Friday, 17 April 2009

My First Friend in Army Detention

Jit Man Basnet
One of the detainees had asked to use the toilet, but the guard didn’t give him permission.
“You old man, wait for a while,” he said.
Everybody used to call him “old man.” His body was swollen. He had to urinate every half an hour. He hadn’t seen sunlight for many days. I realised that his body was swollen due to the extreme cold as the
winter was at its frigid peak.
All of a sudden the old man screamed, and the guard called him to come nearer. The vulnerable old man hobbled like a cripple out of the room though.
“Is it in your home that you can go piss as you like?” the guard asked.
The guard finally permitted him to use the toilet but warned, “If you don’t arrive within a minute, you’ll be in trouble.”
I felt extremely sorry for him because of the way the guard had behaved with him.
After using the toilet, the old man quietly came close to me. He asked my name and address and the place and date of my arrest. I whispered the answer to him. He was terrified because there was a rule that detainees were not allowed to talk to each other or they would be whipped.
I learned later that the old man was Tika Kandel from Balefi in Dhading District. He was an Ayurvedic doctor working at the Little Angel’s School in Hattiban in Lalitpur District as a health assistant. The security forces had arrested him from his home. In the beginning, he was detained by the Rajdal Battalion in Lagankhel in Lalitpur District; but after three months, he was transferred to the Bhairabnath Battalion. He said he was innocent.
He was my first friend in custody. He looked like the painter Leonardo da Vinci because of his long grey hair and beard. He looked very old, but I learned later he was just 41. His hair hadn’t been trimmed for three months, and consequently, his dirty appearancethe beard and moustachemade him seem older. Tika’s strength had deteriorated after relentless periods of torture. I felt extremely sad at the physical condition of my first friend in custody.
I asked him to guess the number of detainees in custody.
“Perhaps 80 people right now,” he whispered to me. “There were about 150 to 200 detainees a month ago. Many of them were transferred from here, but I am not sure where they were taken.”
I felt good knowing that I was not the only detainee there, but I worried about the detainees who had been moved.
“Are they still alive?” I asked him.
I worried about our fate as well. Disappearances were common, and people had less hope these days of living a full life. There were rumours that the army did not let people live once they were taken out of custody.
After a while, Tika left me and went to his place that was nearby. In the meantime, I heard a woman cry out loud. She wanted to use the toilet. It was then that I knew there were other detainees, some of whom were women. I heard the guards beating someone mercilessly shortly after the women cried for the toilet. The guards usually said, “You are only allowed to go to the toilet after your clothes are wet with urine.”
The detainees had to do involuntary activities in order to use the toilet. Someone had to slither on the ground like a snake, someone had to stand on their head, and some people had to crawl between the legs of another person. The guards used to get a lot of enjoyment from watching such inhuman activities. I felt the guards were amusing themselves by insulting the dignity of the detainees. They played with the detainees as if they were playing with the dog in their home. The detainees, however, had little choice but to accept whatever demeaning games the guards devised. Otherwise, we had to be ready for more torture.