A chapamaar’s peace

Nishana, a 27-year-old platoon commander of the Maoist People's Liberation Army (PLA), looked just like any other Nepali mother as she played with her three-year-old son in the open space in front of her family's small hut in a cantonment in Dasharatapur of Surkhet District. Since the formal end of the decade-long conflict in 2006, all Maoist combatants are supposed to be housed in seven major (and 21 satellite) temporary UN-overseen camps spread throughout the country. And there some 20,000 individuals have languished ever since, as political machinations have ground on in Kathmandu as politicians wrangle over what to do with them. Even as frustration levels within the cantonments continue to rise, however, the debate remains one of the most explosive in Nepal's ongoing peace process.

Either way, cantonment life would seem good in comparison to the ten years of warfare that preceded it. And this would certainly be just as true for the roughly 3000 to 4000 women combatants, as well. Nishana can be counted as one of the lucky female fighters, simply for having survived both the battles and the harsh jungle life of the insurgency period; for 10 years, death had been merely a part of life. The past two and a half years, then, have been a significant turnaround. For several months now, the sight of women combatants carrying babies has become a common one in every cantonment, to the extent that a Maoist 'baby boom' has been widely discussed. Although there is no exact data on the number of children in the cantonments, it is estimated that there are between 800 and 1000 mothers in the cantonments, each with at least one small child in tow.

Loading content, please wait...
Himal Southasian