National Geographic : 2005 Nov
Rebels may control the high ground near Turmakhad, but Maoist domination of all Nepal appears unlikely. A vicious military stalemate has taken hold, andfor many Nepalis,peace is now the most revo lutionaryidea of all. which estimates that 418 Nepalis disappeared in the year following the breakdown of the last cease-fire in August 2003. More recently, secret detentions continue, and killings are on the rise. Soon after we reach Turmakhad, a group of rebels, including Ranju, arrives under the command of Comrade Bijay. Born in a village in Kali kot, Bijay had joined the Maoists when they were only a ragtag band of a few hundred. Now he's vice commander of the 31st Battalion and veteran of a dozen encounters with government forces. "We started with sticks and muskets," he says. "We took on the police, and then the army. Nobody thought we could succeed. But we have." When I ask if he's ever been to Kathmandu, the ultimate goal of the insurrection, a slow smile spreads across his face. "Not yet." Each soldier in Bijay's unit receives a small allowance and clothing, like Chinese sneakers bought in bulk in government-controlled towns. Their guns have been captured from government forces: British .303s, some pre World War I,but all in perfect working order. "My job," Bijay says, "is to kill a soldier, grab his weapon, and use it against others. India has just given Nepal 20,000 rifles. Soon they will be with me." More modern weapons, including M 6s and heavy machine guns, are shared out for attacks. I saw no instances of Maoists using arms acquired outside Nepal.