Maoist supporters at a rally in Kathmandu Subhakar, June 2, 2006 (Photo: Subhakar)

Maoist supporters at a rally in Kathmandu Subhakar, June 2, 2006 (Photo: Subhakar)

A deathly internecine warfare imploded in a land where a common first name is Love (Prem and Maya), or a variation such as Flower Love (Phulmaya) and Heart Love (Dilmaya), and upwards of 15,000 people were killed as Nepal turned on itself for a decade. The term Maoist elicits a visceral, negative reaction in most people and the rebels became an easy target for the media and commentators. Nepal’s insurgents neither intended this nor to convey an image of platoons of Che Guevera lookalikes, flowing hair under red-star berets led by legions of Mao Zedong facsimiles in collarless, dull jackets.

They are radically typical Nepali hills people, as pleasant as anyone across rural Nepal, a country legendary for hospitality. They waged a ten-year revolution (1996-2006) foremost against apartheid (despite names of factions and supplementary rhetoric); in other words, stratification along ethnic lines, and endemic corruption.

The rebels chose an inflammatory title that brought international powerhouses of the UK, USA, China and India against them in support of a reviled king and the autocratic rulers who for centuries have impoverished Nepal financially and morally.

Unfavorable reports about the Maoists came in from around the globe. Did they deserve it? The reality that I personally experienced is different than what I read. My story was gathered from visits to actual combat grounds and complemented by former rebel commanders (one a member of parliament, another became Nepal’s female Youth and Sports Minister), guerrillas, spies, weapons makers, medical staff and police and army personnel.

Of course, to spend time with any group is to be exposed to their views and risk being influenced by biases. Such are the odds in my case. I have attempted to view the facts as impartially as possible (that said, not one of the Maoists engaged me in political discourse. They never broached the subject; only a few Nepali acquaintances in Kathmandu and nearly all foreigners, no matter how briefly they have been in Nepal, take up the subject). This is a lightning rod subject that has a tendency to be manipulated by sound bite redux. As eminent mathematician John von Nuemann aptly stated, “truth is much too complicated to allow anything but approximations” and such might be the case with this war, its precursors and aftermath.

Apartheid

The subterfuge of Nepal’s political backdrop is well camouflaged. Caste supremacists often mislead the uninformed, including aid workers from abroad and some of them tend to make Nepal an amusement park while only scratching the surface of its culture, if that. Because of ignorance of the ground reality, the top-heavy foreign ‘aid’ paradigm often engenders more problems than it solves and tends to have the opposite effect on development while reinforcing corruption and the sense of entitlement by caste chauvinists in disguise.

Supremacist rulers are behind the enduring underdevelopment and poverty of Nepal; they have control of all sectors and also profit from unwitting aid agencies patronizing them while they siphon off funds to support a lifestyle denied to the general people. Foreign aid specialists might be appalled if the veil was lifted to reveal that they are being hoodwinked by the extreme right wing of the polity.

Caste elitists outwardly argue that education sets them apart and elevates their customs, culture and preferences. The lower social strata just need education, and the lack thereof is holding them back from rising to higher levels. This misdirection underpins a sense of superiority that pervades the upper echelon, many of whom truly believe they were born with better genetic material (yet these lackluster, self-anointed chosen ones have nothing to show for centuries of mis-governance and much of which to be ashamed).

The educational system is appallingly biased in favor of upper caste Aryans, namely Brahmin and Chhetri. The makers of the textbooks and teaching materials, exams, educational structure and methodology as well as the teachers and school administrators themselves are dominated by the privileged ruling class. They tend to score higher (with abundant cheating) in Nepal’s shoddy education paradigm, a relatively innocuous fact; if it weren’t that these test results are the basis for favoritism in filling the bureaucratic, academic, military, and business ranks as well as administrative positions with NGOs and INGOs. Flouting misleading school performance, the ruling elite justifies casteism.

Foreign officials are especially gullible to the specious education argument and unsuspectingly jump into bed with supremacists who espouse it. Having infiltrated the highest positions in society, their privileged rank is used to an advantage while plaintively pitching justifications to unknowing expatriates. They define the prevailing circumstances to their favor and are copiously rewarded.

