The letter from NHRC last year gave the couple some hope, and they spent some time in Kathmandu last week, visiting people at the Commission. But they came away confused about the process of getting the compensation money.
“We went to the Commission to ask them what we should do with the letter, and they said we have to go to Finance Ministry and Home Ministry, but we don’t know anyone there,” Chaudhary said. She had already spent ten days in Kathmandu waiting in government offices, trying to get noticed.
But this is not new to her. Chaudhary has been in Kathmandu every few years following-up on her case. On most occasions, she walks from office to office, waits on people until she runs out of savings.
She registered a case with the NHRC against the perpetrators in 2013. But it was only after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as set up two years later that it received some attention. But with 63,000 other complaints, progress on individual cases like hers has been slow.
“It all depends on the Cabinet now,” an NHRC official told Nepali Times, requesting anonymity. She added, “We have already issued a letter recommending the government pay her compensation and take action against some individuals in the security force who violated and tortured her.”
State of impunity, Editorial
Meanwhile, Chaudhary’s life staggers along. A storm last April, blew away the thatched roof of her house and destroyed her documents, including her citizenship certificate.
“We received too much rain last year and the fry plopped out of the pond before they could grow to full size. It was a bad year for business,” says Kiran’s husband Mahesh. “We grow just enough rice to last a few months, but with her medical expenses, we never have enough.”
Last year, Mahesh spent a few weeks going down to Lamki, learning Korean. He also cleared the Employment Permit System (EPS) exams, but with the pandemic, his migration plan is on hold. “We thought if I work abroad for a few years, we can save some money for her treatment.”
Kiran also requires physiotherapy for her back, but the nearest hospital is two hours’ bus ride away. Most days after field work she cannot sit because of the pain.
Kiran Chaudhary was detained, tortured and raped in two different army bases in Kailali. When she tried to go back to school after her release, she was ostracised and forced to drop out. For a year, she had to report to the police every day, and the villagers called her, “आर्मीले लगेको केटी”.
“So many people have died in my family in the last few years, I find myself very alone, with the same problems that never leave,” sighs Chaudhary, with a catch in her voice. She tries not to think about her past, and has tried many ways of moving on.
In 2012, she briefly joined Surya Bahadur Thapa’s Rastriya Janashakti Party, hoping that political affiliation would ease her life in some ways, but quickly realised she had no time for politics.
Peace is not peaceful
From withdrawing inward to shun memories that would send her into fits, she has learned over the years to live with the past. But every time she hears of another woman who suffered similarly during the conflict, and the government doing nothing to help, she feels like the cycle is a perpetual one.
“I am not the only one, am I?” she asks, in reference to recent cases of rape. “Even the officer at the Commission said that there are so many like me. Will they even do something about us? If I get the money it would at least pay my medical bills.”
The NHRC official said the Commission has been following up on conflict-era cases, and has been pressuring the government to include individual cases like Kiran Chaudhary’s on the agenda.
“It would be easier for everyone if the government made the decision and sent the compensation amount to be released to the local governments so that they don’t have to keep coming to Kathmandu,” the officer says. “But with the political mess we are in, it doesn’t look like that will happen soon. And it’s always the victims who keep suffering.”
Some names have been changed.
Read also: Nepal stalls on war crime probes, Nepali Times