Blood, Tears and
Optimism: A Reflection from Dang
Shree Ram Chaudhary
It is believed that the Tharu people lived in the Dang region since the
Stone Age. According to Devid Sedon, the Tharus have occupied the area
for around 300,000 years. It is also assumed that Dang derives its name
from a Tharu king, Dangisharan, who ruled the area about 5,000 years
Dang is a district with a unique historic, economic, political, social
and cultural identity. It is a fertile land and a major habitat of the
Tharu ethnic group. In 1964, when the new land management system came
into operation, only Tharus were settled in Dang; but after the
eradication of malaria, they began migrating from the district. At this
time, the Tharu people owned 90 percent of all land in the district.
Later non-Tharus started migrating to the district, and the government
and powerful local leaders captured land and enslaved the Tharus—a major
cause of the historical conflict in Dang.
To reacquire their lands, the Tharus struggled hard for years and
initiated efforts at a land revolution. Gumara Tharu, leader of the
farmers’ movement, who famously said that “land belongs to those who
plough and houses belong to those who scrub,” was shot dead by the
government in 1960.
There is thus a long history of incidents of domination, oppression and
exploitation of the Tharu people, who have been in revolt since
panchayat rule commenced in the 1960s. Many people sacrificed their
lives fighting for their rights. However, these incidents never
benefited any of the Tharu communities; only the landlords benefited.
Even after the political transformation in 1990, the Tharu community
gained nothing: the nature of domination changed, but fundamentally, the
oppression remained unchanged. This fuelled anger and dissatisfaction in
the hearts of the Tharus towards the Nepali government and its
Initially, the Maoist revolution that began in 1996 had little impact in
Dang since the neighboring districts of Rolpa, Rukum and Salyan were
focal points of their “People’s War.” When in later years the Maoists
realized the strategic importance of Dang, their interest in the
district increased as did the impact of the conflict on it. The
domination of the people by the State further stimulated Maoist
agitation, and both the government and Maoists competed to parade their
power in Dang where poor Tharus, Dalits and all underprivileged
communities ultimately became the victims.
The Maoists attacked Ghorahi, the headquarters of Dang, on Nov. 23,
2001, killing 37 security personnel, including 14 soldiers of the Royal
Nepal Army. The Maoists succeeded in capturing a large cache of weapons,
and the attack ended negotiations that were taking place between the
Maoists and the government. The government responded by announcing a
nationwide state of emergency several days later on Nov. 26.
Subsequently, the situation in Dang continued to worsen, and insecurity
reigned in the district. The infuriated security forces began
undertaking careless and one-sided actions in various parts of Dang.
Five days after the start of the emergency, for example, state forces
killed 11 innocent Tharu farmers from the village of Bargaddi. The
Maoists took advantage of the people’s desire for vengeance and
recruited large numbers of Tharu youth into their ranks. The homeland of
the innocent Tharus consequently turned into a theatre of war, grief and
Data from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), released on Aug.
30, 2006, stated that after 2001 a total of 936 people were abducted
nationally—563 by state forces (these are still missing), 315 by the
Maoists and 58 by unidentified groups. In Dang alone, security forces
abducted 56 people and the Maoists two individuals.
After the frightful Maoist attack, the government formulated strong
policies against the Maoists and initiated various search campaigns. The
Maoists were equally ruthless, and violent encounters between these two
forces became routine. According to data from the Informal Sector
Service Center (INSEC), a total of 686 people were killed in Dang from
Feb. 13, 1996, to Sept. 9, 2006. State forces killed 422 people: 312
males, 10 females and 100 people who could not be identified by gender.
Similarly, the Maoists killed 264 people: 257 males and seven females.
The Khalyan Massacre: The anger of the
security forces following the Maoist attack on Ghorahi on Nov. 23, 2001,
was directed towards poor Tharu farmers in the village of Bargaddi in
Tribhuban Municipality–3. Alleging them to be Maoists, security forces
killed 11 villagers who were working their landlord’s field in Khalyan.
Those killed were Jagmaan Chaudhary, Sati Lal Chaudhary, Krishna
Chaudhary, Aasha Ram Chaudhary, Chona Chaudhary, Khusi Ram Chaudhary,
Chiju Chaudhary, Bishram Chaudhary, Laxman Chaudhary, Somlal Chaudhary
and Prasad Chaudhary.
