Maoist leader CP Gajurel claims that the number of Maoist fighters has increased from 10,000 to over 37,000 since the Maoists gave up arms and joined mainstream politics. Such a claim is a direct challenge to Ian Martin and could hamper arms management and the verification of fighters.
On paper, it is clear that those who have joined the Maoist army after 1 June 2006 and 'soldiers' under 18 years of age will not be considered fighters. But this has not happened in practice. The third clause of the 25-point agreement of 1 June between the Maoists and the government states clearly that the PLA will not recruit any more fighters. The Maoists have not only violated the agreement but also the ceasefire code of conduct. Reports say the Maoists have used force and in many cases threats to get young people to join their army.
When newspapers started reporting that more young people were joining the PLA, lured by promises of a permanent place when it merged with the Nepal Army and a $100 stipend, the UN said those joining the ranks after 1 June 2006 would not be verified. But even before the November peace agreement, the Maoists had started training new troops in their cantonments.
While the UN team is busy verifying those fighters who joined the army after 1 June, locking up their arms, and giving the keys to the commanders even before the siren has been installed, Gajurel has been threatening a return to armed struggle. He says that if the Maoists feel the process is not going according to plan, they can take up arms and come out into the streets within one hour.
The UN is trying to keep under wraps that the process is not transparent, as many are saying. The verification process started in Shakti Khor, Chitwan (pictured ) and has so far covered Dahban in Rolpa, Mansuriya in Kailali, and Gulmi in Surkhet, but there is no information about how many fighters are in the cantonments, how many have been verified etc. Martin says the numbers will be made public once the process is complete.