Disappeared radio journalist Dhan Bahadur Roka’s wife (right), son (center) and daughter pictured last week. Photo: Dinesh Subedi/Republica
ROLPA, Aug 13: Pabitra Roka, the eldest child of journalist Dhan Bahadur Roka, who disappeared during the Maoist insurgency is in grade 12 now. She only has a faint memory of her father. “I just have a vague memory of him. I sometimes look at a photo of him taken while he worked at the radio station and imagine what he looked like,” Pabitra said in an emotional tone. She was three and a half years old when her father ‘vanished’. Both she and her mother are alien to the reason why her father disappeared.
When Dhan Bahadur disappeared in July 2001, his wife Dil Kumari Roka was just 30. Her son Basanta was two and it had just been 16 days since her infant son Ram Chandra was born. It has been 17 years since that incident but the Roka family doesn’t even know the reason behind the disappearance of Dhan Bahadur.
Although she has been somewhat convinced that her husband is dead, Dil Kumari still has little strands of hope that her husband is still alive. “We have very little hope that he is alive. The villagers informed us in 2002 that he was dead but we have not seen his body yet,” Dil Kumari said.
The last known thing about him is that he was abducted by the Maoists in Pyuthan in 2001. Since then, Dhan Bahadur who was working at the Regional Broadcasting Center of Radio Nepal in Surkhet has not returned to the village, nor has been his body recovered. A news reader at the station, he used to produce and read news. He was abducted on his way to the district headquarters Libang where he was going for some work.
The victim’s family has already taken Rs 1 million from the government at different stages as compensation and has applied, like other victim families, for the investigation of the disappeared. But the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) has not been able to produce sufficient result. All the victim families are in dismay due to the incapability of the commission.
“I have no hope that he is alive. But we should at least get to know what happened to him and how he died,” Dhan Bahadur’s daughter Pabitra said.
Three thousand and thirty eight complaints filed in Rolpa by the victims of the decade-long Maoist insurgency remain unaddressed though the Comprehensive Peace Accord between the Maoists and the government was signed in 2006. These many complaints were filed in three months after the CIEDP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) asked the victim families to file their complaints for the investigation of the truth. According to the Local Peace Committee of Rolpa, 116 of the complaints were filed by the family of people who disappeared during the insurgency.
Man Kumari Budha was abducted from her home in Madi-3, Talawang, by the national army on March 27, 2002. She has been missing ever since. “We know that she was taken to Madi chaur but we don’t know where she was taken after that,” said Man Kumari’s husband Sher Bahadur Budha, former president of the Association of Families of Disappeared Persons, Rolpa. It was a curse to Man Kumari that her husband was a Maoist. Sher Bahadur, who has filed a complaint at the CIEDP, is unsure if justice will be served. “It has been more than a year since we filed a complaint at the CIEDP, but no action has been taken. We don’t even expect anything from the commission now,” he said. His two sons still feel that their family has been a subject to great injustice.
Records maintained by the District Administrative Office (DAO), Rolpa, show that 19,926 people had applied to the office for an interim relief. Families of 969 deceased and 33 disappeared during the insurgency in the district have received up to Rs 1 million as relief. Three hundred twenty-three have lost their husbands. The data shows that only about 15 percent of the victims’ families filed an application at the office for relief. The commission has not been doing its job properly and that makes them worried, they say.
‘Government doesn’t give us any attention’
The CIEDP remains helpless about the situation of investigation of the disappeared people.
Chairman of the CIEDP, Lokendra Mallick accused the government of not paying enough attention to the commission. “We want to start the investigation but the government doesn’t provide us with the required human resource. We don’t even have enough budget.” He added that the commission will start the investigations in two months if ample human resource and budget is provided. He also said that the commission has already completed the investigation in 39 districts while investigations in other districts will start once they get their hands on the budget and the human resource. The TRC is in a similar situation, unable to deliver.