As soon as I arrived in Nepal I had to change my plans – what I had expected to be a time of cheer and celebration as I arrived at the end of Dewali (Festival of Lights) had become a source of ethnic tension. The argument was over the dates of the Festival and as the level of contention rose, the government had to concede and extend the festival.
As my bag had decided to take a break somewhere in the Middle East, I was grateful for the extra day to allow it to catch up with me. With my bag in hand, and the new schedule for the Dewali Festival finalised we headed two hours out of Khatmandu to Kavre district where I met with Bhoraj Timilsina from the Youth Alliance for Peace and Environment (YAPE). Despite numerous death threats and offers of more lucrative INGO jobs in the capital, Bhoraj has stayed committed to Kavre district for over 12 years. He has earned himself respect across society; from the poorest communities up to the police and army chiefs. Mixing his attention between human rights abuses of the past and conflicts of the present as they emerge, Bhoraj and YAPE are working to bring stability to Kavre District.
YAPE has dealt with more conflict-related issues than they can count and everywhere we go there is somebody who is grateful to Bhoraj. We met a number of victims of the conflict that he has helped, from a former child soldier to a more recent victim/perpetrator of the violent Tamasaling clashes last June. The story that sticks most in my mind is that of a father who was dragged from his home by security forces one night during the height of the conflict and shot 18 times. His body was found by his wife who died a few months later from heart failure. The consequent anger of one of the man’s daughters led her to disappear one day herself to join the Maoists. Tragically, whilst trying to revenge for her father’s death, she was also killed by security forces in combat. Her brother talked of the cycle of violence and his family’s loss certainly brings the point home.
Nepal is by no means at peace yet; it has yet to face the challenges of political differences, years of ideological indoctrination, unfulfilled promises and at least 13,000 of the 32,000 armed cadres still thought to be in the jungle. Combined with the inevitable anger that is the legacy of civil conflict, the challenge is huge, but as he’s already proven, Bhoraj is not a man to give up hope.
Head of International Programmes