The Pendya Massacre: Tharu farmers were
celebrating the Pendya Festival on Dec. 9, 2001, in the Laxmipur Village
Development Committee (VDC) as they have done every year after having
taken in the annual harvest. Feasting throughout the day, they were
dancing and singing that night. At some point, the army surrounded the
house and shot and killed 11 innocent people. The security forces later
justified their action by declaring the dead to have been Maoists who
had allegedly broken the curfew.
The Kathberuwa Massacre: The villagers of Kathberuwa, Bela–2,
were roofing their houses with hay on June 17, 2002, when an army search
party arrested seven villagers. Two of them, Chatak Bahadur Chaudhary
and Ganesh Chaudhary, were shot dead on the spot. The remaining five—
Uday Ram Chaudhary, Hari Lal Chaudhary, Kedar Nath Chaudhary, Dhani Ram
Chaudhary and Bhim Bahadur Chaudhary—were taken to the Musot River and
The Rajakot Jungle Massacre: The villagers of Kauwaghari,
Goltakuri–8, were on their way to a local forest in search of timber to
make electricity poles on June 30, 2002. There were three groups
consisting of both villagers and VDC representatives. On their way to
the forest, the second group encountered security forces assigned to
protect the Rajakot tower. The first group was ahead, and the third one
was far behind them. The villagers, who were carrying axes, were accused
of being Maoists and were arrested by the soldiers. To prove their
innocence, the villagers gave their names, addresses and occupations and
explained why they were visiting the forest. They begged to be believed
but could not soften the soldiers’ hearts.
The soldiers ordered the villagers to strip, blindfolded them with their
own clothes and then killed 12 of them right there. Those killed
belonged to Sarki families. One of the group, Shobha Ram Nepali, was
able to escape by jumping down the hill and was the only witness to the
incident to survive. The bodies of the dead were never recovered. One of
the dead was unmarried, one had married the same year and all others
were married with children.
The Teej Festival Massacre: On Sept. 8,
2002—roughly two months after the Rajakot jungle incident—another
horrific episode occurred in the village of Baakhre, Phoolbari–4. As
part of the Teej Festival, some villagers were sharing buffalo meat when
the security forces, chasing the Maoists, arrived in the village. The
Maoists escaped past the villagers, and the soldiers, alleging that the
villagers were also with the Maoists, randomly fired on them, killing
six people. Ram Kumar Nepali, Top Bahadur B. K., Manoj Nepali,
Choodamani Shrestha, Dharam Nepali and Top Bahadur Nepali died on the
spot. Punaram B. K. and Bhakta Bahadur Nepali were forced to dig graves
for the six people who were killed, and the soldiers then beat these two
men close to the point of death. Despite medical treatment, Puna Ram B.
K. died in October 2003, and Bhakta Bahadur Nepali died the following
month. A total of eight innocent people thus lost their lives in this
Dang is one of the districts worst affected by the conflict. Its
headquarters, Ghorahi, was brutally attacked by the Maoists on Nov. 23,
2001. Three days later the government declared an emergency in the
country, which in Dang lasted for four years. The district remained
consistently in the headlines of the national newspapers because of the
brutal incidents occurring there. Dang is considered one of the
principle territories of the Tharu community, and many Tharus were badly
affected by the conflict. Dalits and other marginalized communities were
also severely affected.
These simple people, who never knew the meaning of the emergency, became
the targets of the guns of the security forces at festivals or in
forests and for no reason. Even those who were simply thatching their
roofs were brutally murdered. These innocent people, who were killed by
the State, are still considered as Maoists by the government, which has
made no effort to investigate and find the truth.
After the deaths of the male heads of the family, who were the
breadwinners, women with a low economic status are now having trouble
feeding their children. Unable to bear the pain of their husbands’
deaths, some women, like Radha Nepali, have committed suicide. On the
other hand, some widows, such as Meghi B. K., are leading a social
transformation. Moreover, there are women who were physically abused by
security personnel when looking for their missing husbands. Doctors have
failed to identify the disease that has afflicted such women as Sita
Basnet who have lost their beloved ones. Doctors have advised them to
laugh; but not having the medicine that could aid them to laugh, these
women are living in a pool of tears. Meanwhile, women whose husbands
were killed by the Maoists, like Sabitra K. C., are treated cruelly even
by their own family. Although few women were killed during the conflict,
they are the ones who are now most affected by it.
. The Khalyan is a public threshing place where the entire
village gets together and harvests their crops.
. The Pendya is a festival which is celebrated, especially
by the Tharu people, after the harvesting of rice.
. The Teej Festival is a weekend-long Hindu festival in
which women have to fast and pray to the god Mahadeve for a good husband
and long life.