SHAKTIKHOR - The secretary of the cantonment for Maoist fighters in Chitwan (pictured left) Comrade Abiral is used to questions from journalists about problems he faces. "Ask me what problems I don't have," he says.
It seems natural that he is cynical with visiting reporters and human rights monitors. Shaktikhor faces problems with water, food, and shelter. "There isn't enough food, it is hot inside the tents, and there is no drinking water. There are scorpions here in the forest and we have to be careful when we sleep. We are living like squatters," says Abiral, "we're tolerating it for the sake of peace."
Shaktikhor is among seven temporary camps set up for Maoists all over the country. There are some 6,000 inmates here, but the temporary huts haven't yet been built and most of the former fighters sleep in tents.
"When we left the camps recently there was speculation, but it was only because we'd run out of food," Abiral adds. The government promised Rs 30 per day per inmate, but they haven't received it. Abiral says the camp owes Rs 60 million to local traders.
Villagers in Shaktikhor have their own grievances. They say the camp was set up without their consent in the Udaypur Community Forest region. "We have been protecting this forest since long before the conflict," says 63-year-old Tirtha Raj Gauli, "now we aren't allowed to go in. We want control over our forest returned." The forest is the main source of livelihood for most villagers here. Their source of water is also inside the camp, and villagers therefore also have to contend with a water shortage.
The children in the village, however, are excited about the helicopters that frequently fly in and land at the camp, and they run outside to watch them come and go, even during class hours.
The Maoists in the camps get up at 5AM, have their morning meal at 10AM, drill and walk around till 2PM, and then go to school inside the camp where they learn about political philosophy, among other things. The teachers and students are all Maoists.
The camp now has a hospital with eight beds, and 110 of the fighters inside are trained health workers, but there isn't the money to buy the medicines needed.