Why Revolution Is Good for the Children of Nepal
Revolutionary Worker #1185, February 2, 2003
In recent months there has been a concerted
effort in the press to attack the People's War in Nepal for
so-called "human rights violations against children." Nepalese
officials, newspapers in Nepal and internationally, and various
human rights organizations claim the insurgency is responsible
for the deaths of many children in Nepal and accuse the Maoists
of "recruiting child soldiers" and using children as "human
shields." There have also been widespread reports that thousands
of youth have been fleeing their homes in the countryside
allegedly to avoid being "press ganged" into the People's
A report by the Child Workers in Nepal Concerned
Center (CWIN), widely cited in the press, asserts that: "the
death toll for children under 16 has reached 96 as a consequence
of the war between the Maoists and the government" and "nearly
3,000 children have been displaced from their homes and at
least 1,500 have been orphaned following the conflict."
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has
been waging armed struggle against the reactionary Nepalese
government since 1996 and has gained mass, popular support
throughout the country. The government admits the Maoists
now control huge areas of the countryside. And in the revolutionary
base areas where the Maoists have control, poor peasants are
administering a "new people's power" which carries out land
reform and gives women, minorities and lower castes equal
This is a genuine struggle for liberation.
But the government has tried to paint the Maoists in Nepal
as "terrorists." And in the name of "fighting the worldwide
war on terrorism," a number of countries, including the U.S.,
UK, India, China, Russia and Belgium, have given Nepal's government
political and military support for its fight against the Maoists.
With such international backing, the Royal Nepal Army has
stepped up its "search and destroy" campaigns in the countryside
and thousands of people have been killed, arrested, tortured
and jailed. All kinds of constitutional rights have been suspended.
And the government has instituted widespread censorship of
the press and a massive disinformation campaign. The recent
spate of reports about "Maoists abusing children" must be
seen as part of such dishonest efforts aimed at slandering
and discrediting the People's War.
Who is Killing
the Children in Nepal?
"In January of 1996 I was reading in class
9 and the police came to my village to arrest those who were
doing a cultural program in our school. Our teachers were
arrested, and my father and my uncle had already joined the
party and had gone underground. 500 police raided our village
and arrested just about everyone--even the children and old
people. My mother was arrested and I was also arrested and
kept in custody. There was so much repression by the police,
so I joined the cultural team of the party. And because of
the exploitation and oppression of the poor masses, and especially
that suffered by women, I was inspired to find a way to free
the masses from such a situation. I found this was being done
by the CPN (Maoist) so I joined the party."
woman guerrilla interviewed in
Dispatches:Report from the People's War in Nepal
Along the paths in the guerrilla zones there
are many memorials built to revolutionary martyrs who have
been killed by the police. We stop to rest at one small stone
monument under a tree dedicated to Dilbahadur Ramtel. A district
party leader had told me about how this young boy had died:
"The repression was very heavy in the
weeks after the initiation and people had to stay hidden in
supporters' houses. Up to the end of February, no one was
killed. But about three dozen people had been arrested. Then
on February 27, the police went to arrest the headmaster in
one village. The students opposed this and Dilbahadur Ramtel,
an 11-year-old, lower caste boy was killed. He was in the
fourth grade when he died and became the first martyr of the
Dispatches: Report from the People's War in Nepal
When I read the news articles about "children
being killed and orphaned" by the Maoist insurgency, I can't
help but remember the stories I heard when I traveled into
the guerrilla zones in 1996. I interviewed many young members
of the people's army who told me how they had taken up arms
against the government after witnessing their fathers, uncles,
mothers and brothers killed, tortured and taken away by the
police. And the numbers of people murdered and brutalized
by government forces has grown by leaps and bounds in the
years since my trip.
Recent articles about "children being harmed
by the Maoists" assert statistics like: "168 children have
been killed in the Maoist insurrection."
Such reports don't actually say these children
have been killed by the Maoists. In fact, it is the Nepalese
government that has been killing thousands of people in Nepal,
including many children. And this has been even more so since
November 2001, when the Royal Nepal Army was fully unleashed
against the People's War.
It has been widely reported that by December
2002, more than 7,000 people had died in the conflict between
government forces and Maoist guerrillas--and that over 4,000
of these deaths have occurred since November 2002. The vast
majority of these deaths have been at the hand of the police
and RNA soldiers. Government sources say that of the 4,366
people killed since November 2002, 4,050 were Maoists. But
as many human rights groups have pointed out, most of these
victims were civilians targeted for their real or perceived
support for the Maoists. Human Rights Watch reported that
in the first few months after a State of Emergency was declared
in November 2001, over 1,300 "suspected Maoists," including
"civilians once associated with Maoists as well as those possessing
Maoist literature," had been killed by government security
In other words, more people have been killed
by the police and RNA in the last year than the total number
killed in the first five years of the insurgency.
