KATHMANDU, June 5: The extended family of Nava Prasad Ghimire had gathered at their home in Gopalnagar, Kalyanpur-8 of Madi Valley in Chitwan district for the wedding of his youngest son on June 1, 2005.
Little did Nava Prasad, now 70, know that it would be his last happy family gathering. Six members of the family, returning from the celebrations, died in a passenger bus ambushed by the Maoists at the Bandarmudhe river on June 6.
His son Bishnu Prasad, daughter Ganga Devi Lamsal, her husband Dinesh, their daughters Deepa and Deepika and Nava Prasad´s sister-in-law Bishnu Kala Khatiwada were among the 38 blast dead as were three Nepal Army personnel in civil dress. Nava Prasad´s two younger brothers were among over 70 injured in the ambush that involved the use of an improvised explosive device.
The Maoists have acknowledged that the incident was a smear on their insurgency. Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal himself expressed his grief in his first public press conference in Kathmandu. But the party has not gone to Madi to formally apologize to victims.
Dahal, Vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai and General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa met the victims in neighboring Fulbari VDC in October, 2006 and assured them of a relief package. "Dahal told us that his party was not like the Nepali Congress or CPN-UML, that made false promises, and he would announce such a grand package for the victims that envious neighbours would curse their luck for not having any victims in their own family," said blast survivor Krishna Prasad Adhikari, who was among 20-22 victims present at the meeting.
"The meeting itself was conducted in a fearsome environment with all media persons and rights activists thrown out of the room, guns placed on the table and gun-totting Maoist combatants standing guard," Adhikari recalls.
Dahal became prime minister following the CA elections and Baburam Bhattarai is prime minister now, but the promised ´envy-inducing grand package´ has yet to come.
"Nothing can make up for the loss of family but action against those involved in the blast and a sincere apology from the leadership would alleviate our suffering," said Nava Prasad, who was invited to the meeting with Dahal at Fulbari but refused to meet the murderers of his family.
Adhikari, 41, survived the blast as he had offered his seat in the bus to an elderly person and climbed onto the roof, but his life has changed for the worse. He was injured in both legs and back, two ribs were broken and he started to walk again without crutches only in October, 2010 following surgery thanks to help from senior journalist Yubaraj Ghimire. He had to sell land and borrow to pay for his treatment.
The erstwhile farmer now hires others to till his land and depends on charity to educate his children. "The government has provided around Rs 300,000 for each victim killed but has not given a penny for the wounded apart from primary treatment immediately after the indicent," Adhikari claimed.
Justice also has eluded the victims. In a cabinet decision on June 12, 2006, the government withdrew over 300 cases filed under the Terrorism and Destructive Activities (Control and Prevention) Ordinance (TADO), and the government attorney in Chitwan last June withdrew the case filed by Chitwan police. "The victims would move the apex court against the decision to dismiss a case of such gravity in a bundle with over 300 others, without due consideration," said advocate Satish Mainali, who is close to the case.
"We did not file a petition earlier because the apex court had been reserving such insurgency-era cases for a proposed Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). We will soon move the courts now that parliament has been dissolved and no TRC is forthcoming," Mainali added. He said the victims could go to international courts if the Supreme Court doesn´t provide justice.
The victims claim that many Maoists involved in the blast including Anak Magar, Ram Bahadur Kumal and Chandika Paudel are in high-level party posts despite Maoists´ claims that action would be taken against them.
"The three were not involved in the case but rather had opposed ambushing the bus. One combatant carried out the attack despite reservations by comrades and he has been expelled by the party following an internal inquiry," said UCPN (Maoist) Central Member Bikesh Shrestha, who handled party matters in Chitwan at the time of the incident.