Hoping for the return: Nepal’s IDPs

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Hope: Internally displaced persons of Nepal from Rajneesh Bhandari on Vimeo.

By Rajneesh Bhandari
Kathmandu, Sept 16: One day in 1999, Kalyan Bhudathoki, 50, left his home in Ramechap that lies in the hilly and mountain region of Nepal and came to Kathmandu. Kalyan used to work as a farmer in his own field.

12 years earlier, in the insurgency-prone Ramechap, 150 km east of Kathmandu, Kalyan had two options: either to support the Maoists or flee the place. He chose the second option and has been struggling in the capital for his living ever since.

“They came to search me three times. I used to think that I could face them (Maoists),” said Kalyan at his rented home in Gothatar, Kathmandu, “But there were incidents in other places on people getting killed. And my family and relatives suggested me to flee the village.”

“Maoists came, threatened and asked about my husband couple of times,” said Tej Kumari Bhudathoki, 50, wife of Kalyan.

For the last decade they have been living in Kathmandu and haven’t returned home.

After Kalyan and Tej Kumari, his four bothers and their family also fled from the home, leaving all their belongings.

More than 50,000 internally displaced people like Kalyan have been striving hard to cope with the lifestyle in major cities waiting for a day they would be able to return to their home. Murder of the family members, physical threat, extortion, abduction, disappearance, alleged spy, trapped in between security forces and the rebels are the major causes of displacement during the conflict.

Politics

Kalyan was involved in the political activities of Nepali congress in his village. This was the main reason why he became a target of Maoists’ local leaders.

“I was a Nepali Congress cadre in the district and the village and that was the main reason why they wanted to banish me,” he said.

But he is angry with Nepali Congress at present. “Nepali congress didn’t do anything for internally displaced people though it was in government for couple of times.” he said. That is the reason why he left the party now.

Kalyan is currently involved in a Samajwadi Janta Party and is also a leader of an organization which works in the support of the Maoists victim. Kalyan has been voicing the release of land and property that was captured by Maoists during the insurgency.

Commitments and Implementation

The state and the Maoists have signed many agreements to allow the displaced people to return back to home. On the 12-point understanding reached between the Seven Political Parties and Nepal Communist Party (Maoists) on 22 November 2005; the Comprehensive Peace Agreement concluded between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) on November 21, 2006 and other agreements both the parties agreed to “express commitment to allow without any political prejudice to allow people displaced during the armed conflict to return voluntarily to their respective places of ancestral or former residence…”

Human Rights Activists opine that most of the displaced people who haven’t been able to return home are those who were dislocated because of the Maoists. “The people that were displaced from the government’s side are mostly rehabilitated. However, those displaced because of the Maoists are still facing difficult situation.” said Uma Joshi Human Rights Officer at National Human Rights Commission, an independent and autonomous constitutional body.

Around two dozens cases on displacement were filed in NHRC asking for the protection of human rights and property. NHRC has recommended for compensation on these issues.

There is no exact data as how many of the internally displaced persons have returned. Most of the INGOs and NGOs estimate it to be around 50,000 at present.

“Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) have time and again said that they are committed to the agreements however we are getting field reports that local leaders haven’t been supportive to create an environment to implement those commitments,” Joshi said.

The government has also promulgated Internally Displaced People (IDP) National Policy to address the problems of the IDPs, however, most of the provisions are not yet implemented.

Conflict and women

Women activists in Nepal say that the government hasn’t even recognized the real victims of the conflict as internally displaced people. Raskshya Nepal in 2005 organized a survey among 1,600 women working in dance and cabin restaurant and also in massage parlors. The finding during the time of emergency was interesting. Out of 1,600 women working in these areas 57.5 percentage were internally displaced because of the conflict.

“If we take at a larger picture there are around 200,000 women working in cabin, dance restaurant and massage parlor. It is said that they are sexually exploited. Out of 200,000 if we calculate with the same percentage 120,000 are internally displaced. However the government hasn’t counted these women as internally displaced persons.” said Menuka Thapa Founder of Rakshya Nepal.

Currently Rakshya Nepal, which means protection Nepal in English, has established a school for the women as well as for their children. Thapa points out that the government should look at those displaced women who have been sexually exploited in the cabin, dance restaurants and massage parlors.

The present situation

There is no exact data as how many of the internally displaced persons have returned. Most of the INGOs and NGOs estimate it to be around 50,000 at present.

According to the government’s latest figure 17,828 people lost their lives during the conflict and 89,171 were displaced.

“Out of 22,000 displaced families relief funds have been provided to 25,000 people so far,” said Shankar Prashad Pathak, Joint Secretary of the Peace Ministry. Most of the displaced persons haven’t received any relief fund so far

“There is no exact analysis as how many of the displaced people have returned back home so far,” Pathak said.

Most of the displaced persons in the major cities haven’t got any job as well. Kalyan has been covering the daily expenses by taking loans and borrowing the money from his friends. “There is no possibility for me to do any business here.” he says.

Last week the Maoist-led government on Friday announced that it will return all property seized by the Maoists. But for the internally displaced people this is not a new commitment what they are looking is implementation.

Now they hope is a better future, to be able to return home one day. Tej hopes that going home back would be good for her children. “If we stay with our children their education will also become better. They could eat from their parent’s hand, this is the major tension for us at present,” Tej said.

“As I am involved in an organization of Maoist victim, the central committee members aren’t able to go back home. It’s only possible to go back home, if we agree to what they say.” Kalyan said, “But if we try to debate with them, saying that in democracy we can have our own thoughts than, we cannot go.”

Podcast
Hoping for Home: Nepal's Idps by rajneeshbhandari
Reporting by Rajneesh Bhandari from Kathmandu
Music: Winter Dreams by Vladimir Sterzer


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