“Politicians sell the names of martyrs to get on top. They don’t care about martyrs and their families. I am not voting.”
This is a remark made by Magati Tharu, of Bardiya district, when asked about the upcoming elections. Tharu’s husband disappeared by the state security forces 21 years ago. He was arrested on the suspicion of being a Maoist rebel.
Magati last saw her husband in Bardiya prison in April 2002. The couple has two children, both adults now and both unemployed.
“I am extremely hurt by the attitude of these politicians,” says Magati, who has had enough words of assurances from the country’s leaders about finding the status of her husband.
“They can’t even tell me whether he is dead or alive.”
This is the fourth election since her husband’s disappearance. Magati says many political parties and their leaders have come to ask for her vote and promised to help conflict-affected victims and survivors like her. “There has been no improvement in our condition. There is no point voting for them now,” she says.
Magati represents hundreds of people in Bardiya district who were affected by the decade-long Maoist armed insurgency. One record shows there are more than 700 conflict victims and survivors in the district. They include victims of enforced disappearance, those maimed and injured and family members of those killed by the Maoist combatants as well as security forces.
Like Magati, Nayaram Khadka also has no intention of voting during this election. He was abducted by the Maoist rebels from his house, tortured and then left for dead.
“Doctors had to insert steel rods inside both my legs so that I could stand upright. My ribs still give me pain and I cannot walk properly,” says Khadka. “The only facility I get for voting is that I don’t have to wait in a long queue. Other than that, I get nothing for voting.”
He is convinced that political parties, their leaders and representatives are not going to address his concerns.
Khumananda Chaudhary, another Bardiya resident, also says there is no reason to be excited for the elections. The Maoist rebels killed his father, Hariram, and to date, the family has not received any justice.
“The Maoists tortured and shot my father dead, accusing him of spying agaist the party. The government gave Rs 300,000 to my family and that’s about it. What we demand is justice,” he says.
Niranjan Kumar Chaudhary, of Conflict Victims’ National Network, says there is a widespread resentment and anger among conflict victims and survivors against the political parties.
“Parties, both big and small, have promised to address the concerns of conflict victims and survivors in their election manifestos, but it is one cannot be assured they will deliver on it,” says Chaudhary.
Ideally, he adds, the state should and the concerned political actors should take the initiative to address the demands raised by the victims and survivors of conflict.
“But this has not happened. There is no consensus among the parties on dealing with the conflict-era cases.”