Aid workers at the helm of large funds often understand strikingly little about Nepal and most of their exposure is with the higher social strata and its limited perspectives and vested interests and thereby, the foreigners are vulnerable to partisan influence. They inadvertently patronize the extreme right wing. The two groups form unholy social alliances, frequenting the same bars, spas, restaurants, hotels and haute culture events, not to mention the official day to day interactions and endless meetings where behind closed doors these well-paid comrades discuss Nepal’s situation from a biased viewpoint and decide in what direction to release funds. Unsurprisingly, money gets siphoned off to preferentially selected groups, usually with family connections with advisors getting kickbacks.

As for the media, it is centered around power and Nepal’s Maoists had little clout or support, especially with foreign journalists, while, in-country, English language media-houses are owned and operated by families of high rank, arch-adversaries of the plebs. They have the printed and social power to influence the aid and diplomatic clique into believing what they were already inclined to believe, that a group by the name Maoist deserves to be crushed without mercy.

The  International Criminal Court  defines the crime of apartheid as “systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Foremost, the Maoists led a rebellion against deep-rooted apartheid (despite names of factions and supplementary rhetoric and aspirations); in other words, cleavage, segregation and discrimination based on ethnic lines and the corruption that permeated the ruling ranks.

If supremacist leaders, had not squandered centuries of misrule with unrelenting incompetence, exploitation and subjugation (continuing to a large degree today in the bureaucratic ranks) that did much for themselves but shamefully devastated Nepal, then there would have been no possibility to recruit congenial, resilient and passive people in the mid-hills and convince them that they were wronged. It took little convincing.

The slow simmering eruption was exacerbated during the panchayat era from the middle of last century when rulers reigned unhindered and their ad-hoc whims were tantamount to law. In the early 1990’s, there was hope for change at the advent of democracy. Ominously, the traditional rulers became more embedded and self-serving. At the time, Maoists politicians were blocked from government on trivialities and consequently boycotted polls. Operation Romeo (as in Montague of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) was initiated “to win the hearts and minds of the people”; the suitor chosen to do the courting, the Armed Police Force. Disobedience was quelled by thrashing dissenters into submission. The rebellion was thus sparked as a long compliant people finally fought back against the state and an autocratic ruling class.

Class Enemies

“Shit rolls downhill” goes the saying, and Nepal’s king and rulers had a toilet throne atop the world’s highest peak. Turds had nothing to do but trundle downhill creating an avalanche of excrement that bowled over the common people who eventually had enough and rose in fury.

The so-called ‘class enemy’ was the monarch and pampered elites with plenipotentiary powers. They ruled by hierarchical patronage; in other words, sucking up. How far up someone was on the social ladder was determined not by talent or merit, but birth and family relations. They are by and large Brahmin and Chhetri who make up over a third of Nepal’s population. Although, it must be kept in mind that many Brahmin and Chhetri were appalled at the uppity attitude of their leaders and the unjust situation that pervaded the state. Many were among those who felt persecuted and joined the rebellion against the corrupt patronage that has held Nepal back for ages.

For their part, Maoists mistakenly perceived the rest of the world as no better than their local ‘class enemies’ and grouped all together. Perhaps the error can be understood in context by looking at Nepal’s closest neighbor with similarities in culture, geography, religion and ideology. India is the so-called “largest democracy in the world” but with millennia-old social stratification and a disenfranchised ‘untouchable’ caste.

To their fault, Maoists did not realize that unjust social hierarchy in the Subcontinent backed by the state apparatus is a modern-day anomaly. At the time, the information age was still a distant reality in Nepal. China, although beyond the mighty Himalaya was the nearest available prototype of a caste-free society, democracy or otherwise, and taken as a role model for an egalitarian republic (overlooking brutal subjugation of Tibetans and their culture).

