Nepali Times
A revolution that devours children


. Deb Lal Bhandari was a third grader in Jungar Secondary School of Nerpa VDC in Rolpa. He was returning home from school on 24 January when he spotted a round object wrapped in torn clothes by the roadside. It looked like a doll, so he picked it up. As he touched it, the bomb exploded and nine-year-old Deb Lal died on the spot.

. Three days later, ten-year-old Anil KC of Banki VDC in Dang was playing with a round metal object near his home when it exploded. Anil is now recovering from severe wounds at a hospital in Ghorahi.

. The Maoists left four pipe bombs on a bridge along the Rangeli-Biratnagar highway. One of them exploded on 3 February injuring 10 people including eight-year-old Manoj Mahato who has deep cuts in both legs.

All three incidents took place in one week and became the latest in the grim statistics of children killed and maimed in the last ten years of war. And these are just the physically wounded, there is no estimate of the number of children who bear psychological and mental trauma.

Schools have been turned into war zones. The Maoists have used playgrounds for drills and marchpasts, forced students to dig bunkers and trenches. The army has converted some schools into barracks and used playing fields as helipads. In addition, the Maoists have systematically targetted the country's education system, closing down schools, forcing students to attend propaganda meetings, and using them as recruiting centers.

From February 1996-February 2006
341 children killed (172 by the state and 169 by the Maoists)
473 children injured
30,569 children abducted with their teachers, most later freed
236 children arrested by sate security
40,000+ internally displaced
8,000+ orphaned

Civil society and child rights groups have been lobbying to get both the rebels and the army to leave schools out of bounds by declaring them 'Zones of Peace'. They strongly protested against the location of polling booths inside school premises in this week's municipal elections.

The estimates of children directly and indirectly affected by the conflict in the past 10 years is approximate. Besides those directly hurt, there are hundreds of thousands who have been orphaned or had family members killed or disappeared, been deprived of education, been force-marched for days to re-education camps or coerced into joining the rebel ranks.

Many children are forced to associate with armed forces and armed groups as militia, porters, kitchen helpers, spies and informants or messengers. In addition, the Maoists forcefully recruited children through 'People's Education Trainings'.

"On an average 41 children have died every year in the past ten years," says Tarak Dhital of the child welfare group, CWIN, "in addition there are severe psycho-social effects that we haven't even begun to estimate." A total of 424 children have been killed in the past ten years, but these are only deaths reported to CWIN there may hundreds of more unreported fatalities. Nearly half of all children in Nepal are now directly affected by conflict because of recruitment or schools being closed, according to CWIN.

Ceasefires have been good for children. In the four months before the ceasefire, (May-August 2005) 25 children were killed, while six were killed during the ceasefire. However, 3,232 children were force marched to attend re-education during the ceasefire.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)