Kin of victims lament airport massacre

Dhading, February 14

News of an aircraft landing at Suntharali airport in Kotwada, Kalikot, a few days back brought tears to the eyes of Dhanamaya Chepang, 66, in Jogimara, Dhading.

Chepang’s eyes were full of misery. Even as the plane landing elated the locals of Kotwada, it brought agony to the residents of Jogimara. For as many as 17 families in Jogimara the aircraft brought back the trauma of loss and death.

As many as 35 workers, including 17 from Jogimara and Dhusha VDCs were killed by the Nepali Army because of suspicion that they were Maoists on February 24, 2002.

Chitra Bahadur Praja, Dilli Praja, Sher Bahadur Praja, Kumle Praja, Ram Bahadur Praja, Bikash Praja, Tek Bahadur BK, Sanu BK, Tek Bahadur Gurung, Gokarna Bahadur Gurung from Dhading had reached Kotwada to construct the airport. Similarly, Kanchha Praja, Manju Thapa Magar, Budh Bahadur Praja, Raj Kumar Shrestha, Raj Kumar BK, Bhim Bahadur Thapamagar and Gyan Bahadur Thapamagar were also killed in the incident.

Deceased Budh Bahadur’s mother Dhanmaya is yet to overcome the agony of her only son’s death.

Fourteen years have passed since the workers were shot dead in a mass killing.

However, their families, have yet to receive the bodies of their near and dear ones.

The government that was formed after the people’s movement, decided to give Rs 1 million to each of the deceased’ families. They have only received 0.5 million in compensation till now.

A few days before the mass killing took place, the then Maoists had launched a vicious attack in Achham headquarters Mangalsen and fled from the site. As Maoists the combatants fled, the Nepali army encircled the area and opened fire killing 35 persons, including workers, the contractor, local residents and two minors.

The relatives of 14 workers killed in Kotwada have registered cases against former PM and current NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba and former Nepali Army Chief Rukmangad Katawal.