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Princess Shrestha: Maoists Pressure On The People

Maoists Put Pressure On The People


Hundreds of security personnel's kin are displaced by the Maoists, but the human rights organisations remain silent.
PRINCESS SHRESTHA writes from Kathmandu

Maoists in Nepal are utilizing their self-announced ceasefire to pressurize the government, by forcing hundreds of family members of security personnel to go to district administrative offices and ask the government either to discharge their kin from security services, or reciprocate to the rebels' unilateral ceasefire.

Those who fail to fulfill the Maoists' wishes are obliged to pay compensation anything between Nepali rupees 50,000 to 300,000. In such a case, the rebels also threaten the poor people that their houses will be burnt down. At least members of 400 families from 35 Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Baitadi, a remote far-western district, have arrived the district headquarters holding Maoists-given banners, placards and letters, which read the slogans: "No war, but ceasefire; Stop killing poor sons and brothers; Start reconciliation; Brothers serving in royal forces come back home."

"378 people have already reported at the Chief District Office and we hear more people are coming," the chief district officer Bhanu Dev Badu confirmed to the Probe News Magazine's correspondent. The administration is trying to convince people stating that frequent security patrols will be sent to their villages in order to chase the notorious rebels, but the efforts are turning futile. Kith and kin of security personnel are too scared to return.

"My two sons are in the Armed Police Force. They (Maoist rebels) tell me to bring both of my sons back home otherwise they have said they will burn down my house. They have already abducted my daughter and are seeking my daughter in law; there is a lot of pain..." said Dairi Bishwokarma, a 60 year old woman before she broke down.

Cases are different, but the pain given by Maoists to those families is the same. Deepak Chand left his house at the midnight of 28 September because the Maoists were seeking him to be punished. His crime? He had two brothers serving in the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) and he had also helped five boys from his village called Grihejeda in their efforts to join the army. "All those young men and their families were beaten up once the boys had returned to village after appearing in their tests for recruitment recently," recalled Chand. RNA conducts such tests for new recruits in Kathmandu as well as in various security installations in districts.

Chand added, "The Maoists tortured the boys and their family when they were asleep at night. Though I had been hiding from them since few days then, I came to know that they were searching for me frantically. I thought it wouldn't be good to stay back, so together with my family, I left in the dark of the night with a mere rupees 2000, half of which was finished when I had reached to Dehemandu."

Now, he lives in Mahendranagar in a rented room with his mother, wife and a four-year-old son. According to the international non-governmental organizations including United Nations' jargon: Chand and his family members are Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Though there is no official data, tens of thousands of people are believed to have become IDPs in similar way due to Maoist conflict. While many thousands have left the country, and migrated across southern border to live in Indian towns, a large number of IDPs are living in various places across the country.

Chand, who had come to the district headquarters in order to get the migration document to continue to live in Mahendranagar, narrated his story to Probe's correspondent over telephone. He further recalled, "The rebels wanted me to work as their village committee's chief and I couldn't do that. They raided my house when I had called my brother to get him married in village a few months back. As a result, he had to return from the half of his way to home."

How does it feel when you have to leave your house, your cattle, and the land, which you have nurtured throughout your life? Such is the case of 55-year-old Padam Bahadur Sanduk, who hails from Bishalpur VDC. His son is a policeman and serving in a security base in Dadeldhura, another far western district of Nepal. He arrived the district headquarters four days ago but it seems there is no way for him to return to his village as the rebels have threatened him badly. "The Maoist militia have said that they will rob and burn down my house if I return alone. They have told me that they will also charge a heavy compensation if I don't bring my son, who is serving in police force, along with me," says the frightened father, who had started returning home though. But, meeting his neighbors arriving at the half of the way to his village, he dropped the idea of returning home; rather he came back to district headquarters along with others.

"Apart from pressurizing us to tell our loved one to leave the security services," added Sanduk, "the rebels have told us to tell the government representatives in district headquarters to reciprocate their ceasefire and hold peace talks with them." Meanwhile, the government is no mood to do so. Referring the previous ceasefires in the past, the government thinks that the rebels have declared ceasefire only to "re-organize and re-strengthen their force." The Army continues to conduct operations against Maoists, and many Maoist cadres are reported to have been arrested from Kathmandu valley after the ceasefire, which was declared unilaterally by the rebels on September 3.

In villages, however, people face Maoists' intimidation because of the lack of enough security. For instance, it is reflected in the request made by people from eleven VDCs in Talisodar area within Baitadi district. These VDCs are ready to contribute their development aid of rupees 5,500,000, which is released through District Development Committee (DDC), to establish a security base camp in their area. The villagers, according to the chief district officer, Badu, are also ready to contribute voluntary labor for a month if the government agrees to their proposal. "The villagers have requested both DDC and us to spend the VDCs' development aid in establishing a security base for them. But, we can't assure these people at our level as there is no immediate plan to expand security bases here," added Badu.

According to him, the security forces based at district headquarters are regularly patrolling the villages but the problems exist due to the difficult terrain of the Himalayan Kingdom. Strength of troops, resources and time factor are three essentials for conducting any operation or combing the villages frequently. "We have increased our patrols and combing operations, but as and when we reach the particular village, the rebels flee from there. And immediately after our troops have returned they reportedly appear aggressive towards villagers," says an Army officer at the RNA's company headquarters in Baitadi.

This time the rebels have sent the kin of security personnel. Next time, they plan to send teachers; then students; then women, and then dalits (lower caste people in Nepal) with their appeal, demand or threat filled in banners, placards and letters to pressurize the government through local administration. "We hear that they (Maoists) are planning to send more people including teachers, students, women and dalits in different phases to district headquarters to fulfill their mission of pressurizing government to declare a ceasefire too," said the Army officer, while the chief district officer queried, "Where are national and international human rights organizations when hundreds of people are being displaced in such a way?"

ENDS

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