30 Aug 2017 – When I met the first participant (Sarada-ten years armed conflict victims children) for my study and shared my purpose then she recommended that Khim Bahadur Kumal (pseudonym) who was from Taranagar VDC ward number eleven of Gorkha, would be another participant. She shared that Khim Bahadur was also under the age of eighteen and affected by the conflict. He was forced to join in the CPN (Maoist) movement even though, he was a school going child. Social exclusion and poverty was the main reason for him to join the CPN (Maoist) party.
Then Sarada called him and shared the purpose. After that she told him that I would be calling him and sharing the details. He agreed to talk with me. Then Sarada gave me the contact number and I called him and explained him my purpose in details. We agreed to meet at Ten Kilo, way to Gorkha Bazar from Aabu Khaireni of Tanahun. I took a vehicle from Sarada’s house and moved to Ten Kilo. I saw two/three people in the station. I was wondering which one was Khim Bahadur. When I just got off the vehicle, one person stood and looked around. I thought he might be my participant. I asked him if he was Khim Bahadur, he said he was and we exchanged Namastes. Then he requested me to go to his home and talk there in details. And we moved towards his home.
Story of Participant
We sat on the Verandah and got ready to start our discussion. He offered me to take water. When I was drinking the water, suddenly, I saw a calendar hanging at the door. I saw some pictures in the calendar and went to see it. I saw that the calendar was about the killed and missing people of Kumal community, who were affected by the government’s action. Then Khim Bahadur explained to me about the calendar and showed me the picture of his father in the list. It was about 4 o’clock. The school going students were returning from school. He shared showing the students that, some of them had lost their parents, some had lost their relatives, some had lost their brothers and sisters and some have still been disappeared. By listening to that, I came to know that the Kumals of that area were highly affected in the conflict. Up to this time, he had already prepared some foods to eat.
How Courteous People Where There?
It was in the evening that we had started talking and the day was slowly turning to night. I was unknown where to stay. In the meantime, Khim Bahadur asked me if I have arranged the hotels to stay that night or not. I replied ‘No’. Then, he requested me to stay at his home and adjust with whatever he has in his home. I couldn’t ignore his hospitality. He prepared food for the night. I was also helping him and was trying to ask about the situation they faced during the conflict. After having food, he started to share what the exact situation before the conflict was, how he became the affected of the government when he was only a student.
Hence my participant was Khim Bahadur Kumar. He was from Taranagar VDC ward number eleven of Gorkha. He had five members in his family. He was the youngest child in his family. As a family profession, his father was a farmer. But farming was not enough for their livelihood. So they had to work on others’ houses and fields. And it was very difficult for them to fulfill, all demands of the family members. Due to this condition, Khim Bahadur’s eldest brother was also unable to join the school. But luckily, Khim Bahadur was sent to school as there were elders to look after the farm.
He got the chance to join the school but the facilities needed for him were not provided so he had to struggle for it. Sometimes, his empty stomach did not help him to grasp the lessons taught at school. Due to the cause of extreme poverty, he had faced many challenges in his school. Therefore, he couldn’t do better at school. Because of his weak performance he was not treated well. Neither the teachers nor the classmates cared him. The teachers used to give time to him but he was not ready to do as per the sayings of the teachers. So his teachers never asked any questions and consulted with him after that. Moreover, he was always scolded by his teachers as a dull student.
Troubles One After Another?
Similarly, he was isolated by the classmates. He became lonely as his habit was different from others and no one was ready to make him a group member. His classmates never shared Tiffin with him. His friends had never seen his Tiffin so they did not share their Tiffin as well. He used to be alone during the recess. Even he had returned home sometimes at mid-day. Similarly Dalit children face inequitable insolences from fellow students and the community as a whole, in particular from upper caste members who perceive education for Dalits as a waste and a threat.
