Revolution in South Asia

An Internationalist Info Project

In Their Own Words: The People of Rolpa [Part 2]

Posted by irisbright on April 30, 2009

We have received the following eyewitness report from Ben Peterson who has been traveling through Nepal. Ben’s reports are gathered on his own blog Lal Salam. Kasama posts this because it is of interest. As always, posting does not apply an agreement with the analysis. All photos are credited to Ben Peterson. Part 1 is posted here.

In Their Own Words- The People of Rolpa (Part 2)

Interviews are conducted by Ben Peterson.

The hills of Rolpa.

This is Gaurav Sharma. He is 26 years old and a captain in the Peoples liberation army. In his own words- here is his story:

“I joined the Maoists movement when I was 15. Because I was still young i wasn’t allowed to be a fighter at first, so I joined and became and actor and a dancer in one of the cultural troupes. It was good, I got to travel widely all across Nepal.

“I came from a farming family, peasants in Rolpa. I joined through another member of my extended family who had joined the movement, however my close family, my parents, were against me joining the movement initially.

“Once I was older I joined the PLA. In the early days there was no PLA training, everyone just had to learn by doing. Many people died just from inexperience, simple things like crouching and crawling when under fire, and often we would have to leave good and sophisticated weapons and equipment behind because we did not know how to use it. After a while though, we got more experienced, and then as our movement grew, we also received training from people who were ex-Gurkha soldiers in the British and Indian armies…

“Conditions in the camp are not good, however they are better then they were initially. We want there to be integration into the new army. The political parties all signed agreements, but now they are trying to go back on them. We want the agreements implemented, and Nepal needs a New National Army, so we can develop the nation, and fight against anyone who challenges it. We have no problems with most people in the Army and the police, more then 50% are OK. But there are those in the police and army- the officers especially, who are against the PLA and want to destroy it. We don’t want them in the New Army.”

Rolpa is incredibly impoverished. For most people here, there has been in effect no development and change in their situation in their lifetimes. This has changed for many recently, who have been able to get access to better drinking water and electricity as they were provided to the PLA cantonments, and then the surrounding areas.

In the village of Tila I met one youth, Dilip Mahendra (no photo). Dilip is 21 an has lived in Rolpa his whole life.

Lal Salam Blog: Has there been many changes since the end of the Peoples War?

Dilip Mahendra: Lots of changes, Electricity is now here, the youth employment scheme* will start soon- which I am very hopeful for. Also there is now an old age pension, and some money has come for the martyrs families, so many good changes.

LSB: So you support the Maoists?

DM: Yes I am an activist with the YCL (Young Communist League-the Maoist youth movement) and have helped to organise many activities. I am a little inactive at present but I will always support the Maoists.

LSB: So, why did you join the Maoists?

DM: The Maoists would come to my school and talk to the students. They would come and urge all the youth to unite to help develop the country. So that is why I joined the Maoists….

LSB: The Maoists restricted alcohol during the war. Is this still a Maoist policy?

DM: No that ban is no longer in place.

LSB: Do you and other YCL drink? Is Alcohol a problem in Rolpa?

DM: I do not drink, others do. Alcohol is not a major problem here. If people drink and people are drunk it is not a problem, unless you get drunk and disruptive. If you are disruptive the YCL cadre will come and talk to you and the YCL makes sure there are no problems.

LSB: Are young people here all thinking about and involved in politics?

DM: I think so. There are many people in YCL, and even some in Youth Force (Youth Force is the UML youth/muscle). There was a small disagreement between the groups during the recent elections. But we are all friends. There are some UML people in youth force, but I want a strong developed and united Nepal, so I’m with the Maoists and YCL.

*The youth employment scheme is a scheme from the government where more than a hundred thousand Nepali youths will be given loans to start tourist agricultural and other businesses, in an attempt to both kick start development and cut down on youth unemployment.

A Woman on guard at the 5th Division headquarters. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get access inside the camps- due to heightened security for the elections, the commander being off base, and having not made appropriate contacts with the local party.

Gate- 5th Division Headquarters- Durhaban, Rolpa

I did however get access to their hospital- which is new and open to the public. Although it is very basic facilities, it is better and more than the people in the area have ever had. They deal mostly with diarrhea type diseases, and although it is the PLA hospital, mostly with the general public.

This old woman ran a small store in Durhaban that made most of its business with the people from the PLA cantonment in the village. She was a local UML supporter, and did not talk much when I tried to interview her; however she did say this:

“The changes that have happened and are happening don’t belong to any political party, they belong to the poor people. We are the ones who have made the sacrifices for change, and we are the ones who deserve it.”

Part 1 of this report can be found here.

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