Kotbada killings still haunt families

Published On: February 23, 2017 08:10 AM NPT By: Shankar Shrestha

HEKRANG, Feb 23: Ever since the Kotbada airport became officially operational from February 11, the family members of the 35 airport construction workers killed during the Maoist insurgency have been forced to recall the dark day.

"Planes have started taking off and landing at the airport, but will our loved ones return?" the victims' family members ask this question to every visitor. Many of them still watch the ways hoping that their family members, who had gone for the construction of the airport, will return one day.

14 years on, the dead bodies of the Kotbada victims are yet to be handed over to the family members who haven't received any compensation, either. Dhanmaya Praja of Jogimara-5, who lost her only son in the incident, says she finds it hard to believe that her son has died as she has not seen his body yet.

Although many important persons have reached the airport after it came into operation, none of them has said or done anything for the victims killed by Nepal Army in 2002. Mangalbahar Thapa, brother of Bhim Bahadur, a victim of the Kotbada killings, asked,

"The airport coming into operation must be good news for the government but what about us?" According to him, the government has done nothing to heal their wounds. 

Although the government had announced to provide a compensation of Rs 1 million each to the victims' families, the latter are still deprived of it. The victims' family members have time and again accused the government of ignoring the case as the perpetrators have not been booked yet. As most of the deceased were the breadwinners of their families, their absence has forced them to live a miserable life.

The devastating earthquakes of 2015 made their lives even worse. Many of them lament that if the government had provided them the compensation, at least they would have been able to rebuild their houses destroyed by the earthquake. "My son wanted to reduce the burden of debt on our family but they killed him. It would have been better if they had killed me too," said Dhanmaya.  

In 2002, Nepal Army soldiers killed 35 construction workers, mostly Chepangs, mistaking them for Maoists. After the death of their husbands, many Chepang women were forced to marry their brothers-in-law as they alone could not bear the responsibility of their children. "I have two children and I was not able to provide them even two square meals a day. So, I had to marry my brother-in-law," said Belimaya Chepang.

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