Wounds of war that never healed...

Photo: BL Media

The world has moved on, but the pain and suffering 'Haste Roka Magar' endured still haunts him. Those sufferings can neither be forgotten nor be removed from the history books. Life goes on, and so is the nature of life. But, the scars are a constant reminder of pain. They take the form of a spike and prick you right in the heart.

After 1999 AD, life for Haste Roka Magar would never be the same. He returned home from the 'Harjang Massacre' after seeing the face of death. The 71-year-old shivers with PTSD when somebody reminds him of the horrors he faced during the 10-year-long armed conflict. Although he struggles to talk physically, the agony in his gestures speaks louder than the words he could never utter.

The petrifying Harjang massacre happened on a cold and dreary night of 10 March 1999 AD. The situation in the Rolpa district of Nepal around that time was dreadful. 'Comrades' fueled with rage and vengeance against the state roamed around the streets of Rolpa with assault rifles. Sounds of gunfire and screams of women and children echoed around every corner of the road.

The world has moved on, but the pain and suffering 'Haste Roka Magar' endured still haunts him. Those sufferings can neither be forgotten nor be removed from the history books. Life goes on, and so is the nature of life. But, the scars are a constant reminder of pain. They take the form of a spike and prick you right in the heart.

The Maoist revolution may have brought changes in the state, but to men like Haste, it was a constant source of misery that didn't seem to end. "Why did they have to beat me to the inch of my life? The civil war made my life a living hell. Those 'revolutionists' took my legs and made me crippled for the rest of my life. They didn't even have the decency to leave me my voice," he said as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Haste crawls around his house, where dozens of Maoist revolutionists took turns to beat him within an inch of his life. The comrades chased him out of his own home, threw him near the bushes in his house, and took turns abusing him. They beat him with whatever object they could lay their hands on. When they could not gratify themselves with the beating, they hurled a 'Khukuri' (A traditional Nepalese weapon) at his head, leaving him to die. But the universe was in Haste's favor. He mustered up what little life he had in his body and survived that horrifying ordeal with what he describes as "monsters in human's skin."

He cannot perform his everyday duties without help from others, and he cannot talk, walk or even crawl on his own. According to Haste, no Maoist leader, activist, or even the local representatives have not visited Haste to this very date. He has abandoned all hope of getting any aid or support from the government, let alone the Maoist insurgents.

He is fully disabled now. The Nepal Government introduced the Disabled Allowance Program back in 1996 and provided cash transfers to people with disabilities. But Haste is yet to receive his first allowance. Many people who lost their homes and were displaced during the 10-year-long Civil War got millions of rupees in compensation from the government, but Haste hasn't even received a dime. Neither has somebody offered him a helping hand to support him and care for him.

Haste found that 'light at the end of the tunnel' when he heard about the establishment of local government, but that light was quickly snuffed out when nobody showed an interest in people like him. "Everything about this government is useless, and it is only meant for rich people," said Haste.

Wartime was particularly hard for the residents of the Rolpa district, and the Eastern region of the district was a stronghold of insurgents. They roamed around the area during the day and raided homes of innocent people at night, demanding food and shelter. At first, the people of Rolpa facilitated the needs of those insurgents.

As time went by, the revolutionists got reckless and painted their party's slogans on the walls of the homes they stayed the night at. The military saw the houses of residents painted in red (the color of communists) and beat innocent people without question. The people begged Maoist leaders and activists not to write messages on their walls, but they did not listen. The truth was, they did not care if people were getting beaten by the military.

And so the saga of mysterious slogans appearing all over the district began. The insurgents stealthily entered the town at night and painted slogans like "Hail Maoist" all over the place. The military, in the morning, would patrol the city and beat citizens up for the act those insurgents committed. People started to efface the slogans to save themselves from the beatings of the military and the armed police force. But that only saved them from the cruelty of the police and the army. The activists then started beating the people, saying they were now helping the state.

Haste trembles with fear even now when he remembers the dawn of 10 March 1999 AD. He was beaten up before the first light of the day could even appear, and the insurgents burned people alive in their sleep inside their homes. He said, struggling to form sentences, "My friends and neighbors were burned alive. I was lucky I lived. I don't remember anything at all but I was told I was rescued by helicopter and taken to Dang."

The lifeless body of Haste was airlifted the same morning to the Mahendra Hospital in Dang, where he received a treatment worth Rupees 5,500. Eventually, he was transferred to Banke, where he received further treatment and was billed Rupees 30,000. His sister-in-law Devi Roka Magar told BL Media.

He was then airlifted to Kathmandu's Bir Hospital, where he received proper care. The total cost of his treatment was more than 1.5 lakhs, which was paid for by the UML party.

Haste's eldest son was then 17 years old, and the youngest was around 12 years old. The condition of his family was weak. Like most people, Haste had to go to Kalapar to earn money. The eldest son went to India with his friends from the village.

The son, who arrived in India searching for work, returned home a year after his father was beaten and unable to walk. He says that he paid his father's medical expenses. "The Maoists had thrown him in the bush and left him for dead. It's a miracle father survived," says he.

The village of Harjang lived in terror for decades after those on duty to stop the terror of the then Maoists were beaten. "I had to seek a loan to pay for medical expenses, and no one helped. I spent over 1.5 lakhs. I immediately paid for the medical treatment," says Haste's sister-in-law Devi. She is short of hearing, and her physical health is diminishing.

Even today, when Maoists enter the village, they shut their doors and hide, and they stay up all night from the fear of being burnt alive in their sleep. "Olden days haunt us," says Haste's oldest son. He becomes speechless when he remembers the time his father still had his voice.

The Harjang massacre took place on 10 March 1999 in Harjang in the Rolpa district of Nepal when Maoist insurgents locked people in their homes and burned them alive in their sleep. Those who attempted to flee were hunted and shot down, beaten, or burned.

Publish : 2022-04-12 22:25:00

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