Foreign ‘Aid’

Unfortunately, external envoys to Nepal have done little virtue to the idea of impartiality. They have pandered in a highly partisan way to traditional leaders for political expediency. From the Maoist viewpoint, foreign diplomats were collaborating with the authoritarian, supremacist regime and in actuality, the foreigners’ political patronage was doing just that. Aggravating the issue, a glut of ‘aid’ agencies have doled out funds that to a large degree end up in the rulers’ back pockets (buttressing the already dominant far right of the polity) or expense accounts and salaries of ‘aid’ organizations themselves, rewarding ineptitude and malfeasance while the impoverished plumbed deeper suffering.

Aid programs have reinforced the elitists’ sense of entitlement to unmerited revenue. It was there for the taking with little accountability. Supervisors, unfamiliar with Nepal, get easily duped by smooth talk and high stakes shell games. Relative to the rest of Nepal, aid workers have a very extravagant lifestyle far removed from the people. They are led about in their offices, vehicles and social arenas by a partisan cohort with privileged access to them and their funds. The aid situation has abetted the polarization of society and agencies often hamper their very reason for existence, so-called development.

The donor mentality is such that many government agencies have grown resistant to proceed in their salaried work unless an ‘aid’ organization antes up extra funds. The state becomes in effect an intractable elephant on the roadway of progress, serving no function but refusing to budge unless rewarded for no reason other than leverage to allow passage. Thus, they can demand a prize or otherwise block enactment of a project. If and when money arrives to move the elephant out of the road above and beyond necessary sweeteners, it is likely to disappear rather than going to the intended target. This paradigm is the precise reverse of the Robin Hood legend, and in this case, the chronically poor get looted while the rulers procure a lifestyle stolen from the destitute public!

The bureaucratic ranks that run the day to day government operations are dominated by the highest rank of society. 90% are Brahmin, Chhetri and upper caste Newar. Nepal was 154th on Transparency International’s 2010 Perception of Corruption Index—on par with Zimbabwe, yet outshined by Pakistan and Syria! Bureaucrats serve as an active impediment to health and prosperity in Nepal. Regrettably, foreign diplomats, for political exigency if not ignorance, support or at least patronize them.

The rulers’ callous disregard for the impoverished people invited the opposition and thus, unethical traditional rulers share much of the blame for the revolt because of their interminable, deprived governance. Aside from the resources that have been pilfered, as far as countrywide wealth potential goes, Himalaya-fed rivers could be a clean source of hydroelectricity and riches for the entire nation, sometimes likened to Arabia’s oil. Nepal has two mammoth, willing and ready energy customers in their emerging economic-titan neighbors, India and China. Instead, bulging rivers remain untapped and even Kathmandu writhes under rolling blackouts and water shortages while its waterways have become repugnant sewers. All the while, short-sighted bureaucrats misappropriate money for their own family circle and friends, sending kids to schools abroad whereas the average school in Nepal lacks the minimum, basic resources and aid agencies trying to fill the void get poached, too. The few profit while the majority agonizes.

Mao is it?

Are the Maoists part of the problem or part of the solution? Many people around the world have been taught that Mao was a demon. Cultural and generational biases based on perception run deep. For some people, Che Guevara was a vicious killer and others a liberator. Nowadays, Guevara is ubiquitous as a handsome T-shirt image cum savior of many a young person’s fashion world. He has become an iconic pop-hero for perhaps unknown reasons, other than symbolizing an anti-establishment ethos despite a ruthless violent streak.

Supreme Leader Zedong is even reviled and ridiculed by a number of people in his own motherland for misguided policies that led to an untold number of deaths. His doctrine was anti-intellectual, of which Nepali’s Maoists are decidedly not, and if they were then they would lose star players, notably, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, whose nickname is “Always First” for his academic history.

Mao’s platitudes notwithstanding, the reason for the rebellion, more than anything, was releasing people from self-serving, politically protected authoritarians and casteism. Despite circumstances, how the war is perceived largely depends on the name Maoist and likely an involuntary reaction to it. Mao is not readily associated with self-determination movements and affiliations to him wrought a negative reflexive reaction. The inflammatory name made it impossible to convince outsiders of efforts to transform a polemically stratified society.

