Sunday, April 26, 2009

Never again

Never again!


"They shot the Maoist leader, tied to that tree," Pastor Naresh (name changed) had indicated to me three years ago. Sure enough, then the tree looked beautiful and shady as any other in the area, except for deep bullet marks and wounded bark. Now, that tree, on the Sasatar to Maidee VDC dirt track branching left from the Malekhu/Dhading Besi tarred road, stands only as an ugly stump. Probably at the behest of the Nepal Army (NA), government officials have chopped it down. However, people will still point at the stump and relate its gory tales. Whether it is the tree-chopping incident or the bulldozing of Tribhuvan Sadan in the former Narayanhiti royal palace, both cases are definite attempts to erase memories of shameful acts of the recent Nepali history.

During the ten year Maoist insurgency, the Royal Nepal Army (RNA), either during the democratic rule of various elected prime ministers or during the dictatorship of Gyanendra, overdid itself in its zeal to wipe out the rebels. While the Maoist "nobles" spent eight of the ten years in Indian safe havens, grass root cadres faced RNA’s bullets.

"That Maoist leader was a brilliant chap," Naresh Tamang added, "he had taught in several schools and wanted to see people educated." After the RNA arrested him in Maidee, they wanted information of his colleagues. The leader refused to divulge anything, and asked them to kill him instead. The RNA agreed in style. They made him walk to this tree in Murali Vanjyang VDC. There, they butchered a goat, confiscated from villagers, feasted on it, and fed the Maoist leader as well. Then, they tied him to the tree; and shot him.

"He remained tied to the tree for days," Naresh continued. "The Maoists didn’t dare take him away because of the considerable military presence in Dhading Besi." Naresh had seen the body on the fourth day which was stinking. Vultures, foxes, other birds and animals had not quite finished the job. Partly covered with flesh, the skeleton had shone white. Eventually, only the bones remained; and then those too disappeared. The RNA probably left the corpse on the tree to warn would-be Maoists or probably to trap any rebel rescuer. Whatever the case that body of a former, dedicated, school teacher deserved a decent cremation. 

The RNA had killed other Maoist cadres in Maidee. In the village of Kafalpani, they had shot two. They hastily buried one. The family of another came and took away the second. The latter’s wife had studied till class 10, and was nursing a child at the time. She promptly joined the Maoists, and now labors tirelessly for the party. The RNA had taken another Maoist commander, Bishnu Bhatta, from Maidee to the northern VDC of Khari and shot him too.

As long as the Maoists were fighting against an oppressive monarchy, they were gallant heroes. When they started cutting off the limbs of their opponents and hacking to death "capitalists" school teachers, they became bloody murderers. However, most had joined the rebellion for the elusive hope of a better life. At least in Maidee, the RNA had killed fellow Nepalis wanting to shake off the 240 year old Shah-Rana-Shah tyranny.

Naresh Tamang did not know of anyone the Maoists murdered in Maidee. However, they tried to enlist as many villagers to their cause as possible, Christians included. One night, they had taken Naresh and another pastor to instruct them on bomb-making. After the lesson and towards dawn, both pastors pleaded that as followers of Jesus Christ they would never kill others. The Maoists allowed the pastors to return to their churches.

The rebels didn’t give up. Later on, they took Naresh alone, gave him the alias "Bikalpa", and told him to assume the leadership of Tamang Liberation Front.

"Christians can contribute a lot to our cause. Karl Marx learnt from Christians!" Then too, Naresh refused. For the second time, he walked home alive. Similarly, they had marched another church elder to a Maoist function in Bungur Ghat. Unconvinced by the theory of Prachandapath, he returned home the next day.

"Some Christians have actually joined the Maoists," Naresh told me, "I can’t reckon why! The Bible advocates peace, but the Maoists don’t renounce violence."

"Perhaps, these Christians don’t understand the Bible," I replied. "Prior to the CA poll, some ‘educated’ Kathmandu-pastors openly campaigned on behalf of the Maoists and asked their congregations to vote for them. They took part in victory celebrations when the Maoists won. Even now they run to Prachanda to ask for favors. So we can excuse them for electing the Maoists."
"Many Christians don’t obey the Bible," Naresh added sheepishly.

However, the simpler answer lies elsewhere. Through its nepotism and lack of internal democracy, the Nepali Congress had frustrated everyone, including churches. The UML seemed spineless, and offered no viable alternative. So, going against their principles and conscience, many churches voted for the Maoists.
Never again!

Are the Maoists popular in Maidee? Yes! The RNA atrocities had led many to join or vote for the Maoists. During the insurgency, the Maoists billeted houses for their meals; but also spent time dishing out hopes and bonding with people.

"When we come to power, we will write off all your debts," the Maoists promised. To ensure future votes, this Maoist-led government has kept that part of the pledge. Many poor farmers in the area don’t owe anything now, except ballots for the former rebels on Election Day.

The ten year insurgency has now become history, and children will learn read it from their textbooks. Presently, the NA remains one hope (among others like the democratic parties, the civil society, the enlightened public, the international pressure) for preservation of real democracy against a possible Maoist dictatorship. However, Maidee has taught us a lesson. Whether it be RNA’s summary killings or Maoist attempts at forceful indoctrination—never again

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