Extortion by the Maoists have terrorised not just businessmen and civil servants but also the poor who cannot even afford a square meal. This fear is stark in Nawalparasi, Rupandehi and Kapilbastu. Dirgha Narayan Kewat is an ordinary wage labourer in Butwal but the Maoists have demanded Rs 60,000 and 10 quintals of rice from him. To save himself, he took a loan of Rs 10,000 and some rice to pay the rebels.
Murari Pahalman from Nawalparasi was abducted in Rupandehi. He was released 22 days later on condition that he pay Rs 160,000. "I sold my land and paid the amount to save my life," said Pahalman, who joined a group of Nawalparasi villagers waging an armed retaliation against the Maoists. He sent his wife and children to India for security. Mohammed Salam of Rupandehi fled to India with his 10-member family after the Maoists demanded Rs 200,000. Unable to endure the constant pressure for donations from the Maoists, several families have resettled in Butwal according to Salam. Besides money, they were also required to donate food grains.
The businessmen in Rupandehi receive the worst brunt. Many of them have been asked to pay between Rs 200,000 to 900,000. "Every time we pay, they say it's the last but the demands continue," said an hotelier. "Now they are asking for even more, around Rs 800,000 from every businessman."
Many villagers from Paklihawa of Nawalparasi have begun a team to fight against the Maoists. It has spread to over six-dozen villages. Dipendra Yadab, who is working with the Armed Police Force, has also joined them. The rebels tried to kill him while he was visiting his parents at Paklihawa. Till date, more than a dozen villagers have lost their lives in encounters with the Maoists. They have so far managed to capture and handover five Maoists to the local police. A few weeks ago, while the Maoists were playing carom, the villagers attacked seven of them in Ratnaganj. They also killed the Nawalparasi section commander after the Maoists asked for Rs 30,000 from a farmer and handed Gita Poudel, area member, over to the administration on the same day. The villagers beat five Maoists to death in Parsauni and Bedauli the next day and set fire to several rebel shelters.
According to the village retaliation committee, Suresh Yadab and Rakesh were among the five Maoists killed, who had come on motorcycles to ask for donations. On 9 January, they killed a Maoist sympathiser in Bedauli. The Maoists avenged by killing Ramkripal Gupta, former chairman of the committee. "We have asked the Maoists and their supporters to surrender and join our team. Those who turned it down have fled," said Muna Khan, the committee chief. Around 22 Maoists have surrendered so far and are working with the villagers. "They feed us confidential information," said Khan. Today, nobody can enter the villages without Khan's permission, not even journalists and human rights workers. The committee has blacklisted over two dozen rights workers and journalists who visited the village during an observational tour. The people who have to walk through these villages are frisked and interrogated by the retaliation team members.