Revolution struggles on in 'model areas' of hinterland

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 November, 2004, 12:00am

Comrade Anup is addressing a ring of villagers. He wants their suggestions for how to combat American imperialism. The peasants stare back in blank incomprehension.

As he warms to his theme, Mr Anup discusses his personal journey to ideological enlightenment, lacing his speech with English words such as 'metaphysical' and 'dialectically', seeming not to notice the bafflement of his audience.

This is a glimpse of life inside a 'model area' of the Maoists' People's Government of Nepal. One by one the villagers thank him for the improvements the party has made to their lives, although they privately say all the Maoists have done is build a rudimentary checkpoint.

Nepalese army officers deny there are any 'no-go areas' in Nepal, but across large swathes of the steep western hills Maoist rebels are building a parallel administration. The only authority here is that of former teachers, students, farmers and unemployed youths turned communist guerillas.

Comrade Sangram, 28, a former primary school teacher, is unshakable in his beliefs.

'We are fighting for workers not only in Nepal but all the world,' says Mr Sangram. 'When we win here we will give support to all workers.

'In country schools they don't have anything,' he says, in explanation of his anger. 'It is very difficult for them to read. The government has not provided dusters, chalk, anything. Until we collapse this government we cannot develop, we cannot do anything.'

Outside in the village, gangs of fighters, mostly teenage boys and a few girls, come and go. Most have no uniform and are unarmed.

Businessmen from the nearby town, which is under government control, come to pay protection money. Charities must also pay a tax to the Maoists, but British and American charities are banned.

The Maoists launched their campaign to create a communist republic eight years ago. Since then more than 10,000 people have died.

Army officers say they are handicapped by a weak political leadership. In Kathmandu, a fragile coalition government makes contradictory statements of its policy towards the Maoists.

In the villages there are new Maoist administrators such as Bakta Bahadur Thapa, a tenant farmer turned land redistribution officer. He carries a register and says he has 'done the homework' in 350 cases, although land has only been redistributed to seven people so far.

As night fell on the string of cottages, a group of men came down the road, one carrying a man over his shoulder, with the light-hearted air of party-goers heading home.

'They've been beating him on the way and now they are going to kill him,' said the villagers. Shortly afterwards, screaming could be heard from the direction of the Maoist barrack house and it lasted for 15 minutes.

In the morning, the commander of the 8th brigade, Comrade Pratik, brushed off the commotion. 'A drunk man was causing a disturbance,' he said. 'We dealt with it.'