This is linked to a perception amongst upper caste people that educated Dalits pose a threat to village hierarchies and power relations, and that Dalits are generally incapable of being educated. This perception of upper caste people has influenced their school going children and they also showed such behave in school what they learned at home and society. Khim not only faced such problem, he has also faced several problems like, not having good school dress, and other necessary materials like copies, pencils, books, etc for his study. He explained:
“When I was trying to do my homework, I couldn’t get copies. I asked my father to buy a copy but my father said that he would buy it next week when he might get his salary. I was so sad and didn’t want to go to school but father compelled me to go to school. And the school teacher, who was not aware about my situation, punished me for my not doing the homework. Even a teacher said that if I don’t have copies, then I have to leave the school. I felt very ashamed of this and started crying. I started to scold the god why he made us poor. As an average student in terms of academic performance, I sometimes, dreamt of not going to school but doing work and earn enough money”. (Field note)
Extreme Poverty: Explained as Basic Reason
His feelings expressed the extreme poverty of his family and the situation how he was coping with the problems. He could not get much support from teachers, students and home as well in his study. So, day by day, he became less interested to go to school. And he was thinking of earning money using any effort. He severely regretted on why he was born into the poor family. He thought that it was better to work and earn money rather than go to school for study.
His father used to share his pains and conditions of surviving with his neighbor. He was searching a condition from where he would get rid of poverty. He was roaming here and there in search of good job but it was very difficult to fulfill the basic demands of his family.
One day, when he went to his neighbor to ask for some loan for the study of his children, his neighbor suggested him to join the CPN (Maoist) party. His neighbor even added that the CPN (Maoist) party was the only one and emerging new political force which was in favor of the poor and needy people so his problem would also be solved through the revolution of that party. Then, his father decided to join the CPN (Maoist) party to eradicate the poverty and eliminate the gap between the rich and the poor. Then he left his home and became underground. After his father’s underground life, Khim Bahadur’s family faced extreme poverty day by day. His elder brother alone was unable to provide food for morning and evening.
Bother Schooling and Manual Labour Together
Then he started to support his brother’s work in the morning and in the evening and used to go to school during the day. But after the father’s involvement in the CPN (Maoist) party, the state security force started to torture his family day by day. His family was blamed as CPN (Maoist) supporter and punished when he was found working or in school. He remembered:
“Around 20 people came to my house at around 6 am. They asked where my father was. I was afraid to talk with them but they asked me time and again and compelled me to talk with them. But my father was already underground and far from our home. They asked if we had hid our father. If we did not speak, they would kill us. They threatened us. At this time, I thought that the people were Nepal Army personnel. And they asked whether we had given food and shelter to the combatants or not. Among them, one of the soldiers slapped on my brother face three times as we were not answering. His face got swollen, and he screamed with pain”. (Field note)
Threats and Suppression’s Also Coercion
He further added, eight days later, the soldiers came to his house again at 7 am and again abused his brother. They asked several questions to him and his brother but they couldn’t answer because of fear. At that time, they arrested his brother and put him into jail in the headquarters. He was physically and mentally tortured many times in jail. They kept him there for three months. After appealing to the politicians, and they in turn told the armies. After that, they released him. His brother was beaten harshly in jail. His family took him to the hospital for treatment. During the period of ten year armed conflict, children are regularly tortured by the state security force and police personnel for suspected CPN (Maoist) activity or in an attempt to gain information about CPN (Maoist) activities or to find the whereabouts their CPN (Maoist) parent.
Revenge against Barbarous Atrocities
He said that he was bound to join the Maoist party even though he was under the age of fifteen because, it was his last option in order to remain alive from the state security force: i.e. Nepal Police, Nepal Army and Unified Command. The state security force used to raid their houses regularly, give physical torture to the members of his family, rape women and young girls in the society and torture them. So he said that he joined CPN (Maoist) Party after being tortured by the state force for the reason that his father was a CPN (Maoist) and away from them. His family even got physical tortures for supporting the CPN (Maoist) when they were underground by giving them shelter. Regarding this, he shared:
“One night, I was studying in my room. A group of Nepal Army personnel came to my home and asked many questions to my mother and elder brother about my father who was a CPN (Maoist) cadre and away from home. They beat my brother cruelly; and my sister in law who was pregnant at that time came to rescue my brother. Two of the army raped her in front of me and beat her until she got unconscious. I was hiding myself in the room but watching all the brutal activities of that army. It was the situation which no one can tolerate and see. Anyone, who sees such activities, would be a fighter in a moment. At that moment, I remembered that my father was fighting for these types of activities and I have to join it. So, I decided to join the CPN (Maoist) party to take revenge of that brutality”. (Field note)
This kind of heart touching bitter reality still gives the scenario of that time and allows us to imagine how the people might have faced the conflict and its tentacles. Khim was studying in grade seven but his study became a hateful task for him by seeing such activities. He was the eyewitness of how the general people were being affected by the army force. For him, it was the age of school going and playing, enjoying with the friends but it turned out to have been the compulsion to join in the CPN (Maoist) movement as he couldn’t bear any further torture. He started being a rebel. He left the house at the same moment. Not only Khim, there were big number of children recruitment when the state security force charged them as a CPN (Maoist) supporters and tortured them regularly. Children felt unsecure to stay home and were involved in armed conflict even they were school student.
