by Sudeshna Sarkar, NewKarala.com
Kathmandu, Feb 10 : Seven young men, who had been discharged from the Maoist party’s guerrilla army after a UN verification said their recruitment was illegal, attacked an office of the world organisation in farwestern Nepal, injuring two guards, vandalising vehicles and smashing window panes, police said.
Led by Chandra Singh Khanal, the group attacked the UN office in Hasanpur village in remote Dhangadi district Wednesday, demanding food and shelter.
The UN, supported by European governments, has been offering vocational training to former Maoists who were discharged from the People’s Liberation Army last year after they were found to have been recruited in violation of international norms.
Of the over 4,000 discharged fighters, about 3,000 had been child fighters. The remaining were inducted after the Maoists signed a peace accord in 2006, ending a decade of armed insurrection that had killed more than 16,000 people.
Due to disagreements between the Maoists and the government, there has been no serious effort by the state to rehabilitate the discharged fighters, who say they are still regarded as outlaws by society and unable to get jobs or education.
The discharge from the PLA came as a blow for the group who had been hoping that they too, like their nearly 20,000 fellow fighters who were certified bona fide recruits by the UN, would be inducted into the state security forces.
Many of them now bitterly complain of social ostracisation, grinding poverty and neglect by the state.
Only a few have gone back to school and a few more are receiving vocational training. Many are seeking to go abroad in search of blue-collar jobs in the Gulf countries while the rest lament they are struggling to start small businesses or shops due to lack of capital.
The UN office in Hasanpur was reported to be offering mobile telephone repair training to some of the discharged fighters.
However, around noon Wednesday, they stormed the office, demanding food as well as a place where they could stay.
Police said all seven have been arrested.
The attack comes even as the bona fide PLA fighters also remain a potential power keg for the nascent republic.
Even five years after signing the peace accord, a series of governments failed to discharge and rehabilitate them.
This month, communist leader Jhala Nath Khanal became the new prime minister of Nepal after he promised the Maoists that a new security force would be formed to accommodate the 20,000 fighters.
While the agreement is being opposed by Khanal’s own party as well as other major parties, the fate of the fighters became shrouded in further uncertainty Thursday after the Maoists decided not to join the new government due to a power-sharing row.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)