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Disgruntled ex-Maoist child soldiers padlock party office

- Pratichya Dulal, Kathmandu

Nov 8, 2016-

Former Maoist child soldiers, discontent with the party for discarding them unceremoniously during the peace process, padlocked the CPN (Maoist Centre) office on Monday demanding their proper rehabilitation. Seven Maoist leaders were still trapped in the office as the Post went to press.

United as the Discharged People’s Liberation Army Struggle Committee, the former minor fighters say they will continue to padlock the central office until the party, which leads the government, starts implementing the agreements reached with them in the past.

Headquarters member Hitman Shakya and Maoist leaders Shriram Dhakal, Shriram Adhikari, Prakash Pokhrel, Balram Timalsina and Rajan Parajuli said they were unable to leave the office as its main door remained padlocked.

Lenin Bista, who heads the struggle committee, said: “We lost our childhood fighting for the party. Now our leaders enjoy the power while we are left to struggle for a living.”

The UN Mission in Nepal had disqualified 4,008 soldiers of the then rebel CPN (Maoist) army as minors, and as late recruits. During the verification that ended in December 2007, it was found that 2,972 guerrillas were minors, while 1,036 were recruited after the peace accord was signed in 2006.

However, the Maoist leadership delayed their release. The “disqualified” child soldiers spent three years in different cantonments in the hope of a rehabilitation package.

“We are a young and strong force that has the experience of using weapons. But our strength has not been properly channelled,” said Bista, adding that they wanted treatment specified by national and international laws related to child soldiers.

Nepal is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. They want prosecution of the state and the rebel parties for recruiting child soldiers during the insurgency and treating the discharged minors as the Maoist ‘People’s Liberation Army’.

The former child fighters also have an issue with the ‘disqualified’ tag attached to them, which they want removed.

Most of the former child combatants are in their 20s now, some struggling to raise their babies. “My biggest mistake was to quit school to join the PLA. Without proper qualification I have no prospect of a good job,” said Manu BK, who was 15 when she joined the Maoist army. She is now 26 and a mother of two children aged seven and two.

Her husband, also a disqualified combatant, left for Qatar two years ago after failing to find a job with an acceptable income.

The Maoist leadership, stating that the party does not have the resource to address their demands, has asked them to wait for the court’s verdict.

“The budget for the fiscal year earmarked Rs200,000 for each of the former child soldiers. Unfortunately, a writ has been filed against the provision,” said Pampha Bhusal, the Maoist spokesperson.

Published: 08-11-2016 08:17

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