KIRAN CHAPAGAIN / KIRAN PUN
KATHMANDU, Nov 28: Though Maoist combatants were seen opting for voluntary retirement and integration at the ratio of 40:60 on the first few days of the categorization process, the trend has seen a reversal as the process concludes in all the seven cantonments, except in Kailali, on Monday.
With the completion of categorization of 14,625 by Sunday, around 60 percent of the ex-Maoist combatants have chosen integration while around 40 percent have preferred voluntary retirement. It is also something contrary to what politicians had widely believed before the categorization began.
Now a question arises: what bucked the initial trend as the categorization progressed and what prompted such a large number of the PLA to opt for integration?
Officials involved in the categorization and Maoist commanders attribute different reasons for the unexpected number of the PLA opting for integration.
First, the opposing political lines in the UCPN (Maoist) with regard to categorization is the main cause. The establishment faction has supported the ongoing categorization while the faction led by Senior Vice- chairman Mohan Baidya has not only opposed it but also asked the PLA to opt out of integration and choose voluntary retirement.
After reading the initial trend of choices of the Maoist combatants, the establishment side issued a "whip" to choose integration, fearing that the number of the ex-Maoist fighters opting for voluntary retirement would outnumber the ones choosing integration, which will mean triumph of Baidya´s political line.
“The party establishment is under moral pressure to show a greater number of PLA opting for integration at any cost following a public call from Baidya to the combatants to opt out of integration and choose voluntary retirement,” said Ram Lal Roka Magar, division vice commander at the fifth division of the Maoist army.
Even government officials involved in the categorization in different cantonments told Republica that they have also heard that commanders close to Dahal have directed the PLA close to them to choose integration to show that their political line with regard to management of ex-Maoist combatants prevails.
"Even the injured and old PLA have chosen integration even if they know that they will not meet the standard norms," said a government official involved in categorization.
Balananda Sharma, coordinator of the secretariat under the Special Committee also confirmed that even those combatants who will not apparently meet the standard norms set for integration have applied for integration.
"They are free to choose between integration, voluntary retirement and rehabilitation. We cannot dictate their decision," said Sharma.
PLA sources even claimed that the establishment faction has forced a mother with a nine-month old baby and a mother of four children to go for integration.
"They have even forced those who will not qualify for integration," said Nep Bahadur Kunwar Magar, vice commander close to Baidya at the sixth division.
Sources said commanders themselves have even filled up the forms of their subordinates to ensure that the combatants choose integration. Sources even claimed that combatants close to the establishment have torn the forms of those combatants who opted for rehabilitation and made them to refill another form indicating their intention for integration.
But commanders loyal to the establishment said they have not interfered with the combatants´ decision.
"They are free to take voluntary decisions," said Yam Bahadur Adhikari, divisional commander at the first division of the PLA.
Not all the combatants going for integration will get place in the 6,500 quota agreed among parties for the PLA under a new directorate of the Nepal Army. The directorate will be formed to accommodate these ex-Maoist combatants and the national army will choose the reserved number of the PLA applying its own standard norms.