Nepali Times
Long journey home


RECOUNTING: Sita Tamang (second from right, at bottom) attended the Security Council's meeting on 17 June, narrating her experience as a child soldier with the Maoists.
Sita Tamang, a former child soldier, was excited to go to New York. But the journey she embarked on last month was less to visit the country she had heard so much about since her childhood than it was to fulfill a historic mission.

Sita was invited to the 6341st meeting of the UN Security Council by the UN Special Rapporteur on Children in Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.

On 17 June, Sita was seated next to Coomaraswamy in the Security Council chamber, where there was representation from 60 countries. Over concerns for her safety, she was introduced as Manju Gurung. Then she recounted her ordeal of abduction by the Maoists at age 11. She was forced to perform heavy labour, trained for combat, and threatened with the murder of her family if she spoke to anyone about the Maoists. She told the assembly about her escape and the discrimination she had to endure at the hands of her family and neighbours back in her home village. She also spent time in the Shaktikhor cantonment in Chitwan before she escaped and finally contacted a human rights organisation that aided her rehabilitation. The chamber was left shocked by her story.

Following her presentation, delegates suggested the council take stringent measures to bring the recruiters of child soldiers to justice.

US representative Susan Rice, quoting the nineteenth century abolitionist Frederick Douglass, said, "It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Citing Sita's case of successful reintegration, she emphasised the need to join the campaign against child recruitment into insurgencies. "Even after conflicts end, scars remain in the form of prolonged trauma and impaired social, emotional and cognitive development," she said.

Council President Patricia Espinosa, Secretary for External Relations of Mexico, said all types of child abuse during insurgency or war are war crimes. She urged all states to take stringent measures against those involved in such activities. Speakers also argued the Maoists have to do a lot more to prove their innocence. Some even opined they should be charged with war crimes in Sita's case. The Maoists released 2,395 ex-combatants below 18 years of age seven months ago, but 1,614 of 4,008 minors had already fled the cantonments by the time the discharges took place.

For her part, Sita has no desire to return to the US following her 10-day visit. She wants to see children across the globe secure. "My goal is to complete my studies first and then help rescue troubled children like myself," she said.


Former Maoist child soldier Sita Tamang, who gave testimony at the United Nations Security Council in New York lastmonth, has been threatened by Maoists at her home in Chitwan.

Tamang, now 18, was introduced as 'Manju Gurung' by the UN Special Rapporteur on Children in Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy. Sita recounted her life story, detailing how she was forced into the Maoist movement at age 11. Upon her return, five combatants from the UN-supervised Shaktikhor Cantonment went to Sita's home while she was out grazing goats.

"A car stopped at our house and five people came out of a car looking for my daughter," said a terrified Dhan Maya Tamang. "They said she might have to face consequences in the future."

"The Maoists said to me that I should not have criticised them, and that something bad could happen to me in the future," Sita said.

Sita first told her story toHimal Khabarpatrikathree months ago, as part of a series on what has become of former Maoist combatants. The UN then took her to New York as a case study of how ex-child soldiers can be successfully rehabilitated.

Human rights organisations and journalists in Chitwan say they are worried about Sita's safety and the local police has posted a sentry at her house.

Sita's story


first saw the Maoists in 2002. I was studying in Class Four and must have been about 11 years old. The Maoists were running a 'one family, one member' campaign. Because my parents were occupied with work, I was compelled to go. They said, "Bourgeois education is useless, you should join us," and didn't let me return home.

After that, I don't know where I travelled but after seven days we reached my maternal uncle's home in Dihitar. I was very scared. I managed to write a letter to my mother. She came to my rescue and took me home. I was terrified when I found out that while I was at school, the Maoists had come to my house and threatened to kill me if I didn't join them.

During the ceasefire in July 2003, the Maoists organised a general assembly where we went as volunteers from our school. However, after the event concluded, they forcefully took us to Dhading. They threatened us and made us walk night and day. I would watch other children go to school as I walked along with weapons. At that time I was unaware of child rights. I did not know that using child soldiers is a crime. The Maoists made us till fields and roads to gain the favour of the villagers. We had to carry big stones. We were taught to ask the villagers for food. Although we didn't fight, we had to carry guns, bombs and supplies and walk on difficult terrain.

