PLA fighters, who have been living in the cantonments since the signing of the CPA in November 2006, say they are beginning to feel like prisoners. Many think that although during the war years they were scared for their lives, living as PLA fighters was much better than being locked up in the cantonments. They want army integration to begin soon so their lives can return to normal again.
There are seven cantonments and many other sub-cantonments in Ilam, Sindhuli, Chitwan, Nawalparasi, Rolpa, Surkhet and Kailali. These are full of small, makeshift huts covered with blue plastic sheeting and corrugated tin roofs. According the UN there are 19,604 fighters in the cantonments. They are busy from 4AM-9.30 PM every day and spend time on sentry duty, studying and in military training.
"Commanders, platoon commanders and all the fighters are busy with one duty or another throughout the day," says PLA fourth division sub-commander Madan.
"I feel useless and distanced from the battle front," says the platoon commander in Sakram sub-cantonment, Mina Oli 'Sarala'. A company commander in the same cantonment, Tilak Gharti Magar 'Arjun', says: "We used to remain hungry for days, used to eat whatever the people gave us in the villages. Still, that was better than these camps."
Kul Bahadur Oli 'Pratirodh' feels the same: "We went to war with the dream of people's liberation. How can we be happy living like prisoners in the cantonment?"
PLA fourth division fighters in Hatikhor sub-cantonment are also disappointed by the slow progress of army integration. Fighter Putala Sunar 'Swarnim' describes how difficult it is to live in the camps: "This is like a modern jail. The government hasn't done anything for us. Only those who are living in this hell know how difficult it is."
Those living in the Jhyaltung Danda cantonment in Nawalparasi also talk about their difficult days in the cantonment. "This place is like a cage, we feel like we have been dumped here," says Sarita DC 'Namuna'. Another fighter, Kamal Batha 'Abhas' says: "It is very lonely here."
They say that if the process of army integration doesn't start soon, they want the government to make regulations to manage the camps better.