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NEPAL: Civil War Victims Await Compensation

Renu Kshetry

KATHMANDU, Oct 6 2008 (IPS) - Kamala Limbu’s husband, a Maoist activist, was allegedly abducted by security personnel in 2001. She has no clue about his whereabouts, nor can she avail of promised relief for want of proof. "It is discrimination. From where will I get all the facts?" asks Limbu.

Civil war victims demanding compensation at a rally. Credit: Renu Kshetry/IPS

Civil war victims demanding compensation at a rally. Credit: Renu Kshetry/IPS

Even though the Nepal government has announced relief for families displaced by the decade-long armed conflict and those affected, the process is complicated. This has caused many of the victims, especially Maoist cadres and sympathisers, to allege unfairness in the distribution of relief funds.

In September 2007, the Maoists who held four ministerial seats quit the interim government and threatened a return to hostilities over non-fulfillment of several demands of which fair distribution of relief funds to conflict victims was a major one.

Government data collected from 1995 till the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord in November 2006 was used by the ministry of home affairs to provide the relief funds till the establishment of the peace ministry that year.

In view of the political situation then prevailing, it was difficult for the Maoists to access the relief funds. However, although the Maoists now run the government, little has changed for the victims.

One major reason for the difficulty in accessing relief is the old government mechanism which is still in place. And then, to be fair to the the Maoist-led government, it is just a month old and has other priorities.

Baburam Bhattarai, the new finance minister from the ruling Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPN-M), has now included a special package to help those who were internally displaced, went missing or were harmed during the armed conflict.

"With the ruling CPN-M party giving the green signal, the number of applications for the compensations will skyrocket and there will be a high probability of discrimination in the distribution against those belonging to other parties – repeating what Nepali Congress did in the past," opined Muma Ram Khanal, political analyst.

Neither the Maoists nor their victims have received funds. Displaced from her home in 2002 by Maoist guerrillas who also left her husband crippled, Lal Kumari Buda, 57, says she is yet to receive any compensation and unable to return to her home in Rolpa district.

"I want to go home but I have not received any relief, nor compensation for my captured land and property,'' says Lal Kumari, adding that her younger brother, who was taken away by the Maoists, was never seen again.

Shyam Shrestha, political analyst and civil society member, said that at a time when the peace process is still continuing, discrimination could easily push the country into another conflict.

"Rehabilitation of those displaced, providing relief to families who have lost members and finding whereabouts of the enforced disappeared should be the government's topmost priority," said Shrestha. "Whatever the reason, the victims should get relief irrespective of which party they belong to."

Fourteen months ago, the peace ministry formed a task force to collect data of the people displaced, dead, and disabled or with damaged personal property. The data showed a total of 45,801 internally displaced persons (IDPs), while about 15,000 people were also identified as having been killed during the conflict.

A total of 27,135 IDPs have so far received relief funds from the government and returned to their homes, the vast majority of them non-Maoists. In the case of the dead, only four families have received compensation so far and none of these had Maoist affiliation.

Reacting to allegations of unfair relief distribution, under secretary Dhruba Sharma of the ministry's relief and rehabilitation unit said, those who applied for the relief and fulfilled the requirements got it and that it was "open to all." He added that funds cannot be released unless the application matched the task force report. "It is quite clear that the displaced family should have revealed their place of migration to their home district administration office, or else it is not possible to provide them any fund."

In the case of Parbat district in western Nepal, the majority of security personnel killed have received compensation, but no Maoist has claimed relief so far. "The Maoists, even though identified as killed, never came forward to get the funds," said Jeetendra Bhandari, chief district administrative officer, Parbat. "Maoists haven't submitted their names at all. We have sent a letter to the Maoist party to register the names for the relief."

Janardan Sharma, newly-appointed minister for peace and reconstruction, told IPS that he is now holding discussions with the experts to simplify the relief process. "We are collecting the names of those whose names were not registered before," said Sharma, who belongs to the ruling CPN-M.

But Bhojraj Timilsena, coordinator of Maoist Victims National Struggle Committee, was sceptical. "Those who have the connections are getting the funds," said Timilsena.

According to him, there are around 15,000 IDPs living in Kathmandu alone. The committee has been organising peaceful protests since Jun. 17 this year demanding, among other things, action taken against those involved in human rights violations and return of seized property.

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