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SERIES: Countdown to the International Day of the Disappeared (IDD): 19 days to go!

Expression of Pain
Wives of the Disappeared
Bare Their Hearts…

By Kopila Adhikari
Advocacy Forum-Nepal

Clad in red, the symbol of marital bliss and sanctity in Hindu culture of Nepal, and with a faint glimmer of hope in their eyes, they have been moving from pillar to post to find the whereabouts of their husbands. It has been ages since these women last saw their husbands. Their misty eyes show signs of eternal waiting for the eventual return of their disappeared loved ones.

Have those disappeared already been killed? A disappeared cannot be pronounced dead till their remains are found. To live in dilemma, undoubtedly is more than being crucified. When will the status of the disappeared during the decade-long conflict in the country be established? When will their loved ones return? These questions are gnawing their spirits and killing them softly.

On the one hand, the Nepali women have been waging a war against discrimination to achieve equality and social justice. On the other hand, they have to bear the brunt of the decade-long conflict in the country. The socio-economic-cultural structure of the country endows a secondary role to women. They have no separate identity besides literally playing the second fiddles in the affairs of society. For them, their “valiant halves” are the Almighty Gods, on whose mercy the entire drama of their lives unfolds.

“I have completely no desire to live, I could neither feed my children; the bringer of bacon is still missing. Nor could I provide them with the proper education and feed them well. I feel like killing my children and committing suicide than just dragging on through this unfeeling world. Sometimes I tried to feel what my husband would possibly say to me if we meet again. A decade-long separation, I can’t imagine! I believe that everything will never be the same again if he comes back. Sometimes, I feel suffocated by my inability to manage my family. But the hope always lurks behind my every thought and I just manage to wade on.”

The innocents got meshed up in the whirlpool of conflict and emerged, ultimately, as victims. Although the country underwent a massive political transformation and the erstwhile rebels are basking in the afterglow of their ascent to power, the situation of the victims remains as it was during the period of the conflict. The so-called architects of New Nepal are enjoying every physical amenity available in the market but are negligent of the daily needs of the victims. What ails most is that they are still putting a blind eye towards establishing the status of the disappeared.

“I am hopeful for his return. I exist just because I am optimistic about his arrival. He haunts me in my dreams and says that he is coming soon. I sometimes feel that he is walking by my side. If I happen to encounter someone who is of my husband’s stature or wears clothes like him, I mistake the stranger as my beloved. He will certainly come because he was innocent. The killers are walking freely. The people in the government do nothing but criticize the older establishment for the latter’s myopic vision and tyranny. But they don’t care about us, victims. Those who are running the government now are the ones who started an armed revolution to do away with injustice and discrimination. However, they are busy only in visiting foreign lands and providing employment to their yes-men. They don’t have time even to spare a minute to listen to the woes of the victims. The abduction and disappearance of people are still continuing. The list of the victims is increasing and more and more people are suffering from the same problems we endured during the conflict. “

“Hordes of people were disappeared but nobody knows their whereabouts. This work has tremendous repercussions on the lives of people making our life literally a hell. Life is really absurd for us. The children inquire about their father and I am forced to invent lies that he will be back in a month or two. I always remember him. A day never passes without remembering him. I am angry with the people who keep on coming in flocks to record the incidents; hundreds came and documented the case but none has ever informed me about the status of my husband. I have lost all hopes. I am illiterate and I know nothing. If you could show me the way, I will be obliged to you all my life. I feel like committing suicide. What shall I do? “

“The sunset of my life began the day my husband went missing. I don’t know how I am living without him. In the midst of this, my-mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law hate me. “If we don’t have a brother at home, what is my use? You are just a jinxed woman and he disappeared because of this,” my mother-in- law said this a week ago. I spent the whole night weeping. Unable to resist more with my suicidal thoughts, I went to nearby Trishuli River to get drowned but I remembered the advice of sisters like me. I remembered my daughters and came back. My relatives in-law had planned to send my daughters to my parents’ house after I get drowned and when they saw me coming back, they scolded me and asked where I had been and with whom I was with for being so late. Remembering my husband’s love for me, I tried to be indifferent and unmindful of their behavior. Ours was a love marriage and he was the sole breadwinner of the family. I am worried about the future of my daughters. I can’t leave this place because what would my husband say if he returns back. The dilemma is killing me. “

The above-mentioned excerpts are a part of the pain reported by the wives of the disappeared. I have been doing a thorough psychoanalytical reading of such stories of deepest pain verbalized by the victims. My analysis shows that the continual mental affliction of the wives of the disappeared, if not attended, might burst into some kind of violence which could be costly and detrimental to society.

Note: I did not mention the names of the victims,
since the stories are almost the same as those of thousands
of other wives of the disappeared.


A lawyer by profession, Kopila Adhikari leads the human rights documentation unit of Advocacy Forum, one of Nepal’s leading non-government organizations which has joined the AFAD. She represents her organization at the AFAD Council.

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