13-19 March 2015 #749

Working after war

Madhab Basnet in Nepal (8-14 March)

Pasang Sherpa ‘Karma’, a former Maoist guerilla, has migrated to India and sells medicines and clothes door-to-door. He occasionally visits Nepal to meet his wife and children.

Karma was the first Maoist from the Sherpa community, and used to be the founding Chair of the Sherpa Liberation Front, one of many ethnic wings of the Maoists. He later became a deputy brigade commander, fought in many battles, and was partially paralysed by a shrapnel in his body. Declared physically unfit to join the Nepal Army, he opted for voluntary retirement.

Yam Bahadur Adhikari, who was Karma’s commander, joined the army as a lieutenant colonel, the highest post given to an ex-Maoist combatant. Even those who fought under Karma were inducted into the army.

The Maoists promised Karma a ticket to contest the second Constituent Assembly (CA) elections from Solukhumbu district. But, at the last moment, they did not give it to him. Frustrated at the way his party treated him, he left Nepal.

TAKING LEAVE: Pasang Sherpa in uniform during the conflict. A former Maoist guerilla he now lives in India, selling medicines and clothes. A picture of Sherpa during his visit to Shanghai from his album.

“The Maoists just exploited us,” he says now. “I feel like we fought the war just to catapult some leaders into power.”

Karma is not alone in disillusionment so great that he has not just abandoned his party, but also Nepal. Hundreds of ex-Maoist combatants have already left the country, regretting their part in an insurgency that killed 17,000 people.

Chandra Prakash Khanal, who is now in-charge of Avadh State Committee of the Maoists says more than 100 ex-guerrillas have migrated for work abroad from his area alone.

Khanal says those who faced hardship and braved bullets during the war are now working as manual labourers in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Qatar where they work in construction, on farms, and as cattle herders. Some are in Japan and Hong Kong, fleeing the country with money looted during the war. No matter where they are and what they are doing, they say the war did no good for the country and their lives.

Hari Bahadur Neparu, an ex-Maoist combatant from Rolpa, is known among his war-time comrades as a ‘living martyr’. He fought in countless battles, was nearly killed several times, got injured more than twice and lost two wives during the war. He now regrets joining the Maoists. “I feel insulted,” he says. “They used us. When they came to power, they ignored us.”

When the war was over, Neparu was hopeful that he would get a chance to serve the Nepal Army. But, he did not qualify. He sought the party’s help to start his life anew, but they ignored him. He went to work in Afghanistan, but his health deteriorated from his war wounds, so he returned. Today he runs a small poultry farm in Harisiddhi on the outskirts of Patan.

San Budha Magar of Rukum, Durga Lal Budha Magar ‘Kanchan’ of Rolpa, Dhruba Neupane ‘Bachan’ of  Okhaldhunga and Bhim Dutta Khadka ‘Santosh’ of Rolpa were all senior commanders of the Maoist army. All are now abroad. They say they joined the Maoists to create a classless society free from any kinds of oppression and discrimination. After the war was over, they say they were themselves oppressed and discriminated by their party. 

Says Comrade Bachan: “I now ask myself: what did I fight for?”

Read also:

Forgotten fighters, Deepak Adhikari

Comrade Manju’s Everest Café, Deepak Adhikari