Red is the Colour of Spring

The afterlife of Nepal's civil war

Junmaya Nepali, Thawang, Rolpa. 20 October 2019. Junmaya, a poet who served on the Maoists’ Dalit Area Committee, recalled wandering through the forest with her children for almost a month, eluding the government army. Junmaya is mostly relieved that the war is over, but still believes revolution is necessary, even inevitable. “It’s for the future of our children,” she said. “We have to fight.”
Photographs and Text by Prasiit Sthapit Additional reporting by Roshan Maharjan
01 October, 2021

You fought valiantly, comrade,
Sacrificing yourself for the country.
Your blood, now,
Paints the spring red.
– Junmaya Nepali, “Hot-Blooded Vengeance”

For most of my childhood, an old photograph hung on the walls of my grandparents’ living room in Kathmandu. The photograph was of our great grandfather—at least that is what we kids were told. It was only after it was taken down that I found out that the man in it was actually Joseph Stalin, whom my grandfather, a staunch communist in those days, had idolised.

The discovery that it had been Stalin staring down at us all those years coincided with my political awakening. For most of the early days of Nepal’s civil war, in the late 1990s, I had been shielded from what was unfolding in the country. Living in Kathmandu, far from the areas where the fighting was concentrated, there had been only whispers back then: two police officers killed in an ambush, seven villagers shot dead on suspicion of being Maoists. In 2001, after the Maoists attacked a Royal Nepalese Army barracks and killed numerous high-level government officials, the king declared a state of emergency. Now the conflict exploded into everyone’s consciousness—including mine—with more frequent and unavoidable news of attacks, climbing death tolls and curtailed civil rights.

Prasiit Sthapit is a visual storyteller based in Kathmandu. In 2016, he received the Magnum Emergency Fund Grant and was selected for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. He is currently associated with the multimedia collective Fuzz Factory Productions, the photography platform, and the photography festival Photo Kathmandu. He is also the director of Fuzzscape, a multi-media music documentary project.

Roshan Maharjan is a Kathmandu-based trekking guide and the co-founder of Yoga Trekking International. He is also a researcher on issues of cultural preservation and music.