Walking with Maoist folks who, after being released by authorities, were taking out rally and chanting slogans on the main street of the town.
Bijaya Kuwar aka Comrade Sapana, 15, wants to continue her sixth grade study. “But,” she said while chanting slogan in a rally organized immediately after her release from 3-month-loing imprisonment this afternoon. “I don’t know what my friends [in the party] will say me to do.” In the photos below, she is seen passing contact information to one of her friends who wanted to be in touch with her in future. All pics by Wagle
By Dinesh Wagle in Dhangadi (west Nepal)
“Which name do you want?” was her unexpected reply when I asked her the most frequent question that reporters ask the people on the street. And, without giving me a second to think about the possible answer, she provided me two options. “Name in the party or home?” And she shouted “Jindabad” before I could demand both of her names. She was not only talking to me but also participating in a rally. She was responding to a slogan that one of her comrades was chanting on the main street of Dhangadi, Kailali. “Ne Ka Pa Maobadi,” her comrade was saying. [CPN Maoist- Jindabad. Up with the party!]
“Tell me both of your names,” I said as we were walking on the street with sweat running over my forehead and cheeks. “Bijaya Kuwar is my home name. Name in the party is Sapana.” This 15-year-old girl was released just a few minutes ago when I met her inside the jail compound. “I am really happy,” she said. She was out of the jail spending three months. The government, formed after the historical April popular movement, has, just like the rebels, announced cease fire and has been releasing all Maoist prisoners to make environment for peace talks. Sapana was one of those 18 inmates who were released this afternoon in the presence of journalists and human rights activists. They were all arrested by the army and armed police in the last 10 months. After the jailer formally announced their freedom, the Maoists started shouting slogans like long live the Maoist party, red salute to martyrs and release all political prisoners. While they waked on the main street sloganeering, curious people looked at them as if they were from mars. Some of the onlookers seemed to be terrorized. After all, you can’t hear slogans like “Ne Ka Paa Maobadi Jindabaad” everywhere all the time.
Maoist PLA militias in a primary school.
Above is the video in which Maoist cadres are seen holding rally immediately after they were released.
Bijaya, while walking and occasionally shouting slogans, told me that she joined the party nearly a year ago (Asar 1) after being persuaded by a senior woman. “Why did you join the party?” I asked her. She looked at me, and then on the blacktopped street. She was thinking of an answer but, I could sense, that wasn’t coming to her mind immediately. She again looked at me and smiled. She was a bit shy. “I don’t know,” was her final reply.
Maoist cadres shouting slogans on the street of Dhangadi, Kailali. A total of 18 activists were released by authorities (the jailor said on the order of the District Administration Office. “They sent us a list of people and we released them who were in the list.”)
A sixth grade student in a school in Mahendranagar, Bijaya has her mother and a younger sister in the house. Dad died a few years ago. The family has a small farm. The heat in Dhangadi is at its peak but Bijaya is not sweating at all. I wanted to ask about that. But I had something more important to ask this teenage girl. “Do you want to go to school or continue working for the party?” I wanted to know. Again, it turned out, that was a difficult question for her to answer. She looked at my face and smiled. Her eyes were telling something but she couldn’t express. As I was about to ask her another question, she finally replied. “I really feel like going to school again,” she said. “But, but I don’t know what friends will say.”
“So you will do whatever they say, right?” I asked. “You will continue working for the party if they ask you, right?”
“But I really want to go home and study in the school,” she said.
While Maoists waked on the main street sloganeering, curious people looked at them as if they were from mars. Some of the onlookers seemed to be terrorized. After all, you can’t hear slogans like “Ne Ka Paa Maobadi Jindabaad” everywhere all the time.
On that day when she was arrested by a soldier, she was on the back of a bicycle. That was ridden by Seema, whom she called ‘dijju’ (elder sister), a Maoist cadre. When they approached Gulariya of Krishnapur Village in Kanchanpur district, the army on duty recognized the woman. “Ani ta Seema dijju bhagin [Then sister fled away],” Bijaya aka comrade Sapana vividly remembers. “Then they asked me why she ran away. They said that I was a Maoist. And they arrested me.” The day was 29th of Magh. She was taken to an army barrack before being handed over to the jail authorities.
A boy carrying a bicycle was trying to talk to her. He in fact wanted contact address (may be phone number) so that, I guess, they could be in touch. The boy had gone there in the jail just to receive her. I saw her, while walking, scribbling something on a piece of paper and handing that to him. He seemed to be happy. I didn’t ask her about the boy at that time.
I knew that they were going in a local college where a corner meeting will be organized. I decided to go there in the evening by which time, I guessed, the program would be over and I would be able to see the girl again. [While on my way to the college, I meet a group of cultural activists associated with the Maoist party who were coming to the town from a nearby village. They were singing songs. One of them was: Kasle bhanchha, kranti yaha safal hudaina? [Who says revolution will not be successful here?] I was right for the first guess where as I couldn’t see her there. The same folks were there, in a circle on the ground near the college. They were talking and were about to have cold drinks. A local Maoist leader was, I think, giving them some informal lecture. Seeing me there, the Maoist leader rose up from the ground and came to me. I had talked to him in the morning. I asked him about comrade Sapana. No, her friends said, she wasn’t there. She wasn’t feeling well and was sleeping in a nearby house.
Above is the video of a Maoist cultural team