In February 2002, 17 young men from Jogimara in Dhading district were killed by the Eotal Nepal Army while working on an airport runway at Kalikot in western Nepal after being mistaken for Maoists.
This was just one of the many war atrocities committed by both the rebels and the state. Which is why the amendment to the Transitional Justice Bill is so hurtful and disrespectful to the families of victims for attempting to grant immunity to perpetrators.
Excerpts from the report published 20 years this week in issue #105 9-15 August 2002:
In late November, just when the Maoists broke the truce and attacked the army in Dang, Jogimara’s poorest of the poor were getting ready to go to Kalikot. They went because they trusted the sub-contractor, Kumar Thapa. They knew him, he had never cheated them, and he was even willing to pay an advance. And they needed the money.
A month later, the Maoists attacked Mangalsen and Sanfebagar, killing 137 soldiers and policemen. The security forces went on a three-pronged hot pursuit northwards. The fleeing Maoists infiltrated the construction workers in Kalikot, and fired on an army helicopter flying overhead.
On 24 February, an army attack force stormed the quarters, thinking the workers were Maoists. According to eye-witnesses, 17 workers from Dhading, seven from Sindhupalchok, and 11 local villagers were killed. Among the villagers were the ward chairman from the Nepali Congress, two Sherpas from Solukhumbu who were working in Kalikot and two minors. All the Maoists had fled by the time the soldiers arrived.
The fact that the Maoists shot at the helicopter using the workers as human shields does not hide the fact that the attack in Kalikot was a colossal blunder. For the families of the dead in Dhading and Sindhupalchok, the wounds haven’t healed with time. This is mainly because they never got the bodies of their loved ones. No one ever came to apologise or tell them that it was a mistake. And to make matters even worse, as far as the government is concerned, their sons and fathers were all “terrorists”.
From archive material of Nepali Times of the past 20 years, site search: www.nepalitimes.com