Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Revolution and reconciliation


KONG YEN LIN in ROLPA


ALL PICS: KONG YEN LIN
TIME PASS: Sukh Bahadur Roka Magar, the 5th division commander of PLA in a game of carom with his subordinates.
Sukh Bahadur Roka Magar is commander of the People's Liberation Army 5th Division. Comrade Sharad, as he is known, bears a striking resemblance to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

These days, Commander Sharad at Rolpa's Dahaban cantonment has a crippling air of resignation. "What? Another journalist?" he asks when his game of carom is disturbed by a reporter who asks for an interview, "I have spoken to so many journalists and nothing has changed."

Half-an-hour later, he stepped away from his carom game and granted an audience to visiting reporters. "I've lost both rounds today," he says, laughing.

A guerrilla force that spear-headed a violent revolution from these mountains of Midwestern Nepal 13 years ago is adjusting to a new life of uncertainty and idleness. According to Sukh Bahadur, his 4,100 strong army has almost halved in recent months owing to attrition and quality assessments by UNMIN. The main push factor, he says, is the lack of infrastructure and facilities available in cantonments.
Goats graze at the empty entrance of the Maoist cantonment in Tila. Of the 1,300 cadre once housed here, 600 have left.

"The government promised to raise our monthly wages and make infrastructural provisions but they haven't," he says, "we're starting to feel like refugees in our own land."

About 29 km away at the Tila sub-cantonment, the situation is even more desperate. There are no sentry guards on duty at night, no senior commanders in the camp when we visited and daily drills have been stopped.

Former platoon commander Mausam Thapa Magar left the camp last year. He says: "I felt I have no future in the PLA, its objectives and focus no longer matched my personal vision." The 24-year-old enlisted when he was 15, attracted by the Maoists' promise of liberation, democracy and social progress. "It's just not the same anymore," he says ruefully.

Mausam now works as a Rukum correspondent of the Maoist-owned magazine, Yatra, which focuses on Janajati issues. "The two-army integration is the most pressing problem to be resolved in the new constitution," Mausam says, "but even if things don't turn out well, I doubt if the PLA will take up arms again."

A Maoist sprucing up a memorial for Kim Bahadur Thapa, a senior commander of the PLA who was killed in action in 2006.

Lower Secondary School teacher Nal Bahadur Oli feels that at this rate, the PLA will just melt away. "It's only a matter of time before the PLA is dissolved and cadres are reallocated to different occupations by the government," Oli says.

But Nira Gharti is still hopeful. Gharti spent eight years as a guerrilla, fighting in major battles. She has two wishes: establishing proper schools and skills training in her cantonment, and better guarantees of gender rights in the new constitution. Says the 25-year-old mother: "The condition of women and children were dire during the war, now that there is peace, we are looking for a bright future."

See also:
'From Maoism to tourism', #340
'Change in Rolpa', #376
'War trek' #442



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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