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Standing clueless – notes from Nuwakot

Brabim Kumar
Written by Brabim Kumar

Text and photos by Sabin Ninglekhu

Standing clueless on now defunct and dilapidated space, a young man gestures at us to witness the remnants of what once used to house him and his family. He leaves it up to us to document the damage and decide. From the outside, minus the roof, the front wall of his house facing the road continues to retain some level of aesthetics. Carefully colored in two shades of reddish-orange and pale yellow, there are around fifteen little hand-drawn stars that border the top frame of the main door. As one pushes the door open to step inside, one finds that there is no ‘inside’ anymore. The earthquake has razed everything to the ground, leaving intact two smartly elevated rectangular mud structures that used to be their beds. The young man described above is a local resident of Manakamana Tole that lay on the outskirts of Battar, one of Nuwakot’s central towns. There are five such settlements in Nuwakot, each with ten to over fifty households, spread in patches in the Nuwakot district, in the peripheries of the towns, or what remains of the towns, in some cases. Each of these settlements face different scales of destruction; each continue to wait for some form of relief. Sukumbasi in Nuwakot, however, experience an added layer of exclusion as it comes to accessing relief materials as a matter of right, because many are not ‘landed’ citizens; they sit on land that is not ‘legally’ their own. Some of the local residents conversed with claim that the municipality demands legal documents as evidence of residence in the place; a ‘legitimate’ tie to the place, so to speak, has to be established to be eligible for relief. Failure to show the evidence cuts off one’s access to relief.

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In collaboration with Society for Preservation of Shelter and Habitat (SPOSH) and Nepal Mahila Ekata Samaaj, two national-level organizations led by sukumbasi in Nepal, AYON delivered tarps, rice, and daal to majority of families in the five settlements in Nuwakot. Against the scale of destruction, of not just homes, but also livelihood and lifestyle, the relief provided is by no means adequate. We encourage other relief groups and agencies, state and non-state, to double their efforts to reach out to peripheral places –– not just geographically, but also politically –– like the Manakamana Tole in Battar, Nuwakot. Relief is a basic human right. One’s legal standing in relation to the sovereign state should not come in the way of one’s ability –– or inability –– to access the right to relief.

Text and photos by Sabin Ninglekhu 

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Brabim Kumar

Brabim Kumar