Ten-year-old Rajukala Rawat's hands are small, tender. And they are accustomed to lobbing lethal grenades at security forces in and around Raralihi village in Jumla district. "I have two with me right now," she says, showing us the bag that she carries round the clock. "I was told to attack the enemy with the grenades whenever and wherever I see them." Isn't she the least bit afraid that the explosives may detonate in her hands? "We are not afraid of death," she says confidently.
Rajukala looks no different from any other child: you could easily imagine her frolicking with her friends and being indulged with candies. But this young girl left home for good and went underground with other Maoist rebels who gave her the nom de guerre Comrade Samjhana.
Her friend Sirina Budha is 11, and she has two grenades too. "Right now our roles are confined to throwing grenades at security forces," she says, matter-of-factly. "Once we grow up, we will attack the barracks of the Royal Nepali Army." Renamed Comrade Sirjana, she left school at grade three to join the rebels.
There are at least six other girls like Rajukala and Sirina in Raralihi who also act as spies. They scout the village and keep a sharp lookout for security patrols. They also keep tabs of newcomers in the area. The girls carry arms and ammunition for the rebels, sometimes travelling to areas where full-scale battles are raging between the security forces and the rebels.
"When my friends are ready to die, I cannot stay back. My parents encouraged me to fight against injustice and exploitation," says Samjhana. The girls have a ready explanation about their involvement. They all say they joined the rebels out of their own free will and were not forced. They say they are fighting global imperialism, but don't seem to know what that means. The Maoist leadership has maintained the movement never uses children.