Maoist child soldiers who had been underground are returning home to Daha, a village in far-western Kalikot. Back in the safety of their homes, they pray that they will not have to return to the jungle again.
Four classmates from Chulimalika Secondary School joined the Maoist rebels more than two years ago and are very articulate about janbadi shiksha-Maoist speak for 'progressive-people's education'. Ten-year old Jagadish Shahi said that he would continue his education if that policy is adopted during negotiations between the government and the rebels. "Hundreds of children like me contributed in bringing the 'people's war' to where it is today," says Shahi.
He claims there are 300 child soldiers who went underground for the Maoist party at Kalikot alone. Shahi says he and his colleagues suffered unimaginable hardships for their "ideals". "It is for love of my parents, grandfather and school friends that I decided to come home," he said.
His former classmate Devendra Shahi, 12, has no regrets about joining the Maoists. After more than two years underground, he regards guns and bullets as childplay. "We will be compelled to go back if the present peace process fails. I pray that a a situation where children like me have to pick up guns will never arise again," he says.
Sita Kumari Singh, 14, and Bimala, 15, joined the Maoist party from Odanaku village of Kalikot and are members of the Maoist's cultural wing, Raktaranjan Cultural Troupe. "Until the valid demands of the Maoist party materialises, the contributions made by artists like us will not get due recognition," Singh says. Both of Bimala's parents and her grandparents died in the seven-year long civil war. She hopes to live with her uncle's family if permanent peace is established in the country.
News of 17-year-old Padam Bahadur Rawal's death at the hands of the Royal Nepali Army was broadcasted by the state-controlled radio recently. His parents even performed his last rites when their son, very much alive, returned home. "Even if the ceasefire is put in place, we cannot return home unless a lasting peace is established and the people's army is merged with the national army," Rawal says with certainty.