|PAINTING THE TOWN RED: The increasingly visible Young Communist League has been holding meetings and rallies around the country. Last week this one in Phaplu, Solu (above) was attended by 200 people, many of whom marched over from Salleri (below first). Shortly below a YCL gate welcoming foreign visitors in Phakding (below second) is a counter where they process \'donations\' (below third). The YCL office in Nepalganj is housed in this building (below fourth) the Maoists took over from a royal relative.|
Known by their English acronym YCL, the Young Communist League has emerged as the strong arm of the Maoists as the party joins the government and prepares to campaign for elections.
In the cities, the YCL has now come to be known for its summary justice and intimidation and is dreaded for the practice of roughing up anyone who stands in the way. In the tarai, the YCL has been blamed for its militant tactics that have alienated madhesis.
The YCL doesn't even try to hide the fact that it is composed of former battalion and company commanders of the 'People's Liberation Army'-personnel who should theoretically be inside UN-run cantonments under last year's peace agreement.
"The YCL is a fusion of the party's military and political character," admits the league's chairman Ganesh Man Pun, "it is composed of PLA members who have an interest in politics."
Political analysts say the league has been created to keep former guerrillas occupied and in control, but also play organisational and security roles for the political leadership. Indeed, in Kathmandu the YCL has been involved in high-profile street cleaning, demolition of illegal structures, crime control, and planting trees along Tundikhel.
In Nepalganj, the YCL office is located in the five-storey house belonging to a royal relative that was confiscated by the Maoists last year. The head of the league in Nepalganj is also its central committee member, Jhak Bahadur Malla who used to be Comrade Sudip, the commander of the 11th Battalion of the Maoist Pratap Smriti Brigade. The deputy chief is Comrade Kabita, whose husband was killed in action during a battle in Syangja three years ago in which both participated.
It is clear that a large proportion of the senior PLA leaders are not in camps at all but in the cities living as YCL cadre. They have been involved in organising security for Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal's nationwide tour in March during which young Maoists were involved in several violent incidents against madhesi activists. Most of those killed in the massacre in Gaur on 21 March were YCL cadre.
It seems clear that the Maoists have sent their militia and trainees to the camps and kept hardcore fighters outside as deterrence against 'reactionaries'. In fact, Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa (Badal) said at a YCL national convention in Kathmandu in February: "If there are conspiracies against us, the league will lead another revolt."
As in Nepalganj, the YCL in Kathmandu is housed in private homes and factories in Balaju, Gongabu, and Bhaktapur. Although the league says the premises were given to them, owners say they were taken over by force.