Those making the argument that the "Maoists
are killing children" conveniently fail to mention that even
those human rights groups who are reporting that "168 children
have been killed in the Maoist insurgency" also report that
government forces have unjustly killed many people, including
children, using the pretest of "skirmishes" or "encounters"
with rebel forces.
Many human rights groups, either consciously
or not, help spread disinformation and confusion about the
situation in Nepal by "evenly" criticizing the government
and the Maoists for "human rights violations"--even though
by their own statistics, the overwhelming majority of those
killed have been at the hands of government forces. But these
groups do cite and chronicle many cases in which the state
has killed children accused of supporting the Maoists. And
they have also reported on the abuse of children held in jails
on suspicion of being rebel soldiers.
One RNA officer admitted that in the heat
of battle, government soldiers rarely distinguish between
men, women or children. One army captain told a reporter,
"Anyone with a gun is an enemy."
A Killer System
"I heard one story where a man had been
working as a bonded laborer for 50 years. He had been stolen
from his family when he was only 9 years old and was sold
to the landlord for 20 kilograms of millet. The party led
nearly 1,000 people to go to the landlord and hold a mass
meeting. The mass revolutionary organizations exposed the
kind of exploitation done by this landlord and called on the
people to take mass action. The people demanded that the landlord
either pay the man for 50 years of labor or give him property
as if he were his son. The landlord accepted the second proposal
and was forced to give up 0.8 hectares of land and about 400,000
Dispatches: Report from the People's War in Nepal
If people want to talk about the plight of
children in Nepal--they need to look at the whole semi-feudal
and capitalistic system under which millions of children live
in deep poverty and brutal servitude.
Take this one example: In Nepal, there are
32,000 child laborers working in 1,600 stone quarries. Almost
half of these children fall ill soon after starting to work
and regularly suffer from coughs, backache, fever, visual
impairment, and joint and muscle pain. Almost all of them
have had accidents and injuries while working to excavate
and extract stones and boulders from quarries, or loading
goods on trucks or while crushing boulders into gravel.
One news article recounted the story of a
13-year-old boy who goes to school in the morning and on the
way home stops at a quarry site and starts crushing stones
for hours. He earns between 20 and 30 rupees a day (less than
50 cents), which he says helps his family of five survive.
A nationwide study by Tribhuvan University
in Kathmandu reported that more than 27% of the children in
Nepal--some 2.6 million children--work as child laborers and
that 60% of these children are between 6 and 14 years old.
Almost one million are working without pay and many are working
as bonded laborers (forced to work for an employer for a specific
period of time, without any rights).
Deep poverty is also responsible for the
suffering of millions of children in Nepal. It is estimated
that 50% of the children in Nepal are afflicted by malnutrition.
And because of the lack of clean water, sanitary conditions,
and health are in the countryside, many children die of common
When I traveled through Rolpa in the Western
Region of Nepal there was a major flu epidemic that had struck
over 10,000 people and killed more than 400. If you got this
kind of flu in the U.S., it might mean a few days off from
work or school. But in Nepal the common flu means death for
many older people and young children.
These conditions of poverty and exploitation
are rooted in the semi-feudal, capitalist system in Nepal--the
whole setup the Maoist revolution is aimed at overthrowing.
Schools of Warfare
The vision and program of the Maoists has
appealed to millions of youth in Nepal, who face deep poverty
and unemployment. And the People's Liberation Army has attracted
thousands of young people who are looking for a way to change
I met many young women who fled arranged
marriages and oppressive feudal traditions to join the people's
army. And I met many party leaders and members of the people's
army who first got involved as students. Many times they had
worked as student organizers in the city. But after they were
targeted by the government and forced to go underground, they
went to the countryside and joined the people's army. I also
met many fighters in the People's War who were teachers.
Contrary to the view that the Maoist revolution
in Nepal is "depriving children of an education," the truth
is that the People's War has mobilized millions of students
to fight not only for a better education--but a better society
for all the people.
The Maoist student group, the All Nepal National
Independent Students' Union-Revolutionary (ANNISU-R), has
put forward these demands: that the government provide free
and relevant education for the masses of poor children, that
schools stop forcing kids to learn the old, arcane Sanskrit
language, that private schools slash their fees by 50% or
close, and that the government abolish the "commercialization
and privatization" of education. ANNISU-R has led many mass
strikes around these demands, closing schools around the country
When I was in Nepal, I heard stories of how
corrupt and irresponsible teachers were "supervised" by the
new people's power. Teachers who were collecting pay but not
teaching were ordered to either show up and teach the students
or forfeit their pay to the revolution.
