and transitional justice commissions to do their work.”
The four major components of the transitional justice process—reparation, truth-seeking, prosecution, and institutional reformation—are essential to ensure that cases of violence are not repeated. But the whole process has been dragged on for more than 14 years now.
The victims say while there has been a delay in truth-seeking and prosecution, the federal government and the transitional justice commissions haven’t even worked towards reparation, which could have given some relief to the victims. Bhagiram Chaudhari, former chairperson of the Conflict Victims Common Platform, said local governments from Bardiya have set an example the federal government and the other local governments need to follow.
Bardiya is one of the districts most affected by the Maoist conflict. A report by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights 2008 showed over 200 cases of disappearances were reported in the district alone.
The disappearance commission also received 274 complaints of disappearance—among them255 have been deemed eligible for a detailed investigation. A report by victims’ organisations shows that 499 people from the district lost their lives between 1996 and 2006.
Though the government provided Rs1 million to the families of those murdered and made to disappear during the conflict, it hasn’t taken any initiative for their memoralisation, for example, by naming public spaces after victims, providing jobs to the survivors, and their families which are considered important reparative measures.
Unveiling the book in the Capital on Saturday Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who leads one of two splinter factions of the Nepal Communist Party, said the publication was important to respect the contribution of those who sacrificed their lives for federalism, secularism, and republicanism.
“Such initiatives provide some relief to the victims and their families,” he said. “Other local governments can take similar initiatives.”
Some of the local governments had been taking smaller measures towards reparation. However, the publication of the book has been seen as the first collaborative effort between local governments. For instance, Bansgadhi Municipality constructed a memorial park dedicated to the memories of those killed during the conflict. It has also created a fund from which victims’ families can take concessional loans.
Similarly, Rajapur Municipality from the district has started documenting the profiles of those who were either killed or made to disappear in its area.
Barbardiya and Badhaiyatal Municipalities have named roads after the victims and created basket funds to provide livelihood support for such families. Shuklaphanta Municipality in Kanchanpur and Ratuwa Municipality in Morang also have named local infrastructure after the names of the victims.
With financial assistance from the Province 3 government, statues of 21 people killed by the Nepali Army have been constructed at Dandakatari in Doramba Rural Municipality of Ramechhap. Nineteen unarmed Maoist cadres and two locals were allegedly shot dead after their arrests in August 2003 while peace talks between the government and then Maoist rebels were going on at Hapure, Dang. The provincial government allocated Rs2 million for the project following a request from the victims’ families.
Human rights activists say small reparative steps can help provide relief to the conflict victims and their families. Charan Prasai, a human rights activist, said now the local and provincial governments have the resources and authority to work towards providing reparations. “Local governments like those from Baridya can work towards reparation,” he told the Post. “It will provide some relief to the thousands of conflict victims and their families who are fighting for justice for over 14 years.”