Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Guerrillas in the east

It has already been four years since he became a Maoist guerrilla. He is just 18 and he has survived two deadly attacks in Jumla and Argakhanchi. He has two bullet wounds in his chest and lower abdomen from the battle. Yet, Bir Bahadur Shahi wants to carry on fighting. Although he is from mid-western Nepal, Bir Bahadur is now in the eastern district of Sankhuwasabha. When he joined the Maoist fold, he was a seventh-grader. He knows that he cannot pursue his higher studies now. But, he is confident that if his party can wrest state power through the gun, he will win a position in the army.

There are many Maoists like Bir Bahadur Shahi. These are young boys and girls who did not even get to finish high schools. Most of them are seventh or eighth graders and they share almost similar stories of how they became Maoists. And they all hope that one day their party will rule and their futures will be secure.

The company commander of the 18th Battalion Jas Bahadur Bista commands a unit of 150 guerrillas, but is not educated. He knows that if he joins the army, he would have to be happy with the post of a sergeant. Namuna Balsulab, is from Hedangna in Sankhuwasabha district, but she is not so sure about her future. "The party has assured me that it will recruit me in the army, but let's see what happens." Her comrade is a 17-year-old girl from Humla, currently posted in the east. She has heard that her party will choose her husband and marry her off within two years. "If they don't do it, I guess I will marry a guy within the party whom I like."

But, 14-year-old Pasang is not bothered about her marriage. She is happy that she has been able to feed herself two times a day after she joined she Maoists. "When I used to be a shepherd, there was no guarantee of food. Today I get plenty to eat, I am enjoying this life." Pasang does not carry guns like others do, but her rucksack is full of grenades and explosives.

Most of the guerrillas in the village of Hedangna which is a one-and-half day walk from the district headquarters at Khandbari are between 14-18 years. It is not an easy life, but the daily military routine and comradeship sustains them. They get up early in the morning and take part in a parade bearing their arms. They perform sentry duty at night and guard places where the rebels organise village meetings. They are paid Rs 200 every month as pocket expenses. "We rarely get to spend this money since the party takes care of most of our daily needs," said one young Maoist.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)