Six years after they began expanding their organisation to include the eastern tarai, Maoist rebels claim that they have been successful in establishing a class struggle in the area. The commissar of the 7th brigade D-company, 'Himal', who is in charge of the Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts, says that the eastern hilly region has become the base area for the rebels and that the tarai area is already their people's base area. Despite his claims, so far the rebels have been unsuccessful in all of their big attacks in the eastern tarai, but do have several minor offensives to their credit.
Over the last year, the rebels have mobilised armed guerrillas in eastern tarai, where they claim to have seven brigades, two battalions, three companies and several platoons and sections. They say their guerrillas can travel freely to all the villages in Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari, carrying SMGs, AK 47s, SLRs, .303 rifles, home made rifles, pistols and socket bombs.
Almost two months ago, the rebels held a press conference in a village just five km from Jhapa's district headquarters of Bhadrapur. They were armed with guns and other weapons while addressing the press.
A large part of the rebels' success in strengthening their tarai base has been due to help received from ethnic fronts like the Limbuban and Khumbuban. According to Comrade Himal, large numbers of Maoist recruits are coming from local communities and ethnic groups such as Santhal, Tharu, Dhimal, Chaudhary and Dalit. As a result, the Tharuwan liberation front is also helping intensify the 'people's war' in the eastern tarai. However, there are concerns that after joining hands with the rebels, these fronts are losing their independent identities and are simply classed with the Maoists.
Under the D-company, Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari each have district commanders who control guerrillas and militia. In urban areas, there are special task forces of between 10 and 15 members who lay ambushes, set off explosions, kill people and loot arms and money from the banks.
Experience in the west and the eastern mountains has made these rebels such experts in hit-and-run tactics that the security forces in the tarai are having a tough time trying to control them. However, the rebel platoon commander of the 18th brigade, Rajan, was killed in Dharan when a time bomb he had made went off prematurely.
Maoist political commissar Hikmat lives in a village hut and uses a mobile phone (pictured) to direct military activities. "When fighting in the mountains, we use the topography to our advantage. In the plains like this, we have to use the density of the people," he says.
Aware of the rebel developments in the eastern region, the army is also building up. There are new unified command posts in bases deserted by the police. According to the eastern headquarters of the army in Itahari, there are already 17 such posts in the eastern tarai. Soldiers regularly patrol all the urban areas and nearby villages. "The Maoist can do nothing in the tarai," says brigade commander Annata Bahadur Thebe. "At a time when they are losing ground even in the mountains, they shouldn't even dream of making major attacks in the tarai because we have enough back up in the region to foil their offensives."