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Nepal's Anne Frank story to hit the screen

Filmmaker KP Pathak is all set to make a film on Annelies Marie Frank of Nepal, Maina Sunuwar, whom few know outside Nepal.

world Updated: Jan 27, 2008 15:33 IST

They lived in different centuries and different continents and were victims of two different wars. Yet both have become icons, whose memories live on beyond their deaths, moving and inspiring others.

While the story of Annelies Marie Frank is a household name today worldwide after the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl - the diary that chronicled her family's life in hiding for two years after the Nazis overran the Netherlands during World War II - few outside Nepal know Maina Sunuwar.

The army arrested the 15-year-old girl in 2004 when the Maoist insurgency was at its peak and the army was ruthlessly trying to suppress the anti-monarchy revolt.

The schoolgirl was marched off to the army barracks and tortured mercilessly, which included being given electric shocks, till she died.

The army first denied having arrested her. But after human rights organisations took up the case, the army court-martialled three officers, who were, however, let off with six months' imprisonment and a fine.

"There were hundreds of disappearances, torture cases and extra-judicial executions during the 10-year Maoist movement," says filmmaker KP Pathak, who is making the film on Maina.

"But Maina's case is one of the most pathetic."

"In Europe and the US, parents can't lift a hand against their under-age children. And in Nepal, the state that is supposed to protect a minor, they go to her home, kills her in custody and makes her disappear for good."

"Countless victims like Maina haven't got justice. I am making my film in a bid to bring the culprits to justice."

An 18-year-old high school student Anita KC, who bears an uncanny resemblance with the waif-like Maina, was chosen after auditioning over a dozen students.

Marking a new trend in Nepali films, Maina Sunuwar will be shot with newcomers, Pathak says.

While the shooting will start in February, Pathak hopes to release the film by August-September.

It is not going to be an easy task.

The script has already been re-written seven times. Besides, Pathak has been receiving anonymous calls from "well wishers", asking him not to pick a fight with the army but to choose other, less controversial subjects.

Maina belonged to the Dalit community, which is still regarded as untouchable in Nepal.

Dalits were among the worst sufferers during insurgency, being subject to rape, torture and extra judicial killings by the army with the government turning a blind eye.

"The Maina Sunuwar incident shows up Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who was the 'commander' of the pro-democracy movement in 2006, as the weakest premier of Nepal," says Subodh Pyakurel, who heads Informal Sector Services, one of Nepal's biggest rights organisations.

"During the partyless system, when kings ruled supreme, a journalist was killed by the army and the perpetrator was tried in a civil court."

"It is a matter of shame that though we have democracy now and the prime minister is also the defence minister, no action has been taken against the army," he said.

Maina's story, Pyakurel hopes, will highlight the story of thousands of people who have disappeared during insurgency.

"Though on paper there are about 3,000 cases, I believe there are over 10,000 people still missing," he says.

"Nepal has established a culture of impunity. When people come to power, they forget the people who put them there."