Heather Gilberds

Heather Gilberds (Jagaran Media Center – JMC): Heather has always been a strong advocate for independent media development and activism. Her interest in grassroots media and development stemmed from travel in South-East Asia and extensive involvement in community radio. On return to Canada Heather worked in radio at the University of Alberta’s campus station. At the time of her fellowship, she was studying for a Master’s degree in communications at Carleton University.

Unexpected narratives of conflict

10 Aug

Fear is an odd sensation…once the body perceives danger, fear begins to catalyze – first in the toes where it exudes an almost imperceptible warmth, then in an instant it rushes into every pore with its tingling, numbing, sweat-inducing presence. Libby Abbott and I had a brief moment where a situation of danger spawned such a sensation of fear when we were out for dinner in Butwal with a few girls from Radio Jagaran. As we were waiting for dinner, we suddenly heard a loud bang. Everyone in the restaurant looked around nervously. I noticed that people outside of the restaurant were running away from it. Someone rushed into the building and yelled “get out, get out!” The slight sensation of fear that had been resting inert in my toes since the initial bang washed over my body as we jumped out of our chairs and raced towards the door. My most immediate thought was that it was a bomb. We looked out the front door to see escalating commotion and came to discover that it was not a bomb, but a gas leak in the tandoori oven which had caused an explosion in the kitchen. The explosion occurred outside the front door, and the only thing we could do was to run further inside to the back of the building. We started to look for a way out only to realize that we were trapped. In the brief moment before we knew whether or not we were safe and we anticipated the possibility of another explosion, fear embraced us with its heavy black tendrils and we stood motionless, unsure of how to proceed. After a few moments, we discerned that it was safe enough to leave, so we shed our feelings of helplessness and darted out the front door.

In the big scheme of things, this was a fairly minor incident – no one was seriously injured and we left unscathed. However, in speaking with my companions, each one had expressed that they had initially thought that the explosion was a bomb. Uma said that it sounded exactly like the first night the Maoists entered her hometown during the People’s War. She recounted the moment the Maoists entered Palpa – 11:15 p.m. – when a bomb exploded just outside of her family’s home. Deepa then recalled a time when, during the conflict, she was working with SPW – an INGO – in a remote village and a landmine exploded. Nundu said that she remembers bombs exploding in distant skies, but didn’t witness any explosions. Fear spawned by violence or war is something I have been fortunate enough not to have experienced. It was sobering to hear stories of fear from people who lived through war and who felt the kind of fear only war can invoke. These stories of war that Libby and I heard today were inspired by a completely random occurrence.

It wasn’t the first time today that we had unexpectedly stumbled upon personal accounts of the atrocities and fears perpetrated by war. Earlier in the day, Libby was interviewing Dinesh Harijan, a journalist at Radio Jagaran, about his position as a village health worker for her work on Uterine Prolapse. Libby was conducting the interview in Hindi, but translated for me as the story spun into a tale about the types of discrimination he and his family have faced as a result of being Dalit. From accounts of being denied access to education, working with dead animals in the traditional work of Harijans, and fleeing abusive landowners, a complex and genuine story of Nepal was woven.

With Libby’s assistance,I decided to interview Dinesh about this story for his Radio Jagaran profile. In this interview, Dinesh mentioned in passing that both he and his father were kidnapped by Maoists during the war and forced to work as soldiers for the Maoist insurgency. I was extremely surprised by this information given that I have spoken with Dinesh countless times and he had not previously mentioned this. As he described the extraordinary circumstances he and his family have faced, I decided that it would be better told by him and his father and captured on video than recast by me. Libby and I have planned to film an interview with Dinesh and his father tomorrow. Hopefully the story will retain all of the emotion, pathos and humanity that it held as it was told to us today.

Posted By Heather Gilberds

Posted Aug 10th, 2008

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