A Facebook page named “CPN UML Youth Campaign” posted a combo photo (above) recently with touchy captions: “Pen and books for your own daughter. Gun for daughter of ethnic people.” [See details about the first photo below.]
The context: Election season has started (voting is slated for 19the November). Remember the ‘famous’ Madhav Nepal photo (right)– in which the UML leader is seen offering daam to King Gyanenndra on the latter’s Coronation Day- that the Maoists circulated massively during the 2008 CA elections?
But this is not merely an election gimmick of a rival political party. The fact that a UML campaign circulated these pictures doesn’t mean it undermines the credibility of the poignant message that these photos convey.
The truth is Baburam Bhattarai actually sent his daughter to the safety and quality education of schools in India (and, most recently, to China to learn the Chinese language!) while he forced many young people out of schools in Nepali villages arguing that they should reject the bourgeois education and join the revolution. Baburam’s boss, Pushpa Kamal Dahal kept his son with himself as personal assistant while he sent many sons and daughters of poor Nepalis to front lines to be killed or injured. Baburam Bhattarai himself attended the same bourgeois education system and excelled at it. He attended a missionary high school in his home district Gorkha, went to college in Kathmandu and attended an Indian university (for which he seems to be very proud of). He should be. He should also have let thousands of poor Nepali youths to be proud of their education. But he and his party deprived a whole generation of Nepali youth of education. Ironically, most people who the Maoist party forced out of schools are from the same communities Prachanda and Baburam promised to emancipate from poverty and backwardness.
A 72-page report, “Children in the Ranks: The Maoists’ Use of Child Soldiers in Nepal,” released on 2 February 2007 by Human Rights Watch documented “how the Maoists have used a variety of techniques for recruiting children.” The report found that the “Maoists have kidnapped individual children, have abducted large groups of children from school, and have used propaganda campaigns to attract children as “volunteers.” These practices were systematically implemented over several years and throughout areas under Maoist control.”
Here’s another photo from the same convocation ceremony:
The report described “how the Maoists have continued using child soldiers, and even recruited more children, despite signing a Comprehensive Peace Agreement with the Nepali government on November 21 .” The peace agreement, the report rightly pointed out, committed both sides to stop recruiting child soldiers.
A UNICEF news report published on 17 February 2010 stated:
“On 8 February, with a blessing of red ‘tika’ on their foreheads and garlands of marigolds around their necks, the group of 237 former child combatants and 31 late recruits left the military behind and re-entered civilian life.
“The discharge process started on 7 January of this year. In total, almost 3,000 former child soldiers have been discharged from the Maoist fighting forces after the United Nations verified that they were minors.”
‘The process of identifying child soldiers and disqualifying them from military service ended in 2007, but negotiations for their release have dragged on since then. About 500 of them are still under 18 today, and about a dozen are under 16. About one-third of the disqualified soldiers are female.”
Of course, this is just a glimpse. There were more than 19,000 soldiers that the Maoists recruited and many of them had been forced to drop out of their schools and colleges. And there were several thousand others like the brother of Sulabh Khatri who were not just forced out of their schools but from their villages to become internal refugees and see their education severely disturbed.