Friday, December 2, 2011

Cindered dreams

Ram Lal Roka Magar 'Madan' (Currently the Division vice commander, left) and Sural Pun 'Ajayshakti' (Currently Bataright). Madan and Sural are Mit (two friends who announce their friendship amidst a ceremony and who will have cultural as well as legal bindings afterward as per the tradition in Nepal). Madan from Rolpa and Sural from Rukum, were met during the initial period of People’s War when both of them were heading their respective platoons through the jungles spending one and half month on the way to meet at Kalikot in Karnali.

Though categorization -- the initial phase of the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants -- has come to an end, a cloud of uncertainty still hovers over People Liberation Army (PLA) personnel.

What does the future hold for those who opted for voluntary-retirement? What’ in store for those who have decided to join the Nepal Army?

After spending their most productive years in war and cantonments, they are now left with cindered dreams.

Fifteen years – 10 in the war and five in the cantonments— have been wasted in the name of revolution. And 15 years is a long enough time.

The perplexity has struck the politically aware commanders as well. Even though the process has been termed “integration”, in reality it’s recruitment.

The differences in mannerism and etiquettes have dumbstruck the ones selected for integration.

They say they are taken aback by the disparity in the Armed Police Force, the force that was formed by bringing the Nepal Army and the Nepal Police together.

They are doubtful that despite their capacity they would not be allowed to work in dignified way under the Nepal Army’s directorate.

They feel the leaders have betrayed them with false dreams. Leaders have been accused of selling the dreams of thousands of PLAs, martyrs, the disappeared and the injured for power.

“It seems as if we sacrificed our happiness not to bring a change but for Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai to become prime ministers,” they complained.

“I bought the Maoist’s dream hoping that one day the poor would have a better life,” said one of the PLA, who had left the NA to join the war.

Republica’s Kiran Pun visited Dahaban cantonment in Rolpa from October 30 to November 5. The cantonment was dominated by PLA members from Rolpa, Rukkum, Salyan, Pyuthan and Dang.

The re-categorization that started on November 1 saw the participation of 2140 PLAs in this particular cantonment. Amongst them 1,365 has chosen to be part of the integration process and the rest opted for voluntary retirement.

In the UNMIN’s ongoing second verification process, 19,602 have been verified as PLA. At present, they are living in seven major and 21 satellite cantonments.

Representative of the Injured PLA of the fifth division holding a press conference with Minister for Peace Satya Pahadi and PLA Chief Nanda Kishore Pun, who were at the Division headquarters monitoring the categorization after they were handed a memorandum demanding lifelong pension.

Section Commander Hiramoti Singh Thakuri “Namuna”, 27, is one of the many who were deprived of verification by their commanders. She had gone Dahaban, main camp of the PLA fifth Division, at the verification for a second time, when she was with her 13-day-old baby. But her commanders did not allow saying quota was over.

PLA personnel at a briefing by Brigade Commander Himanchal before queuing up to get the categorization forms.

From left: Singha Bahadur Shrestha, DIG, Armed Police, Rajbahadur Budha Magar, Divison Vice commander and Leeladhar Chaudhary, Lieutenant Colonel of Nepal Army discussing how to handle categorization with well manner.

A PLA member taking a picture next to the helicopter in which the Minister for Peace Satya Pahadi and PLA Chief Nanda Kishore Pun arrived at the division in Dahaban for the categorization monitoring.

Rudra Tiwari 'Darshan' on his way to fill the forms with his daughter. Tiwari has also opted for voluntary retirement.

Women with children less than three years of age stay outside the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) camp as it’s difficult for them to do their daily duties with babies in tow. But they come to the camp during the day along with their children. There are nearly 400 kids at the fifth division of Dahaban cantonement located in Rolpa.

Adhar Pun and Bipana readying their child to take pictures after the completion of the parade. This couple has taken voluntary retirement.

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