Nepali Times
Sarala's struggle


When Maoist activist Sarala Regmi defeated the UML's Bam Dev Gautam in Bardiya in the April elections, she was full of hope that a new Nepal was indeed being born. But her hopes were dashed a few months later when Gautam was nominated Home Minister in the coalition government.

Regmi came to Kathmandu with high expectations that she would take part in the drafting of the new constitution. After years spent underground and facing the hardships of the war years, Regmi felt the Maoist election victory was a logical outcome of her party's sacrifices.

"No one knew how the elections would turn out, but the people rewarded me with their trust," says 39-year-old Regmi. After she was declared the winner, every other contestant congratulated her except Gautam. When she came to Kathmandu, however, Regmi did congratulate Gautam on being appointed minister.

In Kathmandu, Regmi soon found the backroom wheeler-dealing of politics unbearable, and the constitution-drafting process was delayed by wrangling over rules of procedure. Appalled by the lack of a sense of urgency among politicians, she returned to Bardiya.

"A lot of people back in the district ask me what I think about the man I defeated being made the home minister," Regmi told Nepali Times. "But I guess it was up to the UML to decide their candidate for the post." She says her party had no option but to accept the decision of coalition partners UML and MJF on ministers. However, Regmi says it would have been better for the UML if it had chosen someone from among its elected members.

Regmi has some bad memories of the elections. She claims Gautam launched a smear campaign against her for being married twice. "I was hurt," she recalls. "I was not expecting it from a politician like him. It revealed his impoverished intellect, but his dirty tricks backfired on him."

Regmi was married to fellow Maoist Gyan Prasad Chalise (Ayam) in 1997, when both were underground. Chalise was arrested in 2001 and died in army detention in the Chisapani barrack. The party later arranged her marriage to Gunaraj Lohani in 2007, pairing her with someone who had lost his wife during the war.

Regmi was among the first 60 guerrillas to be trained to launch the 'people's war' in 1996. She worked as battalion
commissar to a central committee member. She is now a member of Tharuwan State Committee, and sides with the faction of the party that favours a federal people's republic.

Says Regmi: "We don't want a Bihari-style republic. The war was for liberation of the oppressed and the poor. We fought to establish a people's republic. The battle field may have changed but the fight still continues."

She argues that there would have been no need for armed struggle had the democracy addressed the country's structural problems. "The war dismantled the feudal structure and raised ethnic, gender and class issues, and now it is time for the state to address them," she says.

Regmi misses her young son who lives with relatives in Kailali when she is in Kathmandu. She studies, and writes when she has some free time. The rest of the time she spends strategising with party colleagues.

She adds: "There is so much to do, and there is so little time. We think about our country's future and not just about ourselves."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)