135th Interantional Labor Day

Families seek whereabouts of youths serving in the Russian Army

Ramesh Bharati 01 May 2024
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Families seek whereabouts of youths serving in the Russian Army Sirani Gharti Magar of Rukum East is on a hunger strike for the past 13 days. Photo: Himal Press

KATHMANDU: As the nation celebrates 135th International Labor Day, families of youths who joined the Russian Army to earn a livelihood for their families have been protesting in Kathmandu, demanding that the government ascertain the whereabouts of their loved ones.

“Labor Day doesn’t mean anything for us as we don’t know how to eke out a living,” Sirani Gharti Magar of Putha Uttarganga Rural Municipality in Rukum East said.

Sirani’s husband, Aitaman, who went to Russia to join the Russian Army after being lured by promises of better wages and facilities made by recruitment agents, has been out of contact since October last year. She is in Kathmandu along with several others to draw the attention of the government to rescue Nepali youths from Russia. She launched a fast-unto-death protest 13 days ago.

Sirani said she was forced to go on a hunger strike after the government did not listen to her demands, no matter which agency she approached. Due to the hunger strike, she is frail and cannot speak properly.

Both Sirani and her husband Aitaman fought for the then Maoist rebels. “My husband was integrated into the Nepal Army after the Maoist party joined the political mainstream. He took retirement last year,” she said. “He was in the UAE for employment. I came to know that he is in Russia only in September last year.”

Krishna Thapa of Birendra Chowk in Panchpuri Municipality of Surkhet has also been on an indefinite hunger strike for 13 days, demanding that the government find the whereabouts of his brother-in-law, Laxman Bista, who went out of contact after joining the Russian Army. “Laxman last contacted us in September last year,” he added.

According to Thapa, Laxman went out of contact right after he left for the UAE for foreign employment. “While the government is observing Labor Day, we are on a hunger strike. Labor Day doesn’t mean anything for people like us who have to work day and night to earn a square meal,” he added.

Thapa said they have not placed any big demands before the government. “We are only asking the government to repatriate Nepali youths in the Russian army safely and provide treatment for the injured. If our people in Russia are dead, we want their bodies; if they are alive, we just want information about them,” he added.

For the past 13 days, Kritu Bhandari and the families of those who joined the Russian Army have been on an indefinite hunger strike in Ratnapark. Even after 13 days, no government representative has come to talk to them, according to Bhandari.

Bhandari said the health condition of all those on an indefinite hunger strike is deteriorating. “Family members of those who joined the Russian army have been searching for their relatives for months. Instead of addressing our demands, the government has been trying to suppress our movement,” she said.

They have also demanded that the government take necessary initiatives for the safe release of five Nepalis held captive by the Ukrainian army.

During their protest, families of youths in Russia also staged a sit-in in front of the Russian Embassy in Kathmandu. However, they were chased away by police.

Bhandari and her friends have submitted a list of 650 Nepalis who have joined the Russian Army and demanded that they be brought back to Nepal.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that it has received applications for the rescue of more than 500 Nepalis in Russia.

The ministry has so far confirmed the death of 36 Nepalis in Russia, while 400 more are said to be injured.

Published On: 01 May 2024

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