Another Nepal ‘murder mystery’ to be resurrected

September 6th, 2008 - 2:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 6 (IANS) A 15-year-old death that was as controversial as the massacre of the Nepal royal family in the tightly guarded palace in Kathmandu and is believed by many to have had equal effect on shaping the destiny of the nation will be resurrected as a maverick filmmaker seeks to solve the “conspiracy” behind it.Twenty-nine-year-old Nepali film director Manoj Pundit, whose earlier documentary on Nepal’s boundary disputes with India created widespread controversy, is poised for greater turmoil as he has begun shooting his account of how Madan Kumar Bhandari, one of Nepal’s most promising and influential political leaders, died in 1993.

Bhandari, one of the top leaders of Nepal’s communist movement, became general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) in 1991 and was thought to be headed for a far greater role when his promising political career was cut short just two years later.

In 1993, the 41-year-old was travelling by road from Pokhara city in central Nepal to Chitwan in the south when the car plunged off the road into a river at a village called Dasdhunga.

While both Bhandari and his travelling companion, senior party member Jeev Raj Ashrit, were killed, the driver, Amar Lama survived.

There were no other eyewitnesses.

Ten years later, Lama was abducted from Kathmandu and taken to Kirtipur town on its outskirts where he was shot dead, execution-fashion, by gunmen in full view of bystanders.

The murder revived the memory of Bhandari’s death and fuelled suspicion that he was actually killed as part of a political conspiracy which exterminated Lama too to remove the only man who knew what had actually happened.

Pundit is seeking to unravel the mystery of the Dasdhunga crash in his upcoming film, also called “Dasdhunga”.

“I was 14 when Bhandari died,” he says. “I remember how the crash gripped the entire nation. My father would discuss it feverishly with his friends. People suspected it was not a mere accident but something more sinister.”

Two years ago, Pundit travelled to London where he came across a man who had begun investigating the crash on his own.

“But the investigator was never allowed to publish his findings,” Pundit says, declining to name the man. “In fact, he was hounded out of Kathmandu and forced to go into exile.

“I met him in London and he showed me his report.”

Pundit says he also met the gunmen who killed Lama.

“They told me over tea why and how they had killed him. I have woven all of this together in my film.”

“Dasdhunga” - which literally means 10 bricks - is likely to stir a hornets’ nest. Pundit says he has been facing obstructions while researching.

“People don’t want to talk,” he says. “Records can’t be found.”

Bhandari’s widow Vidya Bhandari, a former MP from his party, is still alive. So is his brother Mohan Bhandari.

While the spouse has no role in the film, the brother is playing Bhandari.

The young filmmaker hints at sensational findings. The then American ambassador to Nepal Julia Chang will also find place in his film, shooting for which has already begun.

Doesn’t he fear any danger himself?

“My previous film on contentious border issues, Greater Nepal, had also created controversy,” Pundit says. “This film has to be made so that people know what really happened, so that people remember Madan Bhandari, whom they are in the process of forgetting, and so that we don’t lose other important leaders like him in future.”

Bhandari deserves this tribute, Pundit says, because his death was certainly a turning point for Nepal.

“I believe things would have been different today had Bhandari been alive.”

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