Missing in Nepal: a chance to grieve?
Sanu Maya Tamang, 36, reaches over to her youngest son Dorje and smoothes his hair. 'He does not even remember his father,' she says. Dorje is 7 years old and his father, Prem Bahadur, has been missing since 2003, when he was taken from his home by a group of armed men in civilian clothing. ICRC delegate Delphine Van Solinge describes her story of angst in the face of economic hardship and lack of news.
Sanu Maya did not know who these men were, but she watched them handcuff her husband and lead him away. She has never seen him again.
Quest in vain
" The day after my husband was arrested I went to the nearby army camp to find him. The soldiers told me that he was not there, but I have not stopped searching. I have tried everywhere; I have asked the police and the Maoists too. I have looked everywhere, but no one could tell me anything. I have contacted human rights people and the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC has visited me regularly to tell me where they have been searching and that they will keep looking.
The anguish of not knowing
" I do not know if he is alive or dead but I cannot perform his funerary rites without knowing, " explains Sanu Maya. " If he is alive then someone must show me where he is. If he is dead then someone must tell me; I will accept it but I must know. "
Since her husband disappeared, Sanu Maya's life has become increasingly difficult. Her family is of modest means, and do not have enough land to feed themselves. Prem Bahadur used to do some occasional building work, which provided his family with a basic income, but since his disappearance the family has been forced to accumulate debts to survive. They now owe more than their land is worth and know that they will probably be evicted in the coming months. Her three children, Dorje and his two brothers, have not been to school for the last year and a half: there is sim ply no money to pay for books or uniforms. Sanu Maya spent almost all of her family's savings travelling from place to place in search of her husband. She has no trade, no income and simply no idea what she will do next.
For Sanu Maya and her children, the anguish of not knowing her husband's fate compounded with the economic hardship resulting from his absence has made life unbearable.