They said they have not yet been officially informed about the recent government announcement. Only last Friday, they heard over the radio about the government plan to send them home.
But most of the combatants, who have registered themselves for voluntary retirement are mentally prepared for leaving the cantonments and starting a civilian life afresh back home hoping that the retirement process due to begin Tuesday won´t be stalled yet again.
The combatants are now busy packing, meeting comrades and phoning others living in other cantonments to say their final good-bye.
A total of 7,365 fighters have opted for voluntary retirement during the categorization process.
As their parting time is approaching soon, the combatants have a mixed feeling about their future. While they are excited about reuniting with their family members, they say it is painful to part with the comrades alongside whom they fought the decade-long war and lived together in cantonment for the past five years.
Most of the combatants share that their last five years spent in the cantonments were a waste. They said the years were spent amid uncertainties and they just waited for the time to pass. But now, something is seriously holding them back. As a matter of fact, several fighters grew liking each other, fell in love and even got married during the wartime. Also indelibly printed on their mind is the pain that they got when they had to bid farewell to their comrades being labeled ´disqualified´ by UNMIN.
"Right now, I´m busy meeting my comrades and packing my luggage," Deependra Kumar Gharti Magar, Brigade Vice-commander, PLA Fifth Division Dahaban, Rolpa, told Republica.
Gharti joined the PLA in 1999 leaving his medical profession in his native village of Korchabang, Rolpa, with a dream of a building an "egalitarian new Nepal". He played triple role in the war as a health worker, an artist and a fighter in fatigues.
Gharti said he had a dream to create a new classless society. "Though the dream has been shattered it has not faded away yet. That is going to happen, for sure," he said. "If the Maoist party failed to deliver this promise, some other new party will come up. It´s just a matter of time."
Like his comrades, Bikash Malla, a platoon commander, also remained busy making farewell calls to his comrades before packing his luggage Saturday.
Some PLA commanders and members however expressed ignorance about the government decision to send them home. And they even expressed doubt about the government announcement as a similar announcement earlier was not implemented.
"Last time also, the government announced that we would be sent home, but that did not happen. I don´t know what will happen this time. I have not been offcially notified about the government decision yet," Holika KC, brigade vice-commander at fifth division, told Republica.
Fifth division vice-commander Ram Lal Roka Magar; Bhaktaraj Thapa Magar, battalion vice-commander of third division; and Lal Kiran Roka Magar, battalion commander of fourth division, also said they have not been informed about the government decision yet. "I don´t see any possibility of sending combatants home unless there is a clear agreement on rank harmonization," Bhakta claimed.
Even fifth division commander Ram Lal shared his frustration for he has not yet been informed officially about the govenrment decision.
Ram Lal said they have put forth various demands before party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai. They said they want all the money they are to receive in lump sum, a letter of appreciation and that the demands of the injured and physically disabled fighters should be met.
"The government plan on voluntary retirement could face strong rejection in the cantonments if our demands are not met. We will take a decision after holding discussions among comrades," said Ram Lal.
What are their plans?
"I have worn guns for the most part of my life. Now I would like to see what can I do with a pen," Malla revealed his plan. He said he will join university to pursue a bachelor´s degree. The security forces had detained him back in 2001 when he was in Musikot, the district headquarters of Rukum, pursuing his secondary education. He joined the Maoist PLA after his release.
Lal Kiran, who is also a member of Ajammari People´s Commune, Thabang, Rolpa, said he will start a medicinal herbs farm back in his home village. "I´ve no desire to join the party. I see no hope in the plans the party has made for us," he said expressing his frustration toward the Maoist party.
However, Thapa Magar, KC, Ram Lal and Deependra said they will actively involve themselves in Maoist party politics.