Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Day With the Maoist Army

Nov. 21, the government and the Maoists were set to sign the much awaited peace accord. The accord was much awaited because only this would formally end the Maoist violence in Nepal.

All the people were keenly watching the developments in the capital. My colleagues were also urging me not to miss the special signing function. Surely, it would have been an opportunity in the life of a journalist to attend the ceremony, because very few in very few countries ever get the privilege to attend an event where a government and former rebels declare that they have formally denounced war and will opt for peaceful politics.

However, I wanted to see the other side of the case. And I set out for Chitwan the previous day, to visit the third of the seven divisions of Maoists camped in the cantonments.

The site was chosen as an alternative to the Maoist proposal of Kami Danda of Kabhre. The site was decided just three days prior to the deadline to go in to the cantonments. It meant that transferring Maoists from almost all the districts of Bagmati and Narayani zones in just two days was a challenging task. They were transported in buses and buses. It was amusing seeing the armed Maoists openly traveling in the buses.

Many of the buses filled with Maoists were on the road behind me. The very next day, in the afternoon, I set out from Narayangarh to visit the site. I had to take the left after reaching Tandi bazaar, some 13 kilometers east on the Mahendra highway. After traveling nearly 5 kilometers, I came across the activities of the Maoist army.

A brigade had arrived the previous day. Owing to the lack of any necessary things for living, they took shelter in the villagers' houses. When I reached there, I saw them refreshing themselves, many of them taking baths, others playing. I found some sort of excitement among them.

When I talked to one, he said they are very sorry for their friends, who lost their lives in the war. However now they are hopeful the situation of those they love will improve.

The number of girls was also remarkable. Their frankness never let me think that I was talking with the rebels who lived in jungles for years. They didn't do me a single favor in that they didn't let me take pictures of their informal activities. It is very easy to take pictures of the higher ups. A girl, she identified herself as Battalion Deputy Commander, asked me for a lift and I dropped her at the main cantonment site.

As I reached the main cantonment site, I was wondering. Exactly two years ago, I had been to the same place to report a story. The situation was completely different. That time, the army was launching the search operation at the jungles of Chitwan. I had been there to write a story on the families of those killed by the state. (See: War victims left to fend for themselves)

The army was taking its rest at the same ground and I was searched and troubled for a few minutes. Yet now at the same ground, heavily armed Maoists, nearly in thousands, were taking rest. It was really amazing. Ignoring what they would say, I began taking pictures and chatting informally with them. Many of them refused to talk, telling us to talk to their commanders.

In all, nearly 8,000 Maoists of the third division will stay in the area, with four brigades staying in four different locations.

One very interesting thing I found was that as there were delays on signing the peace accord, so their management for food and shelter was uncertain.

Bharatpur Municipality incharge Bibek told us that the government is not releasing any funds and they have to spend their own. Thus it was really mismanaged.

The group that arrived the previous day was taking shelter in the villages and the number was growing into thousands. One very serious thing is that they were staying in the school ground. The school did not worry in the least about the effect of the situation on the children. Some pictures are really astounding.

However, what I found was that the Maoists are also eager to join the peaceful mainstream.

Published http://english.ohmynews.com/ 2006-11-23

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