WASHINGTON DC, Aug 7, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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A South Asia Tribune Correspondent Visits Area

A Maoist rebel guards a road, Below: Temple in Dharchula

Maoist Rebels Running Parallel Governments on India-Nepal Border

By Arun Rajnath

DHARCHULA, India/DARCHULA, Nepal, August 7: The Indo-Nepali Maoist rebels in the border areas of the hilly State of Uttaranchal and Nepal have paralyzed the local administrations and rebels are running parallel governments in the rural and inaccessible areas of Indo-Nepal border with the help of their international accomplices.

A senior Nepali rebel leader, who has crossed over to Uttaranchal in the wake of crackdown on rebels after King Gyanendra toppled the Deuba Government, told the South Asia Tribune in Dharchula that the Maoist leaders of the region have established a parallel system of ‘administration’.

A detailed visit to the area by this correspondent revealed that the rebels are collecting taxes from businessmen and holding (public court hearings) in the rural areas to sort out local disputes. They have also promulgated ‘Dress Codes’ for the students studying in government schools. This correspondent also visited Darchula in Nepal.

Camera and communication devices were officially not permitted beyond Pithoragarh. Along with a senior Maoist intellectual I met a Nepali Maoist leader, who is badly wanted by the two countries, in Dharchula. He took us through the sensitive border areas of Darchula, Baitadi, Dadeldhura, Bajhang, etc in Nepal. There is no topographic difference between the regions of India and Nepal and it is very easy to cross over.

The rebel leader told the South Asia Tribune in a recorded conversation: “People strolling in the corridors of power propagate that locals follow us out of fear. But this is not true. You will see with your own eyes what influence we have in the whole region of Dharchula and Darchula.”

“The whole region is very backward with no minimum amenity required by human beings, including medical treatment, etc. The affluent people settled down here from the plains are exploiting rural people. Government officials also exploit them. We want to stop this. We have almost liberated the Nepali Darchula, and we would do the same in this side of Dharchula also,” he said.

The 10th Battalion of Indian para-military force Indo-Tibetan Border Police is stationed at Pithoragarh to assist local police and administration, but they are not well versed with the forest. Similarly, their counterparts on the other side often cross over at nights to protect themselves from the onslaughts of the Maoist rebels.

The town of Dharchula, in India, is divided by River Kali from Darchula in Nepal and both towns are connected by a suspension bridge. It is easy to cross the river at various points, nevertheless, people can legally cross River Kali through the suspension bridge from 8 am to 6 pm.

The rebels are also carrying out social activities. They are training men and women in first aid medical treatment, as there is a tremendous lack of medical facilities in remote hilly areas. The rebels have banned liquor and use of narcotics.

One of their main supporters are the ‘Rajbhars’, traditional tribal community that have been pushed out of their natural habitation forest in the name of development. They are among the poorest community of India. They mainly reside in the villages of Pithoragarh, Champawat, Dharchula, Munsyari and some pockets of Darchula, Accham, etc of Western Nepal.

Dharchula is one of the regions that have the most enchanting hills and mountains. It is on the way to Kailash-Mansarovar in Tibet. Pilgrims trek through Dharchula to Pangu-Sirkha-Galgad-Malpa-Budhi-Gunji-Kutti-Jollinkong-Kailash.

It is the safest hideout of rebels after the Northeastern States of India and it is strategically located with Nepal. All the 13 districts, viz. Almora, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Champawat, Dehradun (Capital), Haridwar, Nainital, Pauri Garhwal, Pithoragarh, Rudraprayag, Tehri Garhwal, Udham Singh Nagar and Uttarkashi are under the influence of Maoists.

The whole state has the area of 55, 845 sq.km. Hill area is 92.57 per cent and plain area is 7.43 per cent. Area covered by forest is 63 per cent. This is the reason why the Maoist rebels have made it their base to launch operations in Nepal. Some of the areas are virtually inaccessible for the security forces, as they have no idea of the forests and hilly terrains.

Rajbhars are the most backward community in Uttaranchal. They are an indigenous, ethnic minority community (scheduled tribe, previously primitive tribe) presently inhabiting around 11 villages in the districts of Pithoragarh, Champawat and Udham Singh Nagar in Uttaranchal. And some pockets of western Nepal.

The community is marked by the highest per centage of illiteracy (16.66 per cent among females, and 35.06 per cent among males). There is a phenomenon about this community that Rajbhars are susceptible to diseases and they have very low power of resistance. Almost the entire population falls below the poverty line, with an estimated average annual family income of just Rs 6,274.60. Most Rajbhars could manage only one square meal a day.

This is the reason why they find work as casual laborers, or work on other people's farms and become subject to exploitation. Government interventions in health and education have all but failed, as the policies adopted a top-down approach, with hardly any community involvement.

Their economy is dependent mostly on wage labor (50.46 per cent), and on the forests, access to which is decreasing at a sustained rate of 27.78 per cent every year. 11.38 per cent of Rajbhars are landless. Some of them have marginal land holdings.

The area inhabited by Rajbhars is topographically one of the most vulnerable zones in the country, with the occurrence of landslides every monsoon (when many deaths are reported), difficult and almost inaccessible regions where there are no roads.

The Rajbhars enjoy full support of the Maoist rebels in the region, and some of them provide shelter and food to them. They also work as informers. Medical facilities are also in a pathetic condition, and Maoists are trying to train some of the locals how to provide first aid assistance to a wounded person. Some women experts also train womenfolk in how to take care of pregnant women till she gets medical help. Thus they are carrying out a sort of welfare programs also.

Though the Maoist rebel leader did not show us the points at the Indo-Nepal border from where arms are being smuggled into India, yet they confirmed that the arms are usually Chinese and Russian made. He, however, took us to Darchula from a point from where anyone could easily cross over without being spotted by the Indian security forces.

The rebel said: “Usually we get arms through Nepal and sometimes through Tibet, but our main procurer are ULFA and LTTE.”

When asked from where do the ULFA and LTTE get arms the rebel leader said: “There are so many arms dealer all over the world. They are sitting in China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and even in India. I am not in the position to say much on this subject.”

The rebel leader took us to some of the villages in Darchula where Maoist rebels have imposed dress code for the students of Nepali schools. He said: “Similar dress code will also be imposed in Dharchula in India by the next session. I know that the teachers and other staff in Dharchula have been alerted by the government, but we would handle it as we are getting support from the locals.”

Nepali schools have begun to follow the dress code. Now the children are wearing black knickers and red shirts in place of government dress blue knickers and white shirts.

The rebel leader claimed: “We have paralyzed the local administration in the whole region of Dharchula-Darchula. Our comrades are holding public trials in the side of villages like here in Darchula to solve the disputes. Next time we will impose other directives like dress code in Indian schools. Let us see what the Uttaranchal government has for us in its store!”

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