It was 6 September, 2004. Gyanendra Khadka had just spoken at a gathering of teachers and guardians of a high school in Jyamire of Sindhupalchok. Four men in shorts approached him, tied his hands behind his back and led him away. тАЬWeтАЩll bring him back in a while,тАЭ they said, brandishing a pistol.
It was during the height of the war, and no one dared to follow. As Gyanendra passed his house, his daughter Ajita saw him being led away. тАЬIтАЩll be back, go home,тАЭ he told his daughter. Ajita, who was only 10 years old then, ran in and told her mother what she had seen.
The captors had tied Gyanendra to a volleyball pole. They told Mithila Khadka to take one last look at her husband. The last thing she remembers before fainting is one of the assailants taking out a long khukuri.
Gyanendra KhadkaтАЩs throat was slit from the front and then chopped from behind. His slumped head was attached to the rest of his body only by a slender strand of muscle. GyanendraтАЩs friend and fellow-journalist, Yubaraj Puri, trembles as he shows me the spot where the volleyball court used to be. Nearly six years later, the memory of that murder still haunts him. A rooster crows nearby. The scent from the mustard fields fills the air. The sky is deep blue and the icy twin peaks of Dorje Lakpa shine in the bright winter sun.
GyanendraтАЩs body was still there the next day. His family and neighbours were too scared to remove his body. Yubaraj borrowed a camera and took pictures while tears streamed down his face. He helped the family organise the funeral, and filed the story for national newspapers, which printed the pictures on their front pages. The Maoists sent word that theyтАЩd kill him too. So, he quit his teaching job and returned back to his village only after the ceasefire in 2006.
The first time Yubaraj PuriтАЩs name appeared with the picture he had taken of Gyanendra KhadkaтАЩs body was in the book A People War. The killer is known. The mastermind of the murder is now a personal assistant to a senior Maoist leader. Mithila never got over the horror of her husbandтАЩs murder. Ajita is now studying in Kathmandu. GyanendraтАЩs other children, Aswin and Asmita, study in the school where their father was a teacher. The extended family pitches in to help. But life is a struggle for Mithila.
When I was awarded the Surya Bhakta Patanadebi Memorial National Journalism Prize in December in Kawasoti of Nawalparasi for the trilogy of books I edited on the conflict, I had said the prize honoured the memory of all nine journalists who had laid down their lives during the conflict. I promised to hand over the Rs 15,101 prize to Gyanendra KhadkaтАЩs family. My publisher, Kiran Shrestha of nepa-laya, and I travelled with Yubaraj to Jyamire last week to hand over Rs 30,101 to Mithila.
Mithila broke down in tears. GyanendraтАЩs brother hugged me and sobbed uncontrollably. GyanendraтАЩs father said: тАЬThe most important thing is for us to know that you havenтАЩt forgotten us.тАЭGo back to previous page