Six months later, my father found out that we were in Kamitar for training and came to get me. But they wouldn't let me go. We underwent rigorous military training. They threatened to kill us if we disobeyed or tried to run away. I was seriously injured while jumping from a height of six feet and health problems dogged me from then on. Even so, they told me I had come second in training and made me a section commander.

I understood that during war we would be in the frontline and the commanders would give orders from the back.

During the ceasefire in June 2004, we lived in a camp in Chitwan. After the peace agreement was signed, we were moved to the cantonment in Shaktikhor. I took three days of leave and went home, with no intention of returning. I wanted to study. But at home, my mother said that she couldn't send me to school and people started gossiping about me. I felt miserable, disillusioned and devastated.

In despair, I went back to the cantonment. Saying that it would cure me, they pressurised me to marry. When I refused, I was harassed. I couldn't stay there so I returned home but again they came for me. They took me to the cantonment and talked of taking action against me. Two days later I ran away to Narayangadh even though I was sick.

I then came across a rehabilitation program that helped me to to resume my studies. I now study in Class Nine and I am also the president of a children's club. But the fear of the Maoists still haunts me.

As recounted to the UN Security Council, New York, 17 June

Lost in migration, SYED ZAIN AL-MAHMOOD
Conflict of coverage, CK LAL
Troubled waters
Cycle city

1. haspl
"It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." .. those same broken men are gaining to form next govt of nepal .. so much UN and its cronies.

2. sulav
Really a heart wrenching story. Revolution without moral without emotion. 

3. who cares

a ray of hope,

hr agents should not forget that the person giving order is prachande and co.

maoist used to have a lot of evil schemes just like instant noodles "one lakh(100k) or one son", "one member of a family should join maoist", "forced donation"...

i have even heard that those terrorists used to tie the security force, who surrendered, in circle and blow bomb in the center.

we can not let prachande and co., pla in shaktikhor go without reasonable punishment.

4. nirmal
Time is near that criminal will be bought to justice. This a mordern age no human right violators are gone unpunished. Prachanda-- you will be first to be on that bench trying to claim your innocence.

5. Babu
Maoists are worse than Taliban. I hope US does an Afghanistan in Nepal.

6. Gole
He that has no shame has no conscience.
Army and Maoists have neither bodies to be punished nor souls to be damned.Miana  Sunwar's or Sita Tamang 's case will remain a cry in the wilderness.
Yes,laws catch flies but let hornets go free.

7. jange
But surely all Nepalis have accepted that what the Maoists have done was justified, legitimate and necessary. All Nepalis have accepted that the actions of the Maoists have tremendoudly benefitted Nepalis politically and we are now basking in the glory of the political achievements gifted to the nation by the Maoists. The fact that Nepalis have chosen to reward the Maoists and not punish them is evidence of that fact.

Sita should be grateful that she was chosen to take part in the glorious revoultion. Not many people were given such high privelege.

8. bridohi
I would like to hear what Mr. Arthur, the Maoist apologist has to say about Sita's story. They are no different than Sub-Saharan rebels who forced child recruitment, threatened them, brain washed them & used them.

9. gangalal
The Royal Nepal Army also used thousands of children, not as combatants, but for intelligence gathering and lookouts. The UN has its own global agenda in highlighting a Maoist child soldier. But the state was also used children during the conflict. Both sides were guilty. Of course, such facts tends to get buried with the passage of time and when your agenda is to portray the rebels as inhuman and evil. One hopes that those in the know see it as a common problem. It's a national shame.

10. Slarti

And what would be the point Bridohi? Communists will always find some reason to take the argument away from truth and stoop to any level since they have no remorse. Arthur will again find some way to be a victim, throw some invectives and say something irritating.

He will throw words like 21st century socialism and stuff like that and again everybody will get worked up about what he says. His only response will be "you don't know what to say", you lack political training, fighting for the cause, and what not.

All attempts at extracting goodwill from communists and socialists if futile, and self-defeating. Better get on with your life because they will never stop being angry, being the victim, calling for change not needed and impeding change that is required.

