KATHMANDU, Sept 11: Former Maoist child soldiers, who were discharged by UNMIN's verification teams, have demanded state support for their rehabilitation and decent life.
Addressing a function organized by Nepal Peace Building Initiative (NPI) together with Discharged People's Liberation Army-Nepal (DPLAN) in the capital on Tuesday, the discharged soldiers, who were termed 'disqualified' and discharged from the Maoist 'people's liberation army' [PLA] complained that the government had neglected them ignoring their contribution to bringing the historic political changes in the country.
Senior Vice President of DPLAN, Ramesh Karal said they want the government's support for their long-term management as their childhood was stolen from them -- they were made to carry guns and explosives when they should have been in schools. “We are looking for our identity and means of livelihood. We are looking for support for our livelihood rather than reparations,” said Karal. He warned that they would launch protests if their demands were not heeded. The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) had declared a total of 4,008 PLA soldiers “disqualified” and subsequently released them from the cantonments. While 2,973 of them were minors, the remaining 1,035 were recruited after the start of the peace process, according to UNMIN.
Although the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) reached between the government and the then Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) mentioned that the released child soldiers would be properly taken care of, they were sent home with a meager Rs 10,000 per head. The discharged Maoist soldiers complained that they were disappointed to find that their issue was not mentioned in the ongoing transitional justice process.
Speaking at the event that saw participation of people from various walks of life including lawmakers, human rights activists, lawyers, retired security officials, journalists and civil society leaders, lawmaker of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Deepak Prakash Bhatta said the political leadership in the country had largely failed to address the issue of discharged Maoist soldiers. While urging the government to provide them livelihood support, Bhatta said things would have been much different had the state provided them training and relief package earlier.
Nepali Congress (NC) lawmaker Amaresh Singh said that there is a need to put pressure on the political leadership to address the demand of discharged Maoist soldiers. He argued that the issue of discharged soldiers is getting worse as none of the political leaders in power paid attention to their problem on time.
Senior advocate Ekraj Bhandari warned that the discharged child soldiers, who are now without any means of livelihood, could serve as a spark for afresh conflict in the country. He urged the government to address their genuine demands to save their regime.
Speaking on the occasion, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Anup Raj Upadhyaya argued that it is better to solve the issue at the domestic level rather than knocking the doors of international agencies. The issue of child soldiers could still be resolved through the mechanisms of transitional justice or through certain cabinet decision, he said.