Maoist war ends in Nepal, other battles begin
Ethnic groups in Nepal are beginning their battles, calling seven shutdowns to pressure the Govt into conceding their demands.Updated: Feb 13, 2007 12:23 IST
Nepal's Maoist chief Prachanda will on Tuesday lead a victory march in the capital to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the 'People's War' and his once outlawed party's inching to power.
But peace continues to be elusive with ethnic groups now calling for shutdowns to get their demands met.
Though the Maoists' guerrilla war, started this day 11 years ago with an attack on a police post, has ended with the rebels laying down arms under UN supervision, the beleaguered Himalayan kingdom is yet to live in peace.
From Thursday, ethnic groups are beginning their battles, calling seven shutdowns to pressure the government into conceding their demands.
Nearly 60 groups of Adivasis - communities who were the original inhabitants of Nepal but were later displaced - and Janajatis - communities with their own language and culture who remain underdeveloped due to lack of government policies - have called a shutdown of Kathmandu valley on Thursday.
Led by the Adivasi Janajati Mahasangh, the new rebels launched their protest in the capital on Monday by flashing khukuris - the legendary dagger used by Nepal's famed Gorkha soldiers.
"This time the khukuris were made of paper," says Raj Kumar Lekhi, general secretary of the Tharu Kalyankarni Sabha, one of the partners.
"But if our oppression continues, some of us are likely to take up real arms against the government."
The Tharus were the original inhabitant of the Terai plains in southern Nepal, who fought with malaria and other epidemics to carve out an agricultural tract.
Some Tharu scholars say the Buddha, Nepal's best-loved icon, was a Tharu.
But when the plains were deluged from people from the hills as well as neighbouring India, the Tharus became landless and forced into slavery.
Though the government abolished the slavery system - known as kamaiya - on paper, it still continues with Tharus selling their children into bondage.
The Tharus were once the most ardent Maoist supporters, attracted by the communists' slogan for an equal republic.
"At least 700 Tharus died during the decade-old People's War," says Lekhi.
"But we find their slogans false. They simply exploited us. The Maoist leadership has done nothing to correct the Tharus' exploitation."
Besides the Tharus, the protesters include other backward communities like the Tamangs and Magars, also among the most exploited.
Tamang women form the bulk of victims trafficked to India and abroad and sold into prostitution.
Besides the Kathmandu valley shutdown, Lekhi's people have called a Tharuwat strike on the same day, covering all the southern districts from east to west.
After that, the Mahasangh has called five more shutdowns in Nepal's five development regions, to culminate in a Nepal closure on February 28.
"We want to resolve our problems through talks in a peaceful manner," said Pasang Sherpa, president of the Mahasangh.
"But the government, instead of addressing all problems together is trying to do it on an ad hoc basis.
"So the moment they solve one problem, another erupts."
First Published: Feb 13, 2007 12:20 IST