For 10 years Maoists armed to their teeth prowled Nepal’s remote Himalayan trails dodging attacks from army helicopters. Today, five years after a peace accord ended the insurgency, tourists armed with cameras and water purification tablets are following in the rebels’ footsteps.
The Maoist have been called terrorists but think about themselves as the saviors of the poor and the opposition against the urban elite. Even though the war is over and the Maoist are in power, many are still suffering from the mistakes made from Nepal’s new leaders.
Sometimes to get everybody to appear the Maoist arranged activities at the school and called up our names. The teachers told that all children from the third grade and up would be kidnapped. I was scared and I never answered when they said my name.— Keshari (13)
It’s barely four o’clock in the mourning. The fog is lies smooth as silk over the mountains that surrounds the small village were Keshari (13) lives. Her mother wakes her gently up, as she has done every single morning since Keshari was five. Keshari stands up and puts the same clothes as she has done for the last week. A red and worn t-skirt, a black pair of sweatpants full of holes and a pair of yellow sandals that lost the pattern on the sole a long time ago. Her brothers Khum (10) and Til (5) are no early birds and are still sleeping on the clay floor covered with a thin filthy wool carpet. In the same room her little sister sleeps in her mother’s bed well wrapped. The door is open and the cold morning winds sweeps into the room.
I met Keshari in 2008. Two years after Keshari and her big brother, Aaitu, walked together on the way back home. They had done all their chores that day, fetched water, carried dirt to the fields, fed the animals, chopped wood and been to school. They walked on a dusty road when something caught their attention. A shiny round object. Aaitu took his sickle, pried it and took it up with his hands and showed it to his sister.
Keshari’s eyes are quickly filled up with tears as she continues
- there was nothing left of my brother she says. She was injured and her brother died from the land mine that the Maoist had put out.
Keshari doesn’t like to show her weakness and turns quickly away and stares to the ground.
I hate them.— Keshari (13)
Since her father was the “mokia” (chief of the village) they got a lot of attention. And the envy came along as well because of the visits from the Maoist. The Maoist wanted to excuse what had happened and made Aaitu a Maoist martyr. They even donated 2000 rupees (50$). After all this attention rumors about the family being Maoist-friendly started in the village. I wasn’t true but nobody believed them. Their house was set on fire, Keshari’s father lost the position as the “mokia” and moved to India to earn enough money to rebuild their house and send the kids to school.
- We speak to him once a week on the phone. There is one telephone here in the village.
Keshari’s father left nine months ago and will be away for several years.
Two years ago Keshari had to leave school because of the accident and had to see her school friends pass to the next grade without her. It was not the first time her school period was disturbed. Keshari tells about all the episodes were fully armed Maoist came by the school and pupils were told to stay home for days because it was not safe enough.
- Sometimes to get everybody to appear the Maoist arranged activities at the school and called up our names. The teachers told that all children from the third grade and up would be kidnapped. I was scared and I never answered when they said my name, Keshari tells.
Now it’s Keshari’s last day at school again for this year and it’s the day of the important exam at school. Unfortunately she flunked. Not because she’s not good enough, but because of her injuries. She has constant headaches, pain in her neck, back and legs and finds it impossible to concentrate for a long period of time. And the pain grows because of the heavy work she does. Together with her mother she has to do all the farming, since her oldest brother is dead and the father had to leave.
This is just a small part of a long documentary about Keshari’s life.
The story became also a children’s book for Save The Children (given out to schools in Norway). See the book here.
Keshari is now a part of a Save The Children program in Nepal.