(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Maoist victims feel neglected by the government

[Nepal] An IDP mother with her children in Kathmandu.
IRIN

Man Bahadur Rumba shivers with fear as he talks about the death of 38 passengers who were killed on Monday when a bus was blown up as it drove over a landmine allegedly planted by Maoist insurgents. The bus was travelling along a dirt road in a southern semi-urban area of Chitwan district, nearly 185 km southwest of the Nepali capital, Kathmandu.

The blast has left over 70 people severely injured in an incident considered to be the bloodiest since the start of the violent nine year Maoist insurgency against the state.

"They will all be soon forgotten like us," 50-year old Rumba explained to IRIN in Kathmandu, where he is living after he was displaced from his village in Magdi district, 300 km northwest of the capital. He says the Maoist rebels threatened to kill him when he was unable to pay the US $2,000 they demanded.

As they read the news of the tragic incident, splashed across the capital's newspapers, it brought back painful memories of the insurgency that the displaced families had experienced before they were forced out of their villages.

"When will all this stop? It tears my heart apart," said 32-year-old Shanti Regmi from Bardiya, 550 km southwest from Kathmandu.

The fear of Maoist threats and killings is mounting and more families are being forced out of their homes. According to reports by local NGOs, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing the Maoist insurgency has reached more than 20,000 in the capital alone, where they have been arriving in the vain hope of receiving government support for the last nine years.

According to a recent study by the Community Study and Welfare Centre (CSWC), an NGO acting as advocates on behalf of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nepal, since the insurgency began somewhere between 350,000 to 400,000 Nepalese have been displaced from their villages.

Despite constant pleas for assistance with housing and subsistence allowances, the victims have received only empty promises.

"All we want is sympathy and a little support in whatever way possible but nothing is happening. It's so painful to be ignored by our own government," 60-year old Ramesh Wadey explained to IRIN. Wadey managed to escape after he was abducted by insurgents in his home village of Ramechhap district, a Maoist-controlled area in the far western hills of Nepal.

In a final attempt to make the government listen to them, the IDPs decided to take their case to the streets by organising peaceful demonstrations. The intention was to also secure the support of the capital's residents who have remained indifferent to their situation. Demonstrations over the last few weeks have met with little success and the government has used the police to disperse protesters.

Two months ago, the IDPs set up camps for Maoist victims in a large open-air theatre in the middle of the capital in defiance of the government. But on 6 June, police moved in and broke up the camp detaining nearly 150 for shouting anti-government slogans. The government then prohibited any IDP from entering the theatre to stop them from setting up any more camps.

Many other IDPs have been dispersed and detained in various places around the Kathmandu but nobody knows where they have gone to. The authorities have failed to respond to requests to disclose their whereabouts.

"We are desperately looking for our friends and family members and our leaders," explained Padma Raj Kandel, a member of the Maoist Victims' Association (MVA).

According to MVA, even children have been detained along with their parents.

"What will they [police] benefit by arresting the poor and helpless victims. They are not terrorists," said 55-year-old Padam Bahadur Sunwar, who is now forced to live in a temple and beg for food following the destruction of his camp by police.

After the arrest of the president, spokesperson and other key members of MVA, already low morale among IDP victims has declined even more. Most are scared and have lost any hope that their demonstration will achieve anything.

"We have to work all over again to instil courage among the victims. This is not a political war but our right to demand for state support," explained MVA member Kandel, who is among the few leaders not yet been arrested.

The government justified action against the MVA members by alleging they were politicians and working with other political parties in order to criticise the government led by King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah since 1 February after he dissolved parliament and assumed direct rule.

"Look at our conditions, where we live and how we eat and let the government people decide whether we are politicians," Mahili Sunuwar, a 35-year-old mother of five children, told IRIN. The entire family has been living in a rundown rented house in the capital for the past year. Her children are unable to go to school because they are too poor even to afford a government school.

According to MVA estimates, there are thousands of IDP children who suffer from a lack of education, poor health and malnutrition.

"Already many of them are living in very difficult circumstances and have ended up as street children," Bishnu Neupane, an IDP and member of MVA, told IRIN.

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