SURKHET, Feb 8: “I am now staying inside a police post. Combatants are waiting for me outside. They are demanding money from me,” her voice was not clear as she spoke over a mobile phone.
Company Vice-commander Karma Rawat at No. 11 Battalion under the Jharna Memorial Brigade reached the police post after depositing the Rs 300,000 she received as a first installment at the Agriculture Development Bank at Chinchhu.
“I need security,” added Rawat sitting in front of Assistant Inspector Purna Neupane.
Rawat, who hails from Humla, said she came to the police after three combatants from the cantonment --Bidrohi, Nirmohi and Rector-- demanded Rs 225,000 from her, leaving her with just Rs 75,000. “I told them I could provide them a maximum of Rs 100,000. I was forced to come here as they were adamant in their demand.”
Rawat said the combatants have been threatening to freeze her bank account altogether. “I have made a big contribution in the people´s war. I refused to obey them, saying I was not a fake combatant,” she said. “Though other colleagues easily gave in to their demands, I could not be persuaded.”
Rawat, who joined the people´s war in 2000 when she was just 11, sustained a bullet injury during an encounter between security personnel and Maoist guerillas. Though she had joined the Maoists as a member of a cultural group, she was exposed to combat several times, she said.
Rawat complained that her commander had sought a share of the allowances she received for the period between mid-July and mid-December when she was on sick leave. “It is normal to seek a share of such money from colleagues who stayed on leave for three or four years,” she said. “But when I asked them not to seek money from someone like me they did not listen.”
She said one woman combatant was left with just Rs 50,000 out of a total Rs 250,000 she received as her compensation. The combatant took it easily enough as she was present at the cantonment only during the verification process.
Though the government has directed the combatants to open bank accounts at one of three banks --Agriculture Development Bank, Rastriya Banijya Bank and Nepal Bank Limited, the PLA Sixth Division has directed all its combatants to open their accounts only at Agriculture Development Bank, Chhinchu.
Sixth Division headquarters sends other combatants along with anyone going to deposit money at the bank barely a 15-minute walk from the cantonment site. “Division headquarters has made arrangements to take by motorbike the combatants whose money it wants a share of. The other combatants tolerated this. But I could not and so came here for refuse,” she further said.
According to Rawat, each battalion has some 50 combatants on average from whom the Maoist commanders have sought a huge chunk. PLA Divisional Headquarters has been receiving its share from combatants who faced disciplinary action or remained out of contact for a long time.
Sources said the PLA has been taking 100,000 to 200,000 from each combatant, depending on their contribution to the people´s war, their presence in the cantonments and various other activities. The Maoists plan to use the money taken from combatants for providing compensations to disqualified combatants and those serving as Young Communist League (YCL) cadres.
Sixth Division PLA Commander Mahendra Shahi, however, denied taking any money from combatants choosing voluntary retirement. Asked about Rawat seeking refuge at a local police post, Shahi said, “I don´t know who she is. You had better ask her.”
District Police Office, Surkhet, has taken the incident of the combatant sheltering at the police post seriously. Superintendent of Police Gobinda Ram Pariyar, who heads Surkhet District Police Office, said they will provide security to Rawat once she files a petition. “Police cannot remain mute spectators when such incidents take place. I have already made necessary arrangements for her,” he said.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the Sixth Division staff held on Tuesday discussed in detail the issue of deducting from the money received by combatants going for voluntary retirement.
According to a brigade vice-commander, it has been decided to take some percentage of the money to provide relief for the disqualified and those serving as YCL members, as per the party´s policy. Those from brigade vice-commander to division commander will have to provide a certain percentage of their money for the purpose.
The meeting has reached an informal understanding to exert pressure on the government to provide relief to the disqualified and to the YCL.
“Our move to deduct a certain amount from those receiving money from the government will put pressure on the government. Our belief is that the government should provide relief to the disqualified and to YCL members,” the brigade vice-commander said.
from repblica English daily newspaper