Friday, 24 April 2009

My Tortured and Tormented Heart

Jit Man Basnet

Before my arrest, I had only been beaten up once in the 28 years of my life. I was assaulted once on 2058 Asoj (September/October 2001) by a sentry of the Maoists named Rabi of the Bamti Bhandar Village Development Committee, or VDC, in Ramechhap District on the charge
of spying. Later the Maoist leadership apologised to me for their cadre’s mistake. This time though I was getting beaten by the other side—the army.

It was a February morning, and I was shivering with cold. The guards were busy talking in a vulgar manner about young ladies. They had nicknames for each other. I understood that they were using nicknames to hide their real identity from the detainees. I felt the rays of sunlight which entered our room from the holes in the tent, but I couldn’t be sure because I was still blindfolded.

The things the army officers had uttered on the previous night while they tortured me haunted my mind. “Even the almighty God doesn’t know where you are kept,” they had said. “Now your life is in our hands. We have already buried many people like you.” The army officers were not saying these things to frighten me: their words were factual!

One of the guards ordered me to stand up. I couldn’t stand up properly because I was handcuffed, and he helped me stand and then tightened the piece of cloth over my eyes. I was made to walk towards an empty tent. Another army officer sat waiting on a chair for me with a file. The army officer offered me a seat and began asking me questions politely. At first the questions pertained to my home address and profession; but after a while, he became aggressive and questioned me about my relationship with the Maoists.

“How do you know the Maoists?” he asked me in an urgent tone. “Where do they live? What did you do for them, and when did you begin helping the Maoists?”

I told him that I was truly unaware about these issues, but the army officer refused to believe me and decided to turn to more violent means of persuasion. He ordered his fellow officers: “Go and call the others. It is only then that he will speak.”

Some young soldiers arrived in five minutes. He ordered one of them to bring a stick, and another one was ordered to fill up the drum with water. They communicated in code language. The army officer ordered me to undress, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t raise my hands to take off my shirt. What made it even more difficult was that my body was swollen. My clothes were stuck to my skin due to blood that had not been cleaned from the previous day. He ordered the chair on which I was sitting to be moved. They then ordered me to bend over and removed my clothes forcefully. There were cuts and bruises all over my body, and they began to bleed again.

“As a terrorist, you will get the punishment you deserve,” one of the soldiers said loudly.

I remained quiet as I was helpless. I was aching all over. One of the men even teased me, saying, “This idiot terrorist got the punishment he deserved yesterday.”

They were interrogating me mostly with questions related to the Maoists. I didn’t have any new answers. I only repeated what I had said earlier.

Soon another phase of torture began, however. They indiscriminately beat me with a stick all over my body. They kicked me with their heavy boots and punched me. In a short span of time, my body was soaked with blood, and I was crying with pain, but they continued to beat me in sensitive areas. They submerged my head in the water drum after each question and took it out only after I lost consciousness. I tried to defend myself, but there really wasn’t anything I could do. The soldiers would compete among themselves about who could inflict more pain upon their victim. They used different practices for a long time. I was half conscious most of the time. Because of the frequent and excessive torture inflicted upon me, I became used to it and felt less and less pain throughout my body.

They hoped to use my information to arrest more Maoist leaders. I knew by the way they posed their questions and conducted themselves. During this period, the security personnel had arrested many Maoists from the Kathmandu Valley by forcing detainees to speak by torturing them. I knew nothing about the Maoists’ whereabouts, but they still brutally tortured me. I had gotten used to this torture though.

All of a sudden I received a heavy blow that sent severe pain throughout my body. I felt as if the world had stopped moving. I fell on the ground. Each time I got up after the beating. I was subjected to such severe torture for at least two hours. Eventually, they ordered me to put on my clothes. I tried to put them on myself, but the pain was unbearable. One of the soldiers helped me dress and then dragged me back to my usual place.