BIRATNAGAR-The huge madhesi assembly here was armed with traditional weapons like bows and arrows, axes, swords and spades. Despite the Maoist-road blockade, thousands of men and women from villages in south Morang traveled on bicycles, tractors and oxcarts to gather in an open field in a display of solidarity and unity against the Maoists. They are tired of the rebels' injustice and domination, and decided to publicly protest and condemn Maoist atrocities against innocent civilians who are struggling to survive and overcome neglect by the government. "All we want is to live with dignity," one participant said.
The Santhal community in Sisabani is constantly harassed by Maoists for food and shelter. "We have so little ourselves and yet they demand we feed them meat and rice," says Biswa Murmu, a local villager who was forced to feed the rebels on two consecutive nights. When he refused, his mother and sister were threatened. "How much longer can we endure this?" asks a furious young man, a bow and arrows ready on his back.
Former vice chairman of Budhanagar village, Tarachand Shah, refused to pay ransom for his son who was kidnapped by the Maoists and they killed him. Since then, people from the villages neighbouring Budhanagar have united against the Maoists. Madhesi security units were formed a while ago for the villages of Pokhariya, Jhorahat, Tetariya, Sisabani, Majhare, Nocha, Budhanagar, Bhajigacha and Kadmahal. They patrol day and night to keep the Maoists away. "There is a limit to our silence and fear," says Gangaram Rajbhar, who gave up his job in India to join the anti-Maoist campaign in his village.
Since the brutal killing of 54-year-old Sampatlal Das Tharu on 7 May, hatred towards the rebels has intensified and now the people are taking the law into their own hands. Four days after the murder, villagers of Tetariya stoned two Maoist activists, Tek Bahadur Rajbangsi and Lilam Adhikari, to death. Ten days later, they killed another young Maoist who constantly badgered them for donations.