Eyewitness Report from Stronghold of the People's War

Nepal: A Walk into the Future

Revolutionary Worker #1226, January 25, 2004, posted at rwor.org

In Nepal, a revolutionary struggle for liberation continues to gain ground and momentum. Since the People's War began in 1996, Maoist guerrillas have been waging fierce battles against the police and Royal Nepal Army. And today, millions of people live in areas under Maoist control.

The corrupt Nepalese regime has carried out massive crimes against the people in its attempts to crush the revolution. More than 8,000 people have been killed since the start of the war. And many more have been wounded, tortured, raped and jailed. The U.S. has allocated millions of dollars in aid to Nepal, supplied thousands of machine guns and other weaponry, and provided military advisers and training for the Royal Nepal Army. But despite all this, the People's War has gained widespread support, and the guerrillas continue to defeat the Royal Nepal Army in battle.

The more the People's Liberation Army has been able to "liberate" territory through armed struggle and carve out areas where the police and other government forces dare not enter--the more the Maoists have been able to build base areas and establish a new revolutionary political authority.

In base areas throughout the country under the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), the masses of people are running village life--organizing local militias, distributing land, building schools and latrines, and setting up "people's courts" to settle disputes, grant divorces, and punish rapists.

Since the beginning, the Rolpa District in western Nepal has been at the heart of the People's War--a key area of strength and inspiration for the revolution. The following account of a visit to a village in Rolpa brings to life the exciting new developments in the revolutionary base areas and how, in the midst of intense fighting, the masses of people are taking things into their own hands--building the outlines of a new society and walking into the future.

January 12, 2004. A World to Win News Service. A Nepalese comrade from Rolpa living in India hadn't been able to go back home for some time. A few months ago, taking advantage of the ceasefire, he went to see his family and breathe in the red areas. Afterward, we were travelling by train in India where I got a chance to ask him, "What's new there, how has it changed?" He started explaining and by the time we arrived I figured I could share what I've heard with you. This is what he said.

Rolpa, in western Nepal, is famous as a stronghold of the People's War that the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been leading since 1996. Now the people rule most of the countryside through their village revolutionary committees and the U.S.-backed monarchy is not even able to fully control many towns. But the peasants and others in Rolpa rose up at the beginning, so revolutionary power there has been developed over a relatively long time.

I went by bus to the border city but the rest was mostly walking. There are dirt roads for buses in some areas, but the closest town to my village is about a three-day walk. Also because of the RNA (Royal Nepal Army) presence, not all the bus roads are safe, so we had to go around them by foot. In all, we had to walk about three weeks before I reached my village.

You can't go alone. There is a war going on and if you are checked by the RNA or their police, you can get in trouble. In our areas as well, since the regime sends spies, comrades are very vigilant. If you are not travelling with a guide, the village revolutionary committee has to be informed of your arrival and be waiting for you. Otherwise you have to wait around until they figure out who you are and what you want.

One of the organs of the new revolutionary state is the post. Every village in the red areas has a post office and the number of its workers changes depending on the size of the village and the traffic. But our post does more than sending letters and parcels. One of its tasks is to get the sick to bigger villages or towns that have better medical facilities. Another task is transporting people around. This is very important. As I said, we are in a war situation. Everyone who comes to the village has to present themselves to the post office. Then the post organizes their travel to the next village on the way toward his or her destination. In fact, comrades who work in the post are the ones who accompany people. Sometimes, depending on the profile of the traveler or the situation in the area, this can take the form of an armed escort. And almost always this means hours or even days of walking. Our post also has a military branch to take ammunition and other things to comrades who are fighting. Comrades working in this branch are mostly either members of the militia or the People's Army. The post is almost like the communications artery of the new state.

Not all the comrades working there are locals. Actually, they are mostly from other areas. If there are really a lot of postal workers in a village, they have their own kitchen, sleeping arrangement, etc., or else they live with the masses. But of course the post office never closes and there are guards at night.

One of the decisions of the party has been that the comrades don't necessarily work in the areas where they were born. This has several positive aspects. One is that the comrades gain varied experience. They come to know other regions of the country and their people, and so their view of revolution, its tasks, goals and dimensions becomes wider. The other aspect is that even though Nepal is small, it is a country of many nations and nationalities. The mixing of different people creates a situation where many fears and prejudices break down. People come to learn about each other and the feeling of unity is strengthened. This is very important, since people don't tend to migrate from one area of Nepal to another. Instead, if they have to leave their village to seek work they go to India.