Search for another Rival Forces
At first he did not know where to go and whom to meet. He was roaming here and there. After walking for about an hour, he remembered one person who used to come with his father in his house. His father had shown him the house of that person so that they could communicate and know the condition of his father. So, he went to that house. Unfortunately, he was not in the house. He waited and waited, after some time that person came and he shared all the activities that had happened in his house and he wanted to join in the CPN (Maoist) movement in order to take revenge. Then that person took him in the place where the CPN (Maoist) was conducting a program and he was welcomed with a red salute.
According to the report of International Committee of the Red Cross (2009), such activities forced many children join armed conflict like Khim Bahadur. It means that context and situation led them to leave school and compelled them to be involved in the battle even if they were under the age of eighteen.
He said that he was too young to fight and even to lift the gun. But later, he practiced and became perfect. He had a dream that if he would be able to kill the army force it would be a great tribute to his family members. After one year, he met his father and shared the entire incident that had happened in his home. And they two promised to end such types of activities in the society through the revolution. Then they departed for doing their own task as assigned. After some months he got the news from the party that his father got martyrdom and was announced as martyr. This news shocked him and he thought that he was the only one to earn respect for his family through revolution. Again one day, he got a letter that his brother was kidnapped accusing him to be a terrorist. But it has still been unknown about his whereabouts and who had kidnapped him. He was affected by forced disappearance and the family is still waiting for his return. Now he has courage and power to fight against such activities.
Risks and Injuries Coped With
He was injured in ‘Myagdi attack’ and could not run away to be safe and arrested by the security force. After that, he was kept in jail of Kaski. The security force gave him mental and physical torture in jail. He was seriously injured by the security person’s punishment but could not get treatment. After the CPA, he got released from the jail and was able to return his own home. But he saw the pitiful situation of his house. No one was there to take care of his ill mother. Then he started to look after his mother.
My Reflection: How Does Retaliation Arise
The reasons why children participate in the ten years conflict are numerous. According to the story of Khim, he joined the revolution because the government security men constantly harassed his family for supporting the CPN (Maoist) party or for the sheltering them overnight and providing food to them. Besides he was affected as his father was participating in the CPN (Maoist) party. He was tortured by the state security forces most of the time as a son of CPN (Maoist) cadre. He has seen the panic situation of his family members when his sister in law was raped and family members were beaten heavily but he was unable to do anything. From this moment he became an enemy of the security forces and wanted to take revenge of the unsocial works of the security forces, he was unable to concentrate in education. Similarly, he wanted to take revenge with the security forces for doing unethical social harassment with his family members. So he couldn’t continue his education and joined in the CPN (Maoist) party.
Shree Prasad Devkota is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. He is a Kathmandu University graduate, has a Master’s in Mathematics Education and M.phl in Development Studies. Currently he is chairperson of SDEF–Sustainable Development and Empowerment Forum, and has worked as a lecturer. He is researcher in the field development sectors in Nepal and has worked as consultant, monitoring and evaluation expert in different I/NGOs. Devkota has been working in the field of education of children, marginalized and socially excluded groups, especially on conflict management regarding the post-conflict situation in Nepal. He has published several research articles in national and international journals. Books: Teacher’s Lived Experiences and Contextualized Mathematics, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany, 2012. Education in Nepal from Dalit Perspective, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, Germany, 2013. Conflict in School and Its Management by Shree Prasad Devkota and Shiba Bagale, Scholars’ Press, Germany, 2015. Life and Education of Children in Nepal (Pre and Post Peace Agreement a Comparative Study) Adroit Publishers , India,2017.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 4 September 2017.