If Maoists had gone by another name, they might have found some empathy or at least a little more understanding. The world has shown itself ready and willing to support people taking a stand against arrogant authoritarians. Not only did the Maoists couple their fight against social injustice with a controversial character, they used over the top rhetoric which self-identified them as antagonists in foreign eyes and created a backlash. Perhaps the provocative name choice was to show they were not out to please anyone, least of all “western imperialists”, and in face of the facts, some leaders of the outside world have proven to be quite imperial.

Foreign Intervention

The US along with China, India, and the UK got into bed with the king to support his tyrannical rule and supplied weaponry and technology to the Royal Nepal Army. They unfailingly pledged allegiance and defence material to the monarch up until his attempt at a complete royal takeover in 2005, a year before the conflict ended. Regal fidelity is particularly puzzling for the US, which overthrew its own overbearing crown. Around 10,000 M-16 automatic rifles, ammunition and military consultants muddled US political backing with military support (but financially much less than the arms supplied by India, China or the UK; meanwhile the Maoists made due with primitive axes and knives, although a few had ancient muzzleloaders and even homemade firearms, and eventually they raided the state’s arms, too). “Light arms” are the flouted “Weapons of Mass Destruction” with an estimated 300,000 deaths annually worldwide from gunshot wounds (and over a million people maimed) according to the Small Arms Survey by a Geneva think-tank.

Incongruously, UN Security Council members dominate world arms transfers, over 75% going to developing nations and areas that are politically unstable and rank poorly in corruption indexes. Arms suppliers irresponsibly turn a blind eye. The United States is the foremost dealer, with deliveries valued at $8.6 billion in 2010, accounting for 39.2% of worldwide distribution to developing areas.

Former US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara confessed about US involvement in Vietnam, “We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why”. He was equally emphatic on Iraq: “It’s just wrong what we’re doing. It’s morally wrong, it’s politically wrong, it’s economically wrong.” These are not isolated cases of political and cultural illiteracy. Regrettably, from the author’s personal experience, most fellow US citizens do not even know names of leaders of Canada and Mexico, let alone demographics of these two closest neighbors, including basic information on population and major industry. Undeterred by egregious regional ignorance, the US sees fit to use force to impact policy in far-flung countries with which it has infinitely less cultural, economic and political interface and consciousness. Ironically, it does so through undemocratic channels using non-democratically structured institutions, namely, the military and Central Intelligence Agency and, in Nepal’s case, collusion with the monarch and his royal defence forces.

“When a country decides to invest in arms, rather than in education, housing, the environment, and health services for its people, it is depriving a whole generation of its right to prosperity and happiness. We have produced one firearm for every ten inhabitants of this planet, and yet we have not bothered to end hunger when such a feat is well within our reach. Our international regulations allow almost three-quarters of all global arms sales to pour into the developing world with no binding international guidelines whatsoever. Our regulations do not hold countries accountable for what is done with the weapons they sell, even when the probable use of such weapons is obvious.” – Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel Peace Prize recipient

Red Card for Nepal

As a pacifist, I am unequivocally against warring factions and believe that physical force conflagrates rather than resolves differences. That said, I am sympathetic to any struggle against corruption and freedom from restrictions and exclusions along ethnic lines and eradicating the inhuman social stratification that dominates the Subcontinent. I might understand the rebels motivation despite their aggressive means. Maoists believed there were no viable alternatives and as recipients of state-sponsored domination, centuries of it, they felt armed revolution was the choice for people without equal rights and without fundamental liberties. Aside from leaving the country to work abroad, itself a precarious option, there was no avenue for success without petitioning to elite rulers and relying on their unlikely beneficence if not bribing them into action.

People of all castes, but especially those lower in the social order had to endure bumbling, self-serving, unethical administrators or face repercussions for stepping out of assigned social designations. Consequences included destruction of one’s standing in society as well as imprisonment and physical harm up to loss of life. Few were willing to put families at risk and thus were cowed by the system until the distaste became unbearable.

