For those who are not in touch with news at home….Seven boys Tsimalakha got washed away by the Wang Chu, at a point below the Chukha Dam on Monday morning.
They and one more boy had gone for a picnic across the river, and while returning, couldn’t cross because the river had really swollen up. They managed to be on to a big rock in the river, but only one of them managed to swim across. He asked them to jump, but they were terrified, so he went up to Tsimalakha to get help. He met some of the boys’ parents, who were looking for them. It was dark by then, and raining hard.
They rushed to the spot, at 9. They saw the boys on the rock, chanting, afraid. Police, parents, CHPC workers, and others, a group of more than 30 people (reports vary) tried to rescue the boys for more than five hours.
At 3 30, a wave crashed down the river and swept all the boys away, in front of their parents.
Don’t let me get started on the speculations. How the dam let out the waters. And the questions. Why didn’t they inform the PM and get a helicopter? Why did they not have any equipment? Why did they not ask for more people to come down?
Teachers at the school said if they had been informed, maybe they could have gone ahead and done something. No one can accept the fact that for five hours, nothing could have been done.
I went to interview the families of the boys. It was my worst reporting job ever. Sometimes we joke around that reporters become mean, they jump at bad news. Not true, you realise. Not when you meet people who break down while talking to you. Not when you look at the Manga posters stuck on the wall, and the collection of footballers carefully collaged in a book, kind of like the way my brother used to do.
They tell me mechanically how they left in the morning, mundane things like how he seemed moody, or that he cooked his own food. Then, how they started worrying, how he was a good boy, really. How they never knew he went swimming sometimes.
They offer tea and biscuits. Siblings sit quietly, listening.
“I will never be able to forget the scene until the day I die,” said one of the men who watched his son get washed away.
Tomorrow, people in Thimphu organising a march to mourn the death of the boys, and to ask the government to inquire into the issue. Sure I was sceptical at first. The PDP candidate from Pemagatshel (PMs Constituency) was one of the organisers. Politics? But it is a peaceful rally, and they are asking questions that matter. Answers that I want to know too.
I don’t care what their motives are, I decided. People do things to look good, to feel good. As long as they do good, who cares what they do it for. Right?
I wouldn’t call myself an activist. But I met these people, the families, the boy who survived; I have imagined the scene in the retellings. And I know we must not let this pass by.
This must never, ever happen in our country again.
So morally, I support them.
Anyone who wants to be a part of it, be there at 11 at the Chorten in the morning. Its not illegal if you are an adult and not a student, and walk peacefully, no noise no protest or whatever. No blocking traffic. The police have given permission, and it is a fundamental right to assemble peacefully according to article 7.12 of the constitution.