“I never thought I would be alone this early in life”

Sunita Sunar is a widow at 20 after her husband, Tikaram was killed in the murders of six young men in Rukum on 24 May.

Much of the attention after the murder of six young men in Jajarkot on 24 May centred on Nabaraj BK and his relationship with a teenage girl from a ‘higher’ caste.

Nearly forgotten in the aftermath of this tragic crime are Tikaram Sunar, 20, and Sanju Bika, 21, two of Nabaraj’s friends who accompanied him to help him elope with the girl, and who were among the six lynched and thrown into the Bheri River that evening in Rukum. 

What is even less well known is that Tikaram and Sanju were married and left behind widows and young children. The bodies of both young men were found a few days later downstream from the crime scene. 

Sunita Sunar is Tikaram’s wife, and wears a shite shawl on top of a white mourning dhoti. Her face is swollen with constant weeping. The 18-year-old holds her two-year-old daughter in her lap and she says she has no more tears left to shed.

Her daughter keeps asking, “Where is baba?” Sunita has no answer, and sobs quietly. She eloped with Tikaram when she was 14, and says her life has now fallen apart.

When they brought her husband’s body home two days after the murders, Sunita fainted. His body was pale and wrinkled from being so long in the water, and it had cuts and bruises all over.  

Sunita heard that night that there had been a fight in Chaujhari of Rukum involving Nabaraj BK’s group, but at first she did not think it was that serious. Still, she was afraid, and was shocked as news came later that night that Nabaraj had been killed and his body was found in the Bheri. 

“I took my daughter and went to ask the police,” Sunita recalls in a soft voice. “They said they had found Nabaraj’s body and one other body that they could not identify. For some reason, I had a premonition that my husband did not survive either.”

Sunita remembers the sight of her husband’s body with deep cuts made by sickles. There was blood oozing from his mouth, nose and ears. “That image just keeps coming back to me over and over again,” she says.

Sunita Sunar got married as a child, and has always wanted to complete her studies. She and her husband agreed that as soon as her daughter grew up, she would go back to school. She does not know what to do now, whether to return to her parents or stay in her husband’s house.

He in-laws are day labourers and earn just enough to feed the family from day to day. Their only hope was Tikaram who wanted to open a mobile repair shop to augment the family income.

“My in-laws love me, but the situation here is miserable, everyone had pinned their hopes on my husband to take care of the family, now he is gone,” she says. “I never imagined that I would be alone this early on in life.” 

Sanju BK’s wife, Sabina, is just 20 and has a four-year-old son to support. She was married off at 14 by her parents to Sanju even though she had never seen him. At 15 she got pregnant, dropped out of school in Grade 8, and soon gave birth to her son. 

Sunita Sunar’s two-year-old daughter and mother Gita BK.

Just like his friend Nabaraj BK, Sanju wanted to join the security forces and was already training for it. “I may not get leave after I join the forces, so we should celebrate our son’s birthday before I go, he used to say,” Sabina recalls. 

“I still cannot believe he is gone. I feel he will just walk in the door at any moment,” she says, breaking into silent sobs. 

Sanju’s father needed hospital treatment for three years, and while taking care of him he was determined that their son should grow up to be a doctor. He had taken out a loan so their son could go to a good school. 

Sanju BK was missing, and it was mental torture for Sabina as she heard of one body after another being retrieved from the Bheri. His body was found five days later from 30km downstream. 

The banks of Bheri River between Rukum and Jajrkot district where the bodies of the victims were found.

Sanju BK’s father is still ill and cannot work. His elder sister takes care of the family business and does household chores. Sabina wanted to get a government job to help support her family, but now there is no certainty. Six weeks after the murders, Sabina is still waiting for justice for the murder of her husband and five of his friends. 

There is uncertainty about what will happen to the accused. So far, 23 of the 27 charged with the lynchings have been sent into custody pending trial by the Rukum West District Court. 

The girl Nabaraj BK wanted to elope with and her minor brother have been sent into a correctional facility. One of the accused has been named as a mastermind, while the others have been accused to abetting a caste-based murder.

Says Sabina BK: “For now, we need justice. After that, I do not know what will happen.”  

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