An eternal wait


For parents the worst tragedy is to witness the death of their children. And the 10-year-long conflict has brought a never-ending nightmare for thousands of parents who are still waiting for their missing sons. They have neither received physical evidence nor any official proof of their deaths and are in an anguishing limbo.

They cannot mourn the death of their children as their hearts still harbour a hope of their return. And as most of those ‘disappeared’ were breadwinners, those left behind are struggling for survival.

The photo exhibition ‘Missing persons in Nepal, the right to know’ by Kishor Kayastha on at Indigo Gallery shows the pain and anguish of people from Jogimara, Dhading. Twenty men from the village left to work on the construction of an airstrip at Kotbada in Kalikot in 2001, and 17 of them are still missing.

Although the photos talk about the endless tragedy these people are going through, one doesn’t see overwhelming emotions. Rather the people seem lost, staring at nowhere. For them it is not just about the loss of their sons, fathers and husbands, it is also about losing hope in life.

But there are few mothers who are still living with a hope to see their sons someday; and it is rather ironic that this very hope has made life more painful for them.

In the battle for survival, the parents and wives of those missing have to force themselves to bury their pain deep within their heart and move on to support their family. The children in the photos look unhappy and indifferent as most of them have never seen their father. The wives have shielded their emotions. There are no tears in their eyes, for in the last six years they have dried up.

The story of Sankha Bahadur Gurung’s tragedy isn’t just about a missing son. He had to face the stigma of being impure in his community because he refused to perform the last rites for his son. The photo of 105-year-old Man Bahadur Gurung (his two grandsons are among the missing) is one of the rare photographs in the collection where one witnesses vivid emotion. His quote on the photograph reads, “A 105 year old man is alive while his grandsons are missing. They should have been performing my last rites, not the other way round.”

For the last nine years the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) with support from Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) have been talking to victim families

and also been asking parties involved in conflict to clarify the status of missing people. In February 2007, the

ICRC and NRCS published the first list of missing persons in Nepal and it contained 812 names.