It was Thursday 3 June, 2004. We used to keep earnings from the sale of produce for our in-laws, and this time our youngest son Krishna wanted to take the money to Chitwan to hand it over to his grandparents.
Krishna had travelled to Chitwan for the first time a year ago with his father. My husband was not sure if he would be able to travel alone and worried that carrying all that cash would be unsafe. “It’s best that I go. You might get lost,” he said.
But Krishna had made up his mind to go, and also get his SLC results while he was in Chitwan. That sounded reasonable. Our elder son Noor Prasad was also home at the time. He tutored village students who had failed their exams. On the morning of 3 June, he left home early for classes. I was cooking rice, Krishna was preparing to leave for Chitwan.
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“Mother, I’m going to be late if I wait for you to finish cooking the vegetables,” said Krishna as he helped himself to the yoghurt I had set. I had a lot of household chores myself and fodder grass to cut. So I told Krishna to finish the rice and yoghurt while I left for my work.
Krishna was neatly dressed in a crisp shirt and white pants when he left. His father had handed him Rs. 20,000, saying that Rs15,000 was for his grandparents and Rs5,000 was for him to buy whatever he wanted.
“I don’t want much besides a new pair of shoes,” said Krishna, who had himself saved Rs2000 working in the farm and saving from his tiffin money. It was not even 6AM , but the sun was already up in the sky.
On his way, Krishna stopped by the school where his elder brother was tutoring his students. The two spoke briefly before Krishna continued on.
His brother watched through the classroom window as Krishna walked away, not knowing it would be the last time he would ever see his young brother.
Had we known that Krishna was travelling to his death, I would have kept him safely hidden within the walls of our house, or I would have sent him somewhere far away.
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Chhabilal Poudel was the headmaster of our village school. Since he had taught both our sons, we also called him ‘sir’. He visited our home at around 10AM that day.
“Where are your sons?” he asked.
I told him that the younger one had left for Chitwan to meet his grandparents, while our oldest was in class.
“Oh,” he replied, seeming to give it a lot of thought, sitting on the bench.
“Would you like some tea?” I asked.
“Sure, I’d like a cup,” he said.
I served him tea with snacks leftover from the previous day, and then got back to sweeping my porch. I had no idea, not even an inkling, that he was spying on us. We also didn’t know he had joined the Maoists. We never imagined he was seeking revenge on us, and plotting to murder our youngest son.
I saw Chhabilal in front of our house the next day too. At first, I didn’t think much of it. But I saw him the next day and repeatedly saw him the following days. Each time he passed our house, he used to gaze at us in an odd manner. Something felt off.
‘Why does this person pass by our house every day and look at it almost like a thief, as if he’s planning to rob something’, I wondered to myself. Little did I know he was waiting for signs of grief.
We had no idea they had already killed my son Krishna on the evening of 6 June, 2004 in Chitwan.
That evening, after finishing all the work for the day we sat down to listen to the news. Kalika FM had already broadcast the news of our son’s death, but we were not aware of it. Although there was constant news of disappearances and murders, it never crossed our mind that our son could be one of them.
In those days, the moment we turned on the radio, the only news we heard were of people killed in the conflict in different parts of Nepal. This discouraged me from paying attention to the radio. I was preparing rice and vegetables and heating some milk, while the radio was on in the background.
My husband was tending to our buffaloes. As I was heating some rice, I was wondering where the latest deaths would be reported from. Just then, my elder son arrived.
“Son, did you hear a few people died today? They were from Chitwan,” I said.
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That evening, we all went to bed feeling uneasy and upset about what was happening — the instability, violence and the news of death. As I was about to sleep, I felt sad wondering which parents had lost their children that day, and worried. Only the next day did I find out it was my own son, Krishna.
The next day Ramprasad Adhikari came to our house at around 10:00 am. He was not just our neighbour, but also a close relative. He had come in on a night bus from Chitwan the previous night. He walked straight to our house. “Aunty, Krishna got into a bus accident. He is in Bharatpur Hospital, we need go to Chitwan immediately.”
It felt like the ground had swallowed me up. My world turned upside down at that moment, and everything seemed blurred. I started crying uncontrollably. My husband was in the house at the time, he collapsed on the floor when he heard the news.
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My elder son, unable to process this news, was frantically pacing around. Our once peaceful home now felt like a storm had uprooted us.
We were informed about our son, but had no idea it was his murderer who gave us the news. My husband decided to leave immediately for Chitwan to see our son in hospital.
“Son, you take care of your mother. I will go and find out what happened,” my husband told him, his fragile frame trembling.
Throughout their journey, my husband later said, Ramprasad was constantly getting calls. Maybe the caller was asking him about their whereabouts.
He also told the person at the other end: “The mother is not in a good state, the elder son is extremely distressed.”
“Who is calling you like this, asking you about the details?” asked my husband.
“It’s Januka Didi,” he replied without thinking.
Januka Poudel was Chhabilal’s niece. Just like her uncle, she too had joined the Maoists. We heard that she was a guerrilla commander. But even till that point, we never suspected the two of being involved in our son’s murder.
Since Ramprasad was constantly getting calls from her, my husband started getting suspicious. But he told himself our son had just been injured and that would be fine soon. But when the two reached Bharatpur Hospital, Ramprasad abruptly informed my husband: “Uncle, brother passed away.”
My husband fainted upon hearing these words. The post-mortem had already been done. His lifeless body had been prepared for cremation, and they had also arranged for all the legal documents stating he was our son and that my husband claimed him for final rites. It was strange that all these steps had already been taken the day before.
The body was taken to the banks of a river, ready for cremation. But just when my husband was about to cremate him, he noticed there was blood flowing from what looked like several gunshot wounds on Krishna’s head. He also noticed Krishna’s hands and legs were dangling. They not only shot our son in the head, but had also beaten him mercilessly with a rod, breaking his limbs.
“I was told my son died in a bus accident. How can he have gunshot wounds to his head if he died in an accident?” he screamed at Ramprasad, and everyone else present.
No one uttered a single word. The cremation took place quietly, while the question kept burning in his mind.
He returned home the next day. I was desperately waiting for him, thinking that even though Krishna was injured, my husband would bring him back home. But I saw him approach alone with a disheartened look, and knew.
“They killed our son,” he said simply. “But don’t you cry. It will just give even more joy to our enemies.”
Hunger for justice, Makenzie Stallo
“How many times do we need to share our story?”, Seulki Lee