In many cases, in areas where the Maoists
have gained control, reactionary teachers have fled, causing
government schools to close. And because of this, the Maoists
are accused of "closing down schools" and "depriving children
of an education." But the real deal is that the Maoists are
uniting millions of youth to rebel against the inadequate,
irrelevant and unequal educational system. And in the revolutionary
base areas, new schools are being built and the Maoist youth
are putting into practice their vision of a new revolutionary
education that "serves the people."
I had the opportunity to interview Krishna
Duoj Khadka, who at the time I was in Nepal, was the President
of ANNISU-R. He explained the aims of his group and why they
support the People's War:
"The educational system is a feudal system
of education and is not productive, not useful to the people.
Many people are not getting an education--which is expensive,
privatized, and inaccessible to common children. There is
unequal education but equal competition. Good education is
accessible only to the elite and ruling classes and the educational
system reflects a feudal and imperialist culture... We can't
solve the people's problems through reforms and need drastic,
total change, which can only be solved in a new democratic
system. For that, we support the people's war. In the long
term we see establishing a new people's educational system
where there is opportunity for everyone.
"Education should be compulsory, scientific
and accessible. People should be able to get jobs. Education
should have a good link with the production system; there
should be no foreign intervention in the educational system
and it should be oriented in such a way that students come
to know the world and the people of the world. Education should
not be a commodity, it is a right of the people. Education
should be free and compulsory. It should be oriented to different
nationalities and should promote feelings of love for the
nation. Policies should be made with and for the needs of
the people. There should be freedom in different academic
careers and freedom of speech. Students should have physical
labor as well... Feudal traditions prevail. Most parents don't
send daughters to school--there is over 40% illiteracy in
the countryside. A revolutionary program for education will
have a regional balance in education and facilities for education
for indigenous children and women."
Hopeof the Youth
"The youth were looking for a revolutionary
party--looking to see which one will lead the way to solve
the people's problems. And the party analyzed this situation
and gave a revolutionary program to the young generation.
The common interests were joined between the party and the
of the party's Central Committee and Politbureau talking about
the start of the People's War
From Dispatches: Report from the People's War in Nepal
"Eight-year-old Tanka sang two songs for
us. The first he wrote himself. It tells of how his father,
Tirtha Gautam, was killed in the raid on the Bethan police
post... The second song is sung to the tune of a Nepali folk
song, but Tanka has inserted new lyrics. He sings about the
police and the repression the people face and then declares
that the people's answer to all this is, `Give us the gun
of Gautam,' referring to his martyred father."
Dispatches: Report from the People's War in Nepal
In Nepal, over 90% of the people live in
the countryside as poor peasants. Out of the country's 23
million people, almost 11 million are children under 16 years
old. Many of these children have witnessed the brutal actions
of the government. They have seen the police and RNA soldiers
come into their villages, round people up, rape the women,
take off their fathers, uncles and brothers. They have seen
men and women in the village shot in cold blood, accused of
being "Maoist sympathizers."
Millions of people in the countryside actively
support the People's War and even very young children have
a basic understanding that this revolution is fighting against
those who are killing and torturing the people--and many of
them can't wait to join the People's Liberation Army.
The official policy of the CPN (Maoist) is
that no one under the age of 18 is allowed to join the People's
Liberation Army. And thousands of minors who have responded
to recruitment calls have been told they cannot yet join the
PLA and people's militias.
At the same time, the CPN (Maoist) organize
youth under 18 to support the People's War in many other ways.
An article in The Worker (an official publication of
the CPN [Maoist]), says: "While they have been strictly forbidden
to join people's armed force, they [minors] have been organized
under `Akhil Bal Sangathan' a children's organization which
takes care of the overall development of children, including
their right to express their solidarity to what they consider
is good, including the People's War..."
The present economic and political system
in Nepal offers no real future to the youth. Millions of kids
live in poverty and malnutrition, trying to eke out a living
with their parents on small plots of land. Many end up working
in sweatshops in Kathmandu or India for almost nothing. Young
women face arranged marriages and gross inequality--many end
up sold to brothels in India.
The People's War is offering another future
to the youth of Nepal--to participate in the fight to overthrow
an oppressive system and build a new and liberating society.
This vision is guiding the People's Army and the mass organizations
of peasants, students, women and children. And in huge areas
of Nepal's countryside where the Maoists have base areas,
this vision is already being put into practice as the masses
form and begin to run new revolutionary governments.
The People's War in Nepal is a popular revolution
that has the support of the masses of people, including millions
of children and youth. This revolution cannot help but fire
the imagination of millions of children and teenagers. And
the chances of this revolution winning are certainly strengthened
by the courage and energy of the next generation of revolutionary
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolution
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