Nepali Times
Guest Column
Re-education at gunpoint


In recent times, our Maoist comrades have kept themselves busy with abductions of teachers and students. Citizens have been marched off to the jungles under the shadow of the gun where they have been indoctrinated in 'revolutionary education' and then released in a seeming act of benevolence.

These wholesale abductions are mainly restricted to hapless students and teachers in remote schools. They are taken to unknown destinations and forced to listen to harangues under the barrel of a gun.

Our methods of education in Nepal have evolved over the years. There was a time when teachers, rod in hand, used to impart education on students who were herded like livestock. They were force-fed by rote learning under threat of punishment if they couldn't parrot the words. Such tyrannical education has, even in this country, given way to a more voluntary, creative, instructional style in which children enjoy learning.

The Maoists say they stand for a brand of pure pro-people socialism and a new people's education. But their model of education starts at gunpoint and ends there.

Schooling starts with terror and terminates in terror. It is called people's education, but there is no place in it for the people's wishes, their aspirations and their free choice. It is as if in the Maoist ideology there is no place for human compassion, knowledge and dignity. It has come down to the wish of the person with the finger on the trigger and the message to the unarmed is: listen to us, or else. In my limited knowledge this couldn't be further removed from Mao's own philosophy of education.

Whenever the media brings me yet another instance of the current Maoist re-education campaign, a chill runs down my spine as I imagine what the terrorised little minds have to go through. How they must have burst into classrooms, and like armed hunters rounded up the children like game. Where are they taking us, what will they do to us, will they let us go home, will they kill us? The children are like prisoners of war forced to march up and down the hills of Nepal.

It is the same story with the teachers. In this bizarre training of trainers, what can you teach someone at gunpoint? Their mind is not on what you are saying, but on guns, death and explosions. The comrades must be thinking: we're doing a great job instructing the teachers about people's education in our camps. They've all been indoctrinated, and they will henceforth march proudly waving the Maoist flag. Sorry, comrades. It doesn't happen like that.

Can you force someone to love you? Love, respect and trust must be mutual to work. They need the warm soil of reciprocation to sprout. That is the dilemma for the Maoists: how can a party that stands for a utopic democracy force the people to love them with brute force? This barbaric wish will never be fulfilled. Those forced to march with a gun pointed at their temples comply only to save their skins. In their heart of hearts, they will have nothing but contempt for the abductors. They may murmur "Yes sir", but what they really mean is "May you rot in hell".

And the time will come, even in this country, when the Maoists will have to lay down their arms. At that time, I doubt if any of the students and teachers abducted today will give their tormentors the time of day. In fact they may line them up and spit in their faces.

Khagendra Sangroula is a noted Nepali writer and columnist. This commentary was translated from his Nepali original, Apaharan Sikshya ra Prem.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)