The people's revolt against the Maoists in Dullu was spontaneous and essentially leaderless. But it would not have been possible without the voice and role of a few outspoken women like Krishna Shah (below). In Kathmandu this week, she told us how it all began.
What moved you to muster the courage to defy the Maoists?
At first they used to come and go and they asked for food from villagers. Once the local police station was vacated, they came in an organised way and formed a village people's committee. We were not sure what were they up to in the beginning. There were hopes that things would get better. But later, we began to understand that it was all about intimidation. They used guns and khukuris to threaten us. They would send us to their labour camp if we did not attend their programs, they force-marched us for miles and miles. They made our teachers WTs. Even the the children were made to walk for two days at a stretch sometimes to attend week-long abhiyans. For many of us, it was getting unbearable and most of the young had already fled to India. Only us women were left in the villages. They started to ban us from temples, and forced widows to put abir (vermillion) on their heads. They would take pressure cookers from each house to make bombs, they took clothes, utensils. And from the money our children sent back from India, they demanded Rs 500 from each family. As if that was not enough, they began to rob houses.
You tolerated all that, what was the last straw?
Life was becoming more and more difficult but there was one incident that sparked it off. A man who had been forced to become the village chief by the Maoists was shot dead by the army. We knew it was not his fault but we blamed the Maoists for forcing him to be headman against his will. We felt enough is enough, there is nothing left to lose. All I did was raise my voice against the Maoists, then 20 or so villagers suddenly began to chant slogans against the Maoists and before long there was an anti-Maoist rally. It all happened spontaneously and when people from surrounding villages saw the rally they joined in too. That is how all 13 villages in Dullu came to take part.
Did you try to convince the Maoist leaders that they were hurting the people?
We did several times, but we found their local cadre didn't do what their leaders told them to. The leaders always talk about human rights but they never worked that way in practice. I don't think the Maoist leadership has control over its cadre.
Are the people in Dullu scared of Maoist reprisal?
The people are determined to defy the Maoists. They have decided they will no longer accept the atrocities and brutiality. The people have started taking into custody any Maoist they find. If they assure us that they will quit the movement we let them go. If they are unrepentant, we hand them over to the security forces.
How about you, do you feel safe?
If the security camps are situated far from us, we might face problems. I guess when we go back we will have to stay close to the base for protection.
Will you continue the revolt?
There is no turning back. Personally, I will very much remain involved in this campaign and I am confident that the local people will remain united in the long run. We have formed people's committees to guard our villages and more and more villages are joining our campaign despite obvious threats to their lives from the rebels.