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Nepal: Visiting Maoist Guerrilla Stronghold

           From: Bill Howard
           Subject: Nepal: Visiting Maoist Guerrilla Stronghold
           Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2001 19:29:23 -0700

      [Via Communist Internet... ]
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      From: Downwithcapitalism <>
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      Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2001 3:26 AM
      Subject: [downwithcapitalism] CPN(M): revolution as female emancipation

      The Times. 25 June 2001. 'My rifle will liberate me.' Excerpts.

The female recruits of Nepals Maoist army are fighting to turn the country into a communist state -- and for equal rights. Our correspondent visits their mountain stronghold.

Sweating under a purple bandana, Ekata looks like any other member of the Maoist guerrilla squad going through its paces in a paddy field near Jajarkot in western Nepal.

Aged 20 and barely 5ft tall, she is panting under the weight of her rifle. The purple stitching of its strap matches the colour of her face mask and nose stud.

Yet this slightly built mother of a one-year-old daughter is one of three members of her unit to have taken part in the Maoist armed raids on police stations that have left scores of police dead and forced the remainder to retreat into a few heavily barricaded strongholds across rebel-affected areas of Nepal.

She admits, with a smile, that police have been surprised to see her storming the barricades along with scores of male guerrillas. The direct question Have you killed anyone? prompts a confused glance toward her unit commander, who interjects: These are technical questions you do not need to know.

Those technical questions cover the course of the five-year-old Peoples War that has brought six of the Himalayan kingdoms 75 districts under Maoist control, and scarred its mountains and valleys with violence long before the bizarre regicide that made headlines earlier this month.

With just an estimated 5,000 armed fighters, many sneered when the Maoist movements intellectual mentor, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, first declared his intention in 1996 to turn Nepal into a red fort and hoist the hammer and sickle red flag atop Mount Everest.

But the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) found willing recruits among poor youths in rural areas such as this one, 200 miles west of Kathmandu, that have seen little or no benefits from 11 years of multiparty democracy.

Ekata is reluctant to reveal details of her operations, preferring instead to mutter that she is efficient with her rifle and its 11-round magazine. What she is prepared to say is that she joined up three years ago to fight against alleged police injustices committed in her village, that her husband is serving elsewhere and that she has not seen her daughter for 20 days.

She rejects traditional dress: I feel that wearing a sari, tikka (Hindu forehead mark) or lipstick is a kind of prison. It limits and confines you. Now I feel liberated.

Women play an important part in Nepals Maoist rebel movement; two places in every nine-member squad are reserved for them.

Ekatas boss Comrade Jivan confirms that women command local squads and serve on the underground partys central committee, although he does not know how many. Slim and fastidious, Jivan is a 36-year-old former primary school teacher. He is flanked by armed bodyguards as he sits inside a tiny mud-and-brick cottage surrounded by mango trees and iridescent green paddy fields.

Capitalism is slowly falling down. It cannot solve the problems of the lower class, he pronounces, his Next shirt and Italian tracksuit shielding a concealed sidearm. We are active in most districts of the country and the movement is going on throughout the country. We are waging a total war and we have to kill and be ready to kill.

Jivans command is in the Maoists mid-western heartland, where government officials concede that the rebels are in almost complete control.

Other western districts with a strong Maoist presence are Dailekh, Jumla and Pyuthan, and further east in Gorkha, Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk.

Ekata serves alongside two women trainees, Anju and Navena, both aged16, who say they were motivated to join by tales of women being burnt alive and the prospect of leading boring domestic lives cutting grass and feeding cattle.

The Worker, the partys official organ, includes a picture gallery of  women martyrs and a suitably rousing quotation attributed to Marx: Anybody who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine ferment.

The Maoist leaders see women as ideal recruits because although they carry out a double role in the house and field, male-dominated Nepalese society prevents them from attaining equal ownership.

To encourage support from women, Maoists frown on polygamy, make much propaganda capital of the harsh penalties their self-appointed courts impose on rapists and have strict rules that require party permission for recruits to marry and ban premarital or adulterous affairs.

A few miles from Ekatas unit another volunteer, 23-year-old Sunita, explains that she joined up five years ago seeking to avenge the death of friends who, she claims, were killed by police merely on suspicion of being Maoists. Instead of just dying like that I thought I would die fighting the police, she says.

Barefoot and clutching an ancient muzzle-loading rifle, she uses the same stock phrases as her comrades to outline their plan of class struggle and eventual world revolution against the enemies of imperialism, capitalism and revisionism.

But chief among them is the desire to redress the many injustices she believes were meted out to women. The aim is to put an end to social discrimination against women. There were so many women who were raped by police in my village, including two of my cousins, she says.

She claims to have no regrets about choosing a life where she must move through the forests from village to village, never sleeping at home and rarely visiting her parents.

She no longer wants to return to the normal life she once knew. I am having an education reading Marxism and Leninism. Going to school is education for selfish reasons, but what I am doing is for the whole country not for myself.

The Maoists have adopted the Great Helmsmans strategy of establishing bases in the countryside and surrounding the cities with liberated villages in order ultimately to seize control of the country, although many analysts believe this is beyond them.

Militarily their brutal but effective strategy -- often compared with Perus Shining Path guerrillas -- has been to launch night-time armed raids on police stations killing dozens at a time and taking others hostage.

More than 80 police died at the hands of hooded, red bandana-wearing rebels who stormed two stations in Rukumkot and Naumule in April, and the attacks have escalated noticeably in recent months.

With the police holed up in fortified bases and the governments writ no longer effective in the countryside, the Maoists move openly through the valleys and hillside consolidating control by ousting government officials from village committees through threats, abductions or murder and setting up their own administrations including courts, taxation and elections.

Travel through Jajarkot, Rukum and Salyan and it becomes clear that some of the people are won over by the Maoists arguments and initiatives such as co-operative farming, crackdowns on wealthy landowners who abuse their position and insistence that once-lazy teachers stay in the schools and teach.

Certainly poverty and malnutrition are among the Maoists best recruiting agents. Here fly-infested children wander through villages with clear signs of poor diet and locals fish as their ancestors did 1,000 years ago by dangling looped ropes in rivers hoping that fish will swim through the slip knots.

The Nepalese army gets three years training, we finish ours in 15 days, says Comrade Muktee, the commander of another squad. Every morning we do drills and exercises, we make some of our own bullets and we seize others from police. Our job is to protect the people and if the police come, to stage an ambush. We have killed police.

No one feels nice when someone dies but we kill only those who fight back. Those who surrender are not killed.

His unit would be more convincing if his .303 rifle were not the only semi-decent weapon in sight; the others are ancient flintlock models that take at least two minutes to reload through the muzzle.

However, he concedes that his is a low ranking volunteer unit, and that only selected members were chosen to take part with the Maoists front-rank troops in major attacks on police stations in Jajarkot.

In Jajarkot itself, the hilltop capital of a district where there isn't a single road passable by car, the police sit behind sandbags in one of the highest buildings in town, having been forced to abandon all but four of the 16 stations they used to occupy.

In a nearby building K.B. Rana, the governments sincere and well-meaning development officer, concedes there is little he can do for the local people when his staff control just 2km of the district's 2,123 sq km.

Frankly speaking the Government has not done enough, he admits. Very little of the budget has been allocated here and because it is a remote area civil servants do not like being posted here. They feel they have been forced to come as a punishment, but the Maoists are sacrificing their lives. It makes them a difficult enemy.

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