Excerpts of an interview with Jhalaknath Subedi, former assistant minister from Jajarkot
On the possibility of holding elections in his district
The situation is so grim that the first person who steps out to vote will be targeted by the Maoists. Let me tell you what happened in the 1997 elections. Jajarkot is one of those districts where in 10 of 30 VDCs, elections had to be held a year later. One of those 10 was Jhapra VDC. A day before the elections the Maoists came to the village and said, "Let's see who will vote first. We will be watching." The people went to the voting centre the next day, but none stood in the line, no one wanted to be the first to vote so there were no elections. The situation has worsened since.
.The elections are to be held on 13 November; it is now late August. There is no way for those of us who will contest the elections to go to the district. There are no flights there, and we do not have surface transport. The government has been unable to assure security, so the airport remains closed.
Telecommunications have been shut down for the past 10-11 months. The Maoists have attacked me twice, they may attack me again. How do you expect me to go there on foot? I might go if security is assured. otherwise, I am not interested.
On living in Kathmandu
I am not here because it is difficult for me to live in my village. I am here because it is impossible to even go there. Tell me how I can go? People of the Baneswor Congress [Sher Bahadur Deuba's faction] have been going in and out on police helicopters, I belong to the Teku Congress [the Girija Prasad Koirala faction] and don't have access to those facilities. I have heard that the prime minister has instructed the police not to allow people from the Teku Congress to go to the districts. So how can I go back? . It's been 17-18 months since I have been back to my district. Earlier I used to travel between here and the district, but it has also been eight or nine months since the airport closed.
.Little has changed in the security situation even after the emergency. The emergency has been effective only in Kathmandu; maybe you as journalists have also been affected. No one cares about the emergency in the districts. The curfews are the only new changes; apart from that, no one in my district is even aware of the emergency. There we have been living through the emergency imposed by the Maoists. The Maoists let people travel to the district headquarters for only two days in a month. If there is no movement of people to and from the district headquarters, what elections will you have?
.I have been living on what I earned from selling my little ancestral property. I do not have cash to spend and have been managing by selling some gold ornaments we had. I know life cannot go on in this manner. I hope there will come a day when I can return to the district and do agriculture.
On the tree dispute
Do you think we will keep quiet if the Election Commission does not recognise us as the official Congress Party? How can we? What would happen to our party? Where can we go? How can we express dissent? Maybe a similar situation to this one led the Samyukta Jana Morcha to begin revolting in early 1996. Sher Bahadur Deuba was prime minister then, look at where we have come now because their 42 demands were not given a fair hearing then.
.We also have a large number of supporters and party workers nationwide. If we are barred from legitimately contesting elections, what options would we have left, other than launching a movement? But a movement does not have to be violent. We will join the type of movement the party decides to take up.