Widows fight for justice in Nepal’s historic polls

April 1st, 2008 - 1:33 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 1 (IANS) Five years ago, Jaypuri Ghartimagar received a stunning blow when her husband Vivek was killed in a battle between the Maoist guerrilla army and the Nepal army. Both Vivek and Ghartimagar were members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), then a terrorist organisation with a bounty on the heads of its top leaders.

For almost a decade, Ghartimagar remained on the run, coming out in the open only in 2006 after Nepal’s new government signed a peace pact with the Maoists.

Today, Ghartimagar is waging a new war from Rolpa, the ‘red’ district in midwest Nepal that gave birth to the Maoist movement to abolish Nepal’s nearly 250-year-old monarchy.

The outspoken widow is contesting the constituent assembly election scheduled April 10. And she is not alone.

The Maoists have fielded over 100 candidates who lost a relative each in the 10-year ‘People’s War’ that killed over 13,000 people.

Over 80 of them are young widows and the rest bereaved fathers who lost a son, husbands whose wives were killed either in battles or in extra-judicial killings by security forces and brothers and sisters who lost their siblings.

Khuma Subedi, who is also contesting from Rolpa, is one of the first widows of the savage civil war that pitted brother against brother and neighbours against neighbours.

Security forces killed her husband Nanda Neupane almost nine years ago when the state launched an infamous Maoist hunt, ‘Operation Kilo Sera Two’.

Shila Yadav is a Maoist nominee from Bara district in south Nepal, also known as the home of the Little Buddha, a wonder boy who is said to have prayed in the same position under a tree for months without eating or drinking water.

Yadav lost her husband Ajablal and four other members of her family in the drive against Maoists, whose worst victims were people from the Terai plains along the India-Nepal border due to the racial discrimination against them.

Pushpa Kumari Chhetri, a Maoist contestant from Banke district, had her two brothers killed.

Rupa Tharu, who is fighting from Kailali district in farwest Nepal, one of the poorest regions in the Himalayan nation, comes from a community that is among the most exploited.

Though the Tharus are the descendants of the Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, and the Maurya dynasty, one of the most powerful kingdoms in ancient India, they became a displaced community in Nepal. They were robbed of their lands, sold into slavery and put at the bottom of the social hierarchy.

Rupa lost both her father Mangal Tharu and brother Dipak.

While the Maoists have been the most loyal to their women fighters and cadres, other parties are also turning their eyes to widows.

The latest entrant is Sita Adhikari, fielded by a minor left party.

The Rastriya Jana Morcha party nominated Adhikari last month after the original contestant, her husband Kamal Prasad Adhikari, was gunned down before her eyes at their residence in Banke district in Nepal’s turbulent Terai.

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