Surkhet-Maoists in Jumla have started a new strategy, called the 'shoe campaign', to forcefully recruit young Jumlis. Last week, about 5,000 boys and girls from five villages were forced to join the campaign, which boasts a catchy, rhyming slogan directing the youth to tie their shoelaces tight and enter the forest. Those who managed to escape the recruiters have been threatened and their houses have been locked up as a warning for them not to return to their villages. "This time, they did not take the young ones just for a marching parade but to recruit them as permanent members," says a young villager from Jumla who fled from his village late at night and walked all the way to Surkhet. Hundreds of villagers from Jumla are fleeing the forced conscription. They migrate to nearby towns, abandoning their houses and land, which are seized by the rebels. They survive on meagre incomes and usually can't afford to send the children to schools. "It is better to run away than risk our lives in the village," says one young Jumli.
The biggest fear for innocent civilians is dying at the hands of security forces after being forcefully recruited by the rebels. The recruiters visit each household and select the young and strong members of the family. If the family objects, they are accused of rebelling against the Maoist party. Many have been beaten and threatened. A large number of men escape without taking their wives, children and old parents with them. Says a Jumli: "I cried all the way when I had to abandon my wife and my children."