Anyway, after going through various posts, I reached my village. With comrades who were accompanying me, I went to my father's door. I wasn't sure if I could invite them in or not. My family, even though they are not Brahmin, are from upper castes and my comrades were all from lower castes or untouchables. Previously it was impossible for my father to let them in his house.

I went in. My father asked if I came alone. I said no, but comrades are from lower castes. He said "Oh! Come on! Our door is open to all. Ask them to come in and eat something. They must be tired and hungry."

I was flabbergasted. The revolution and the new political power have even broken down my old man's prejudices. This, in fact, is one of the visible changes. Most of the new party comrades are from the lower castes, those who were previously not considered whole humans. The upper castes would not eat with them or let them into their houses. Now they are very active and respected. The red power has given them self-confidence; they know it is their own political power. Though most of them are young, they have high responsibilities and carry them out successfully. The composition of the party before the war, especially at higher levels, was from the middle classes, educated people and village teachers. But things have changed, and these kids are so courageous and mature at the same time that they are loved and respected by all.

The situation of women has changed considerably too. First of all, they are active in the party, army and the new state. In the army even though there are mixed units, there are also units and contingents made up only of women, from soldiers to military and political commanders. You can see other changes in their lives as well. Women are active in different aspects of agriculture and do things they were not allowed to do before. One of these is slaughtering livestock, especially cattle. Cows are sacred animals for Hindus and people tend not to eat beef. This has also changed. Even some middle-aged women declared to me proudly that they eat beef.

People's way of speaking has also changed. We have three ways of addressing people in Nepali. One is respectful, one is familiar and the third is derogatory. The latter is used for children, lower castes and sometimes women. Nowadays this has also changed. The derogatory form of address is basically not used any more. People use either of the first two only. Most importantly though, people address each other on the basis of equality. Before, children and women used to speak to their fathers or husbands using the respectful form of address while they themselves were spoken to in a derogatory way. Now this has changed. Everyone uses the same form of address in speaking to each other, either formally or in a familiar way.

Anti-women traditions have also been dealt some serious blows. For example, previously people only celebrated the birth of sons. Now the birth of all children is celebrated in our areas.

One of the other responsibilities of the new revolutionary state is construction. One of these projects that started from the very beginning of the war was the creation of roads and bringing running water closer to the villages. This one item won the hearts of many women who previously had to walk many hours to provide drinking water for the household.

The building of schools and the fight against illiteracy is another thing. When I was a kid, we had to walk several hours to get to school. Now we are trying to build a school in every village. There is, of course, the problem of a lack of teachers. But during the emergency [when the monarchy declared a state of emergency and launched a brutal campaign of repression] the reactionary state started persecuting a lot of revolutionary supporters in the cities. As a result, many students and intellectuals came to our areas. This was good help for the villages in several ways, including that they help teaching in schools.

One of the other responsibilities is the creation of local industries. Nepal imports almost everything from India, and industry in our country is very backward. While going to my village, I saw some youth, including students, building an engine to pump deep wells. Some engineers come from Kathmandu from time to time to help and supervise. There is also small home industry. For example in one of the villages, the people learned how to make candles, which they offered for sale at the market. They burn very well. You know that in many villages there is no electricity and candles are important.

Another industry is shoemaking. In one of the villages, there was a man who made good shoes. Villagers got together, and asked him to teach them how to make shoes. Now they are producing shoes for the market. They also use cowhides, now that cows aren't sacred any more. Biscuits and potato chips are other items the home industries produce. A contingent of the People's Liberation Army was passing through a village and saw chips in the local shop. There were surprised because the old state [the monarchy] blockades areas under party control and many things are not available in the villages. The peasants said, now we make them ourselves. The soldiers said that they were more delicious than imported Indian chips.

Of course these industries cannot develop very rapidly. We are in a war situation and don't have a wall around our areas. Sometimes the Royal Army comes in. During the emergency, several times the RNA came to my village and broke our door. My father used to fix the door every time, but finally he gave up. It's expensive and they may come and break it down again. When they come, if they can, they burn and break everything. They even burn the food supplies. But ever since the war started, people's lives have become so much richer that the crimes of the enemy make people, especially the lower classes and women, fight with even more determination for a world they know will be theirs.