The Maoist rebels are not equipped solely with guns and grenades. They now have modern means of communication like satellite phones, allowing rebels in Khandbari and Swragadwari in the east to stay in touch with comrades in Gulmi and other western districts of the west. It not only helps the Nepali rank and file but they can also call relatives living abroad.
"Hello! Can we have our mess there today?" asks Amar, second-in-command at the Mangalsen First Brigade Battalion, on a satellite uplink from Gulmi. "HQ and a company will arrive today, everything should be ready." After he's done, a group gathers around to briefly exchange greetings with their comrades. "We have been unable to meet after the Beni attack, but thanks to modern technology, we can talk like this," a Maoist said, pointing to the set.
The phone was then handed over to Bam Dev Chhetri, a Maoist central member, who had to contact his superiors. During his stay in New Delhi, Chhetri familiarised himself with all kinds of communication mediums and his expertise helped the Maoists establish a functional network across the country. "We developed our system to suit our needs," he says.
Intercom communication has revolutionised the Maoist side: the rebels across the length and breadth of the country now have a tangible link with each other. Mother units that have a range of 80km and cost Rs 30,000 each have been installed in different districts with technical teams for operations. Each primary set has a secondary system of around a dozen telephones. These sets cannot be used to contact anyone outside the network but do, however, intercept signals from security force walkie-talkies. Getting advance notice on the movement of troops is now as easy as listening eavesdropping.
In rural areas, where locals have not seen ordinary telephones, the sophisticated machines imported from Singapore, Germany and Belgium carried by rebel leaders are objects of wonder. "In the army, only ranks above battalion commander are given satellite phones," says battalion commander Sudeep. "But each district headquarters controlled by of our party has one."
The rebels also use very high frequency (VHF) phones installed by the government in different districts. They destroyed repeater towers in areas out of their immediate control but have kept the system functioning everywhere else.