The unknown martyr


It was raining that morning when I left Kathmandu for Butwal. It was the thirteenth day of the general strike. I was taking ARVs for some of my friends.

The only way for me to reach Butwal from the airport (20 km away) was either on a bicycle and or a ricksaw. Outside it was as silent as as death and something in my heart got chilled. After bargaining with the ricksaw-wallah, who agreed to take me for a steep fare of Rs 300, we were on our way.

The road was blocked in many places and burning tyres littered the way. I reached our care centre after about an hour and half. And there I came face to face with a person who was dying.

He was breathing heavily. One of his relatives was sitting next to him who said she had no hopes. “We are waiting for his death.”

A private medical college in Bhairahawa had already referred him to be taken to Kathmandu saying that they didn’t have any expertise to treat an HIV/AIDS patient, and the government hospital had refused to admit him saying they didn’t have the national guidelines on treating patients with HIV/AIDS.

When I asked our staff they said there were no flights till Thursday as the pilots’ association had also announced a strike the next day. The family had been trying to find a seat in one of the flights out for the last two weeks, but the strike that had gone for the last two weeks had made it impossible. The seats on the chartered flights were very expensive. And as all the banks were also closed, they did not have enough money to pay for the chartered flights. They had no other option but to wait for the pilots’ strike to end.

I tried to call an ambulance but all the ambulances were busy carrying the injured protesters.

Over a hundred thousand people were on the streets even in this small town. Some even said that it was useless calling an ambulance because there would be no place for him.

However, these were all mere excuses. The truth is — who wants to treat a poor patient with an incurable disease? This is a very common perception outside the main cities. I called our office in Kathmandu to seek expert advice, but before we could take any further action, the patient died.

I have never felt so helplessness in my entire life. I kept thinking, if only we’d taken him to Kathmandu, we could have saved him. Thousands of Nepalis came out on the streets demanding restoration of democracy. Many died... in a nearby town, a woman who was watching the demonstrations from her window died when a bullet hit her. has now been declared as a ‘martyr for democracy’.

Sadly the man who died in our centre that day will not be remembered as a martyr though he died as a result of the ongoing movement and because he lived with HIV/AIDS.

(Giri is associated with the Nava Kiran Plus)