Reports from Rolpa indicate the fighting this week between joint security forces and the Maoists was more fierce than previously reported, with large numbers of civilians fleeing the area.
Security officials here told us that about 100 rebels were killed in clashes around the Maoist training areas in Bhawang, 15km northwest from the district headquarters of Libang. Fifty-six Maoist bodies have been recovered so far. They also said reinforcements had been flown into the area and it was under army control.
Some police officers who arrived here Thursday morning from near the scene of the fighting said the army had fired at rebel positions from helicopters and reported many civilian casualties in Bhawang. The army says five soldiers were killed, but so far the bodies of only two policemen have been brought down to Nepalganj. Security officials have been unusually tight-lipped about combat details.
As news of the fighting in Rolpa spread, villagers from other midwestern districts have started fleeing their homes. But their movement has been restricted because of the three-day bandh. Thirty-year old Tanka Budathoki of Dang was given two choices: join the Maoists or die. He gave himself a third choice: abandon his home and family. He says he has no other option but to go to India and find a job. Raji Sejuwal's eyes glisten as he recounts how he left his village in Jumla to try to get into the army. He was rejected, and now he can't go back because the Maoists will kill him if they find out that he tried to get recruited. Harka Bahadur Biswakarma from Surkhet returned from India to celebrate Dasai with his family, but is going right back. "There is just too much bloodshed and fear in my village."
Pari Adhikari from Jajarkot came down to Nepalganj to catch a bus to India and is walking across the border. He told us: "I am not going to come back until there is permanent peace in my country."