Mother’s life marred by tragedy: War killed her son, earthquake took her daughter

Biri Rana shares how her life has been turned on its head. First, it was the people’s war, now it is the earthquake. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

How many trials and tribulations can one endure in their lifetime? Biri Rana,66, a resident of Bheri-Municipality 1 in Jajarkot, sits on a hill overlooking her village, Dandagaon, wondering the same. 

As she sits there, Rana thinks about all the tragedies she has experienced and how she lost her children.

Her 17-year-old son, Arjun, was taken away from her during the conflict era. Remembering these memories, her eyes well up, and tears stream down her face.

Still recovering from that loss, Rana lost her daughter Tulki and granddaughter Krishna in the earthquake that struck Jajarkot last Friday night, on November 3. And now it seems as though her tears have mixed into the Bheri River.

“Destiny unfolds in unusual ways; what can we do?” she asks.

Losing her son

Biri Rana says the police killed her teenage son in 1998. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Three decades ago, the Maoists initiated a revolution and entered her village. They shared a vision and claimed that sacrifice would lead to happiness. In the revolution, alongside Rukum and Rolpa, Jajarkot was equally stirred.

And it was not just dreams that accompanied the Maoists; the police arrived as well.

Suspecting that people were assisting the Maoists, the police personnel began subjecting some villagers to constant harassment.

“Every day, the police would come, threaten, and beat the villagers saying we were providing the Maoists with shelter and food. We had done nothing wrong but were constantly bullied,” says Rana.

In 1995, they detained her for a week for feeding the Maoists. She says the police did not give her food and also tortured her by not giving her blankets at night.

“I was pregnant at that time. I had a miscarriage. The police killed my baby,” she says.

Biri Rana shows the bruises from the torture she had to endure while in police custody. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

To this day, the marks from the torture she suffered while in police custody remain carved on her body. These injuries persist, tormenting her with ongoing pain.

But what pains her more is how she lost her only son – Arjun.

Arjun, who was in the ninth grade at the time of his death, used to live with his relatives in Khalanga to attend school. He had returned home during his school break in 1998.

“The police, who were patrolling on the night of November 20, 1998, took my son from our home,” she says.

After 11 days, her son was found dead in a fishing stream.

“They murdered him because they thought he was a Maoist. He was in his school uniform. The state killed my son,” she says adding she was not even allowed to see his body as the police even prohibited his cremation.

Rana’s house has been destroyed by the earthquake. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Fearing further retaliation from the police, Rana and her family chose to bury Arjun instead of following the traditional cremation ceremony. But that did not stop them from getting harassed.

“Even after my son’s murder, the police didn’t stop their torture. They beat me time and again. My hands and legs would be swollen. Even now, when I come across the police, I am reminded of the old sorrows and become distressed,” Rana says.

Losing her hope

She is spending her time in a make shift shelter after the earthquake. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Life has been painful ever since. Her existence took a turn for the worse after she lost Arjun. She still walks along the banks of the Bheri river with tears streaming down her face.

Following the establishment of peace in 2006, Rana tried to find solace in the thought that she still had a daughter despite her son’s passing. However, the tragic earthquake that struck on Friday plunged her into an unending abyss of sorrow.

The earthquake has left Rana without a place to call home. The house collapsed on her daughter, Tulki, and her 20-year-old granddaughter, Krishna, as they were sleeping on Friday night.

“I thought that after enduring so much suffering, my days of tears were over. However, contrary to my hopes, my daughter and granddaughter left me alone,” she says.

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Budhathoki is a journalist, based in Dang.

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Dhimal is a photojournalist at Onlinekhabar.

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