KATHMANDU, NEPAL – Chandra Kumari Basnet, 63, stands outside the central office of the Maoists, the Communist Party of Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, to address a group of fellow protesters.
“Where are my sons?” she asks them with moist eyes. “What is their condition? Let me know!”
Basnet is wrapped in a red saree. Bangles clink on her wrist, and glass beads adorn her neck. Dried tears stain her wrinkled face.
And she is not alone. Hundreds of protesters carry photographs of their missing family members. Some carry red banners that read: “Give us information about the missing people.” “Punish the perpetrators.” “Basic needs for the families of the missing people.”
Eventually, the protesters’ eyes and faces show their tiredness. They lay down their placards on the ground in font of them, tired physically and emotionally of having to fight six years after the war ended.
Basnet too holds photos of her two sons who went missing during Nepal’s civil war.
“Why does nobody understand our pain and plight?” she asks.
Back in 2003 when Nepal’s civil war was escalating, her sons, Puspa Basnetand Dhirendra Basnet, 26 and 20 at the time, were studying in Kathmandu.
“I thought my sons would have a better future if they studied in colleges in Kathmandu,” Basnet says.
But in November of that year, both of her sons disappeared. She has not heard from them since and doesn’t know their whereabouts – or whether they are even still alive.
“They left home for better education, but I don’t know in what state they are in,” she says, choking up.
Both of Basnet’s sons were involved in student groups affiliated with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) political party that led the prolonged civil war against Nepal’s ancient monarchy. Basnet says she used to endure sleepless nights thinking of the dangers awaiting her sons because of their involvement with these groups.
When she heard that the Royal Nepalese Army had arrested her sons, she says she felt relieved, believing that her sons would not die in the fighting. But then, she never learned where the army took them.
Basnet started living on the hope that they were alive in prison somewhere and would be released some day. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) became the ruling party during 2008 after the Constitent Assembly declared Nepal a republic and removed King Gyanendra Shah from power.
She came to the capital eight years ago from her hometown, Damak, which lies nearly 400 miles east of Kathmandu, in search of her missing sons. Yet nearly a decade after leaving her house, farm and livestocks behind, she still does not know where her sons are.
“Every morning, I have a hope that my sons will be found,” she says. “And at the end [of] each day, the hope dies. I have been living in the same condition for the last eight years, and I even don’t know whether my sons are alive or dead.”