Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thabang folks weigh conflict's rewards

THABANG, Rolpa, March 1: For many villagers who had come to Thawang, a historic place for the Maoist movement in Nepal, the program organized to mark the 16th anniversary of the People´s War on February 13 was an occasion to refresh memories of the decade-long conflict so close to their hearts.

But for a small group the program attended by Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and other Maoist leaders was an occasion to reckon what the war brought them.

While fellow-villagers listened in rapt attention to the fiery speeches of Dahal and other Maoist leaders at the open theater of Thawang, regarded as a Mecca by the country´s Maoists, Maya BK, 48, Tej Dhan BK, 51, and Dilpura Nepali, 30, felt indifferent towards what Dahal and others were saying. Stepping back from the masses, these villagers were trying to weigh what their village -- one of the early bases of the Maoist armed conflict -- got from the bloody war that claimed nearly 15,000 lives.

"Prachanda used to stay together [with us] while he was here,” said Tej Dhan, remembering the conflict times with Dahal, “Now he lives in Kathmandu, in a life of comfort. We continue to lead a life of hardships.”

This far-flung village is one of those where people suffered most during the 10-year Maoist conflict from 1996 to 2006. As an early Maoist base area, it was one of the prime targets of the security forces, and this led many of them to flee into the jungle to escape patrolling security forces. In the words of the villagers, the security forces used to say that even the pigs and other animals in the village were communist and supported the Maoist cause.

The dwellers of this village, like most people who supported the Maoist war, expected their hardships to leave them and development to come to their doorsteps.

"We fought the war for him, sometimes even going without food,” she said, "But our hardships have not been alleviated," Maya said, recalling the war.

Though backward in development, Thawang has been an important place in the communist movement. In the 1980 historic referendum, all the villagers had voted for multi-party democracy. At present Thawang has become a place for research by many US and Indian scholars.

As they continued to reflect on what the war has brought them, they shared stories of war time and their sufferings during those days. Maya remembered that her friends gave birth to babies in the jungles. The remains of burnt house stood near the program venue, mute witnesses to the ravages of war.

“We served Dahal and worked as per his roadmap. But we have not got anything in return,” complained Tej Dhan.

The villagers said they now want development and job opportunities in return for their suffering during the conflict and their support for the cause. They believe development will take away their hardships and improve their lives.

"We were porters throughout our lives. It seems roads will not be constructed here in our lifetime,” said Jaman Sari Budha Magar, 62, "We have long wished for a road.”
She continued, "During the war our houses were brunt, men were killed. We now want peace. We want development."

There has been little a change in the village since the former rebels gave up fighting in 2006: slate paving for the rural roads.

"We are trying. What to do, it is not our government and others don´t give any attention to this," said lawmaker Santosh Budha Magar, who hails from the village.

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