The People’s War That Was on TV

This Tuesday, Nepalese got a glimpse of what they were seeing in Tora Bora, Basra or in Falluja recently, that too, in their very own land: Krishna Bhir of Dhading, a district that borders Kathmandu. New Delhi based Nepali language channel Nepal One aired a shocking footage that depicted Maoists guerillas in victorious mood with sounds of gunfire at the background.

An eyewitness describes the horrific moments of fighting between Royal Nepal Army soldiers and Maoists guerilla. Phanindra Silwal, a local scribe based on Dhading shares his lifetime experience with Ujir Magar of Kantipur Daily Newspaper. Here is the rough translation of the article that originally appeared in Wednesday’s edition of Kantipur.

We were cautiously observing the ‘Dhading Banda’ (closure of Dhading) in Tuesday that was called by the Maoist. At 9:30 in the morning, I was sitting in front of my office, Highway Information Center, chatting with some of my friends. Suddenly, a van filled by Royal Nepal Army men, some of whom I knew, stopped in front of us. They had come from Gajuri.

Suddenly, a message in a rather hasty tone started popping in from the communication set carried by one of the soldiers. ‘A group fell in ambush…in ambush..’ The set immediately went dead. I took out my bike and ran toward the possible accident site with the permission of those soldiers. I was worried but somehow reached Salanghat. Locals were warning me no to go there because firing was going on. I went ahead with a movie camera on hand.

I saw many people in the uniform of army on the junction of Charaudi Bazar that lies on way to Prithvi highway from Gorkha. In Malekhu, army had requested me to relay a message to their fellows. A support convoy of three vehicles was soon arriving. I passed that message to those standing persons. After hearing from me, one of them alerted the remaining with these chilling words: “Be careful guys, enemies are coming.” At that very moment, I was shocked to know that I just passed the message of army to the Maoist guerillas. Those people in the uniform were Maoist.

“Who are you?” they started scanning me. They permitted me to shoot after I showed them my identity card of Nepal One television. Firing was at its height in the Bazar.

I went even ahead at around quarter to 10. Those people, about 150, were scattered around. Somebody carried communication set. Pistol in one hand and the set in another, they were constantly listening the message that came from army camp. “Use LMG only, shoot from LMG only,” the guerillas were telling each other.

Not very far from that chaotic scene, I saw a woman in combat uniform interrogating a wounded army soldier.

“Are you a journalist?” she asked me. “Also a human right activist?”

“Yes,” I said.

“This operation was carried away in my command,” she denoted. “Give credit to me in your news. War codes have fully been met. Take care of this comrade.”

After uttering these words, she handed over the soldier to me. She identified herself as ‘Pratikshya.’ The morale of the wounded soldier was at it’s lowest.

“Hide him quickly,” she suggested, fearing that the group behind might again attack. I took him in a nearby house. With a handkerchief, I banded his bleeding wound. I hadn’t yet reached to the place where fighting took place.

Guerillas were singing in victorious mood and were counting how many arms they looted from the army men. I have never seen so many Maoists ‘army’ before. Organized as ‘Ring Special Command’, they were fighting under the Eastern Command of Maoist party. Two guys were carrying a launcher. 5 people were carrying AK 47 rifles. SLR and Insas were in everyone’s hand. My best estimate was that the guerillas were somewhere around 1 thousand.

Leaving them there, I moved toward Krishna Bhir. Maoist had already left the place by then. I was late. An army van was burning, several bullets and bombs were laying scattered around the place. A dead body of a soldier was lying nearby. I went a kilometer back to find the soldier I had hid earlier. While returning to Charaudi, I saw somewhere around 500 guerillas crossing the suspension bridge. They were apparently heading towards Ghyalchowk village of Gurkha district. Some were stepping towards southern Dhading.

I met an army vehicle on the road while returning to Malekhu. I handed over the injoured injured solider to them. The asked me about the situation in the Ground Zero. After hearing my briefing, they blank fired and headed toward Krishna Bhir.