The revolution that was supposed to liberate his community from oppression devoured Ram Ratan Chaudhari’s family
On 14 February, 2001, Ram Ratan Chaudhari was resting outside his house in Fatehpur village of Banke district when a group of Maoists jumped him, held a gun to his head and took him away. His family members were locked inside, nobody could come to his rescue.
Chaudhari was then taken to a spot 200 metres away. His hands were tied behind his back, he kicked to the ground and beaten black and blue. When he asked for water, the torture got worse. With a wooden plank placed beneath his feet, a heavy log was dropped on his legs crushing the bones. Chaudhari fell unconscious, and was given up for dead. When he came to his senses, the Maoists were gone.
“It took four hours for help to arrive,” Chaudhari, who was then a technical assistant, recalls. His family carried him to Agaiya in Rapti from where he was taken by ambulance to Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalganj. He got a blood transfusion, but the hospital couldn’t treat him so he was brought to Kathmandu, a 12 hour bus journey away. Once in Kathmandu, Chaudhari heard that the Maoists had come looking for him at the hospital in Nepalganj.
A few days before his abduction, Ram Ratan had received a letter from the Maoists asking for a ‘donation’ to the party. Like many others he didn’t want any trouble so he readied an envelope with the money and waited for it to be collected. But nobody showed up. It was only much later that Ram Ratan found out he had been nearly beaten to death for failing to pay the extortionists on time.
Chaudhari spent almost six months at Kathmandu’s Teaching Hospital. He was only able to sleep face up, and couldn’t turn, stand or sit. Upon hearing about her son’s critical condition, Ram Ratan’s mother was so stressed and depressed that she died two months later. Ram Ratan was still too sick in hospital to perform her last rites.
On the 13th day of his mother’s death, the Maoists attacked his village house, took off with most of the family’s belongings and captured his farm. His ailing father Heeramani and brother-in-law Khushi Ram were severely beaten. Fearing repercussions, none of the villagers helped the injured.
It was only two days later that the APF sent a truck to take the injured to the same hospital in Nepalganj where Ram Ratan had been taken a few months previously. The attack on his son, the death of his wife, the looting of his house and property and his own injuries was so traumatic that Ram Ratan’s father passed away soon after.
After he was able to move about, albeit painfully, Ram Ratan returned to Nepalganj since there was nothing to return to in his village. He finally went back in 2007, and built a small house, but he never got his captured land back. It is now occupied by Jit Bahadur Tharu, Bhim Bahadur Tharu, Bharthari Tharu and Rati Ram Ujuri, who are all affiliated to Mohan Baidya’s CPN-M party.
During the conflict, Jit Bahadur Tharu was a Maoist leader and walked around the villages surrounded by bodyguards, and adjucated in revolutionary people’s courts. Today, he owns Ram Ratan’s seven bighas of land.
Ram Ratan still has yet to receive the compensation conflict victims are entitled to, and there has been no support from the government for his hospital expenses. “The Maoist government only provided relief and compensation packages to their own supporters, not for people like us who suffered under them,” he says.
Ram Ratan is still unable to walk properly. He says: “The Maoists destroyed my family and future. Everyone has forgotten us.”
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The conflict’s first victim, Dhanbir Dahal
Nine years later, still in shock, Michelle J Lee
Post-conflict stress syndrome, Taylor Caldwell