Ranjana doesn't speak, her lifeless eyes do

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Maleth village comes before one reach Rajbiraj from Rupani along the East West Highway. Flags of all the parties including Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML, CPN (Maoist Center), Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, Federal Socialist Forum, and others are kept in a house around 10 minutes of walk from the road.

There are three huts made of corrugated metallic sheets inside the premises of the house that seems to have been built recently. There is a cow tied to a pole with a rope in the courtyard. This is the house of Birendra Mehata who was killed in Saptari incident earlier in the year. His wife and her mother live here now looking after his kids.

Ranjana and the mother were working while the kids were playing when we reached there. The eldest daughter is eight and the youngest three, with another daughter and a son in between.

A local private school is offering free education for the kids who do not know that this facility is in return for their father's life. Ranjana, who understands that, also does not speak about the incident. She does not speak despite repeated queries. But her eyes, that look empty and drained of all the tears, speak about her sorrows.  

Her mother also has the same problem. She tries to speak but cannot utter words, and then starts to weep remembering the tragic incident.

"She only stares blankly and doesn't speak," her mother tells. "I am pained at seeing her state. I feel devastated on thinking how she will raise these kids," she adds.  

Ranjana has always been starved of happiness. She lost her father when she was just seven. Her mother came to live with the only kid after her marriage.

Birendra, who was from Mahottari, worked with Nepal Police but quit his job and started farming due to Maoist threat. They were not rich but there was no problem to make ends meet.

Ranjana got a loving husband even though she lost her father early. But even that did not last long. Her happiness ended on March 6 when Birendra was killed in police firing outside the Gajendra Narayan Singh Industrial Area where CPN-UML was organizing a program as part of its Mechi-Mahakali campaign. Four others were also killed that fateful day.

Birendra was not associated with any party nor did he support any agitation. He was busy in his domestic chores even that day. He had come out of his house on hearing noises nearby. Protesters were clashing with security persons outside the area where UML was holding the program.  

"Maybe he would not have been killed if the UML program were not organized," Ranjana's aunt says. "She used to speak openly with everyone earlier but does not speak with anyone after Birendra's death," she adds.

Some argue that UML should not have organized a program in Rajbiraj amidst such tension while others say the Madhesi Front should not have obstructed the program. But such arguments do not have any meaning to Ranjana. Birendra's death has also taken away her life, and no arguments can change her fate now.

The state has given the family Rs 1 million in compensation and different political parties have also offered help. Making the ends meet may have become easier but she has lost her happiness for ever.

Her relatives say the biggest pain for her is the realization that her four kids will have to suffer the same fate of living without a father that she suffered while growing up. "Neither the Madhes-based parties nor UML or the government can alleviate her pain and make her happy again," locals say.

Ranjana's sorrow will remain with her. Nobody knows how long her lifeless eyes will have to speak instead of her lips.

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