11. Gangajal
Surprised you are not a shahid yet, Gangalal Comred. The typical way the Maoists respond to allegations of human rights violations is to always say: "But the army did it too." As if that justifies their crime. Yes, the army was also disappearing people, there were many cases of rape, torture and extra-judicial executions. But by no stretch of the imagination were they using child soldiers. The Maoists should have the guts to admit they made mistakes, that they won't do it again, and that they will compensate the child victims of the war. Unfortunately, I personally don't think the Maoists are capable of such remorse or contrition.

12. hans zollinger
the Maobadis are Nepalis and as Sita said, after running away from the camp, the gaule threatened her and even the family did not save her. It was the UN, the goras and videshi who brought demo-cracy and human rights, Sita never heard about. It is like the missionaries, they promise a better life. But they have now two lifes, at home, they are gaule, in Newyork they are victims.

13. DG
The missionaries promise better life.,They preachthat the god thy wprshipare superior to that of thrir neighbours and their religion is invested with truth while others wallowed in falsities. They use all  of kinds of methods- force, fraud, persuation, trade, and  social service . Social service is now big bussiness and ominous politics. The west has rejected religion, but it  is still keeping for export. Their cultural attack is still deadly than the political and economic attack. It cuts off people from their spiritual roots and makes them sterile. Their psychic life is being impoverished.If you want any change it must comefrom within yourself as a part of your own experirnce.You cannot rise through imported deities,saviours and prophets.,i. e. the goras and videsis.

14. yam gurung

It is very sad and unfortunate to say that our beautiful Nepal is not rule by the will of the puppet regime of Nepal.

And the innocent people where ambassodor of peace Budhha was born have been faceing all kinds of problems.

15. hange

Of course the Maoists can use child-soldiers since it was for a higher good, right?  C'mon now, where all those Maoist supporters?  C.K. Lal, Arthur, etc., the ends justifies the means right?

While sad to say, Ms. Tamang was one of the lucky ones.  How many unnamed child-soldiers never made it back home, were molested, raped, killled?  How many of them were killed in "collateral fire?"  How many are now brain-washed residents of the camps, having been promised the world on a silver plate while their leaders have moved on after using them for their own political ends?  Prachanda, BRB, and their cronies can say what they will about bringing about change but I hope they have sleepless nights recalling the abysmal horrors they have wrought upon countless thousands. 

16. Slarti

Hange, I understand the frustration but I assure you that Arthur and all other communists feel appalled by this development and bad for the girl. That is not the point. This is the nature of war; it makes monsters of perfectly normal people.

The more important question is why this war did happen, what were the underlying reasons? Were these reasons justifiable?

It is an idea that drove this conflict, an idea which is driven by collectivism, an ideal for which death (preferable of others) is justified, and so is misery. If that idea (or dream) is realised, all sacrifices would have been worth it. 

If we like this idea, then Sita is a martyr to the cause, much like Joan of Arc. Imagine the triumphal entry of the PLA in the capital and what historians of that order would say about children like Sita Tamang. There would be frescoes showing how children participated in the war of liberation. There are plenty of examples in other nations where this is a fact.

So, long story short, the question to be answered is, do we accept the idea which was the basis of this war? 

I do not, because I understand and know for certain that it is based on lies, twisting of facts and insinuations. 

I believe that the fight that everyone has to fight is the one of ideas. The questions that everyone must raise is about the underlying evil of that idea, the driving force of which is hate, for life itself.

17. Deep
Hange, I understand the frustration but I assure you that Arthur and all other communists feel appalled by this development and bad for the girl.
Don't assume that, Slarti - Western pro-maoists cherry-pick news items and dismiss whatever doesn't fit the desired image of  'heroic maoists' as 'bourgeois-feudalist' propaganda. The point is not that people shoulsn't struggle, but that the conduct of that struggle determines whose real interests are followed. If one only fights at the level of ideas, material conditions can remain unchanged and suffering, exploitation continue - regardless of who wins an idealistic argument. Ideas that seek to effect material change are necessary - but their proof is only in the practice, and ideas do not exist in a vacuum, but are themselves the outcome of  historical circumstances and experience.

Imagine the triumphal entry of the PLA in the capital
I'd rather not - it's both unlikely and offensive. The Maoists are red capitalists, the leadership just wants a bigger slice of the pie - at the expense of the exploited they claim to represent.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)