A few days after Baburam Bhattarai became prime minister last month, the keys to weapons containers were handed over. To gauge the mood in the Maoist camps about the peace process, Gopal Gartaula interviewed the division commander of the ex-guerrillas at the Chulachuli Cantonment in Jhapa, Yam Bahadur Adhikari.
Yam Bahadur Adhikari: It's natural to be upset, the handover really hurt our feelings. It has left a bad taste in the mouth. But it is a party decision and we have to swallow it.
Is this a part of the disarmament process?
Look, we are a people's army. An army has weapons, it has combat uniforms. We will not agree to DDR (disarmament, demobilisation, rehabilitation). We will go with our weapons and uniforms into the national army. That is what we have understood by the word integration. There can't be integration without our weapons, we won't let that happen.
The politics in Kathmandu is deadlocked over this issue of weapons and integration. How is it ever going to be resolved if you take that line?
You may be right. But what we understand by integration is that both armies are involved. After the modalities are worked out, we have agreed to be a part of a new directorate. We want to be integrated together, meaning a collective integration.
And if that isn't possible?
You can debate this, but that is what will happen. We haven't thought about alternatives.
So why all the fuss between your leaders about the handover of keys?
I told you: the handover of keys made it look like a defeat for us. It hurt our feelings. But maybe as we understand more about why it was done our anger will diminish.
How were the last five years for you in the cantonment here?
Good question. I was going to tell the media about this even if you'd not asked. We came here in 2006, and it was only supposed to be for six months. The term kept getting extended from the political level. It is almost five years. It is a hard life. The allowance has gone up from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000. We have only Rs 70 per day for food. It is difficult to survive with that.
Your leaders have become ministers and prime ministers. Why didn't you ask them?
It is a bit difficult for me to answer that. Yes, of course, we asked them. Repeatedly. They just listen. We told this not just to Girija Prasad Koirala and Ram Chandra Poudel, we even told this to our own leaders, Prachanda, Janardan Sharma, Barshaman Pun every time we meet them. But nothing happened. If we have to keep living in this state, the outrage will grow.
So they have forgotten you after they get to power?
It may take some more time for me to reach that conclusion. Let's see.
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