Today, Jelbang stands out. Not only because it is one of of the first liberated zones the Maoists created during the war, but also because it has a whole lot of untold stories of pain and suffering.
“The villagers, many of whom are ex-servicemen from the British and the Indian armies, came under the influence of the Maoists and chased away local policemen. This is how the war in the village began,” says Pariman Budha Magar, Brigrade Vice-commander of the fifth division. He hails from the same village which has a population of only 3,000.
Thus began the story of a vicious circle of violence and counter-violence in the village, which saw the highest number of deaths from the conflict and also the highest number of recruits in the PLA.
By the time the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in 2006, Jelbang had already lost 62 villagers including elderly and women.
Most of the people were party full-timers, 153 joined the Maoist People´s Liberation Army (PLA), while some families, unable to stand the heat of the insurgency, deserted the village altogether.
There are currently 62 registered PLA personnel - 27 of them women - from the village waiting for integration into the Nepal Army (NA) while others joined the YCL or other party departments after the peace process.
Suk Bahadu Roka Magar from the village, who has now become the division commander in the second division, recalls the initial days of the insurgency, and argues how indiscriminate killings and repression by the state forces boomeranged.
"The party leadership was in constant touch with the people, while the state forces went on killing the people indiscriminately. So, the revengeful villagers kept on fighting," Magar recalls.
The technical knowledge and experience of servicemen from the British and Indian armies, who were in the village in plenty, came in handy. "The retired armymen instilled confidence in the youth to brave the state repression,” Magar argues.
Magar´s daughter Sangita and her husband Khemraj from the same village are also in the PLA.
Altogether, 28 personnel including brigade vice-commanders Pariman Budha Magar Kshitij, Rajendra Roka Magar Dipak and Prem Budha Magar Prabal, are occupying high ranks in the PLA hierarchy.
Maoist leaders say Jelbang is a must-visit place for anyone who wants to know about the history of the Maoist movement in Nepal. And that´s the reason why the remote village has become a haven for researchers, scholars and those curious to know about the Maoists. Around a dozen scholars are currently doing their research on various aspects of the Jelbang society.
“The researchers are mostly interested in our cultural, linguistic and socio-economic aspects of the society,” says Santosh Budamagar, a CA member from the neighboring village of Thawang.
The village is also a place of attraction for researchers because it hosts a Maoist commune - Jaljala People´s Commune.
More than 15 years after the insurgency began, the Jelbang youths have, however, almost lost their revolutionary zeal and are not sure about their future.
“We were recruited into the PLA for revolution, but the party left us nowhere. Maybe, I will take voluntary retirement and my husband (who is also in the PLA) joins the NA,” says Sangita Roka, daughter of division commander Suk Bahadur Roka.
(PHOTO COURTESY: SUK BAHADUR ROKA MAGAR)