Kathmandu was burning that day

IDENTITY CARD Card No. 60/01

BIRAT CONSULTANCY (P) LTD.
Foreign Employment Consultants
Anamnagar, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel Off.: 977-14264033
Fax: 977-1-4250000
E-mail: biratsg@ntc.net.np

Name: Sunil Kumar Rai
Designation: Executive Director
Valid till: 1 Jan. 2005

This is the summary of the identity card I picked up somewhere in Anamnagar area close to The Himalayan Times office when I and Shweta Malla, my colleague then, had gone to see what was happening around on Bhadra 16, 2061 (Sep 1, 2004). This card which is still in my bookshelf is of an official of one of the manpower agencies that were broken in and despoiled by an unrestrained mob two years ago in the wake of killing of Nepali youths in Iraq by an Islamist outfit.

Militias of Ansar al-Sunnah in Iraq abducted about a dozen Nepalis who had taken recourse to the perilous jobs in the volatile surroundings of an unstable Iraq in last week of August and slit their throat later. This was a brutal example of extremism.

When the photographs of the killed people were published in the website of the Ismalic extremists, there was an obvious rage among the Nepali public. A sentiment of anti-Islam, God knows how, developed in no time. Also, since the job-seeking youths were sent there in Iraq illegally by manpower agencies they became another subject of people’s fierceness.

Mosques were attacked and there was looting as well as arson in the offices of the agencies.

There was a great loss to the manpower agencies, and ultimately to the national economy. The news of the killings came on Bhadra 15 (Aug 31) but the Sher Bahadur Deuba government did not take any initiation to control the mob and prevent public as well as private property from being vandalized and destroyed. Had curfew been imposed since morning the next day, there would be no such great loss.

Since last year people in this business has started marking Bhadra 01 as the Black Day.

correction: It’s Bhadra 16, not Bhadra 01!!! Thanks Anju for the correction.
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Some more things:

August 25, 2004:
This day, in the Edit page, my commentary “Stranded Iraq-bound Nepalis and hostages” as TOPICS was published in The Himalayan Times.

August 31, 2004:
It was Tuesday. The news about the tragedy came this day.

There was another bad news for me. When I was “manufacturing letters” and editing some other articles, I heard Hem telling Renu (or may be the other way around): Meena’s dad has been hospitalized; he has brain tumour and is in coma.

I did not understand who they were talking about. However, I heard the name Amar Raj Kaini after a while. I asked Hem what they were talking about then.

Oh! It had already been a couple of days and I had not known. The way Hem told me the matter gave me an impression that Bua’s condition was grave. I called up Pabin and what the matter was.

I was about to leave the office after finishing my work for the day. However, I heard that the photographs as well as video clipping of the killing and people killed were published in a website.

I downloaded and printed out the pictures. It was me who told people in the floor about the news. The environment of the Editorial floor turned gloomy. It was raining outside.

Kosmos dai asked me if I knew any person who could translate the Arabic text along with the pictures into Nepali. He had already asked Rekha Shrestha to cover the news. I tried to contact some persons who could help me in translation. But it was of no use.

That day I was supposed to go to the Norvic. Navin’s Bua had been hospitalized. I don’t remember whether Navin had come to Kathmandu from Dharan by then. Before going to the hospital, I went to an optical shop at Tripureshwore where from I had to take back my spectacles. There in the shop, I told people that the abducted Nepalis were killed. They could not believe me. I showed them the print-outs of the photographs. They were shocked.

Out of four people there, three said “Saale muslate haru! Aba tini haru lai pani marnu parchha.” (Bastard Muslim Killers! Now it’s turn to be killed.)

I said, “More than they being Muslims, those who killed these people are extremists. Now we need to be tolerant and disciplined. No extremism for now. Otherwise there will be havoc again.”

However, I still remember, they did not listen to me. They started chucking up whatever they thought about the Muslims and the killers.

Then I went to the hospital. Aama (Navin’s) was sitting very nervous. She was more than traumatized. I tried to speak to her…

Meena di, Beena di, Pabin and others were there…

I had fever. I was being late…. However, I stayed there for more time. I think I had called Dewansha up and asked him to come to the hospital. Yes, he had come there. So, I need not worry about how to return.
………..
Whoever saw the pictures I was carrying there, all were shocked …. Most of them were of the same version: Muslim killers! Not to spare them!

September 01, 2004:
No vehicle was plying that morning. Everywhere there was arson and vandalizing.

I worked all the way to Anamnagar from Chabahil.

En route to office, I heard people talking about what was happening where, what they did, which manpower offices in the vicinity were looted.

I saw some landlords who had lent their houses to the offices trying to take out the sign boards to protect their houses.

I saw people taking away valuables from vandalized offices.

A lot of rumours was floating around.

I reached the office. In the Anamnagar areas were many such offices. They were being burnt; they were being looted.

Shweta and I decided to go forward to see what was happening. There were cops but not doing anything. Mob was pelting stones at them. Mob was trying to break glasses of a newly built apartment. There policemen chased the mob. We too ran away. We had cards around our neck, so we had no problem when the police came close to us.

Some steps ahead, people were breaking windows of at least three houses. Taking out computers, furniture, documents and whatever there was in the offices. The house owners were trying to persuade the mob and asking to spare the private property.

The mob did not listen.

Shweta was with me so I had to take care of her too. We reached up to Hanumansthan and decided to return. However, to return was diffiicult. There were fires reaching 50 ft, I guess. The heat scorched our skin even though we tried to walk from some distance.

I met some of my friends. Navin (Bhatta?), and Sushil were among them. They were involved in vandalizing and stone pelting. Sushil told me that last night he went to the mosque to break in it; he was proud of what he did.

Anyways, we returned.

There had come some people with passports. They wanted to pass on the documents they had looted; however, some official, may be Major Khatry, told them that it’s better they submit those to the police.

We started working. However, every time we went to the window to see what was happening outside.

KATHMANDU WAS BURNING.

After sometime, the CDO office decided to impose an indefinite curfew……

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