DANG, Nov 3: Khushi Ram Chaudhary was only 15 years old when he joined the then Maoist Army in 2005. Leaders of the rebel army had tempted him to join the force by promising that he would eventually be enrolled in the Nepal Army if he fights for them.
Following the peace accord in 2006, the former Maoist child militia was deemed unsuitable to be a part of the Nepal Army by United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) due to the age factor. This shattered his dream of serving the country by being a part of the Nepal Army.
“Maoist leaders made a fake promise to tempt me to be a part of the rebellion. I went through lots of difficulties, but realized too late that it was all in vain,” said Chaudhary, a local of Bijauri in Dang district. He now helps his family in agriculture after returning from Maoist cantonment in Dahaban of Rolpa district.
Despite all the sacrifices, Chaudhary said he has received only Rs 10,000 for the service and is utterly disappointed. “I sacrificed a lot by joining the Maoist Army. But all I got was Rs 10,000 as 'travelling expenses' to return home,” he said.
“Among many things, my education also got ruined. I was studying in grade 7 before I left studies to join the Maoist militia,” he added.
According to Chaudhary, various ideologies floated by the then Maoists had made him believe that he did the right thing by fighting for them. “We were told that we are fighting to bring a huge change in our society. They said their fight would help diminish the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and end various kinds of discrimination. Along with the promise of being a part of Nepal Army, many of such promises remain unfulfilled.”
Chaudhary also shared difficulties to integrate with his society after returning home from the cantonment. “Trying to be a part of the same community was one of the hardest things I ever faced. I think some people would still look at me as a Maoist combatant, which is a totally wrong perception now,” he said.
Another former child Maoist combatant, requesting anonymity, also said joining the Maoist Army was the most regrettable decision she ever made. “Many children like me were brainwashed to join the rebellion. At the end, our dreams remained unfulfilled and we realized that all the promises Maoist leaders made were just words,” said a local of Laxmipur in Dang, adding that all she ever got was Rs 10,000 while returning home after being disqualified.
Members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) also expressed serious disappointment for not raising voices in support of the former child militias. Dr Madhavi Bhatta, spokesperson for the TRC, said that the TRC itself has failed to speak for them.
Bhatta said there is a strong need for proper action plan to address the problems of former child Maoist combatants. She also warned that failure to address their problems could lead to further problems.