Kathmandu

It might be easy to believe, given the stories overheard in Kathmandu, that the Maoists were overly vicious and the instigators and perpetrators of violence. The expatriate clique tends to be jaundiced by well-to-do Nepalis with an obvious bias. The ruling class and their predecessors benefitted from the repressive system and therefore dominate as influential members of society and have the most dealings with expatriates, especially in the ‘aid’ paradigm and diplomatic arena as well as high social life. These elites have used their preferential status and state backing to attain fortunes and high position and thus, resist any kind of reformation for fear of loss of status and wealth.

Most foreign acquaintances, when they heard that I was to explore this territory, felt obliged to offer a “How could you?” All of them felt that the Maoists were clearly the bad guys and deserved no coverage. With apologies to these acquaintances, they often deal with a segment of society far removed from the overwhelming majority of Nepalese who are scraping by and just that. These foreigners live and work with the wealthy and most if not all have a privileged lifestyle available to but a very small slice of the population. The Maoists threaten the status quo, and foreigners, exposed to little else, despite often being liberal minded, allow their ears to be bent by partisan supremacists who tell them the playground is being overrun by low-level ruffians.

In fact, in every sector, Nepalis are adept at telling foreigners what they believe they want to hear, especially with an interest to livelihood (e.g., businessman, diplomat, restaurateur, hotelier, tour operator, guide). Most foreigners have been programed to believe and want to hear that the Maoists are delinquents. Nepalis are attentive to the sentiments of guests and will freely indulge this perception, especially if it leads to better business, a bigger tip, or just to be pleasing to guests. If foreign denizens themselves are asked, have they encountered a Maoist or know why the revolution was waged, most repeat what they get from Nepali associates and biased media houses and few have a willing answer of their own. Minimal examples are the latest sensational headline or ‘taxes’ that were extracted from trekkers and perhaps an anecdote of a gruesome murder.

‘Tolls’ were taken from some foreigners audacious enough to trek in Maoist controlled lands (although not uncommonly, opportunistic bandits masqueraded as Maoists), but no more so than the tourist monies taken by a government that lacks transparency and misuses funds! To complain about a fee extorted by one group and not another group with a recognized abysmal record is absurd. Moreover, if a person willingly wanders through the middle of a civil war on a tourist vacation, then they might consider themselves fortunate to only have had to pay a fee to guerrillas before returning home safe and sound to regale friends.

With regard to brutality, there is no excuse on either side. Amnesty International accuses both sides of “unlawful criminal deaths” among other savage abuses. Sadly, victims have no recourse whatsoever. That said, the police and armed forces operated with impunity under the direction of politically protected rulers trying to preserve undeserved hegemony. Viciousness by the Maoists was equaled if not surpassed by the state, which was responsible for the majority of the conflict’s deaths, many of them civilians. It was cruelty by police in the heavy handed Romeo operations (and later Kilo Sera II) that inflamed the war. Furthermore, it is certainly not an excuse, but there is not a main party in Nepal exempt from having exercised violence to some degree to attain status and other parties cannot claim superiority on this point.

Although state forces were better equipped and fed, the rebels were highly driven to overcome the appalling conditions of the mid-hills. The police and later army, acting on orders from a ruling class, followed a chain of command and not necessarily deep set convictions. Nearly all commanders were of the higher castes, with indigenous Nepalis in the lower ranks. Outmanned and outgunned, the insurgents had both their minds and hearts indoctrinated into the struggle. Without this advantage, it would have been impossible to coordinate logistically over a punishing series of remote hills and deep valleys with limited communication and completely lacking in weapons and supplies relative to foreign supported adversaries.

Aftermath

Since coming to the table in 2006 to bring down the 239 year-old monarch, the improbably elected Maoist party won 33% of the parliamentary seats in the spring of 2008 and a mandate to lead the fledgling republic. They entered a lion’s den of traditional politics and a few Maoist politicians have proven to be as megalomaniacal as leaders anywhere. Despite increasingly bad habits, they are trying to reform the system beyond casteism or elitism. Otherwise, it remains tainted by patronage, nepotism, prejudice and preferential treatment. Beyond that, interchange communism for any of the opiates of the masses for a similar mindset.

The Maoist philosophy is inscrutable and what they like to do with the young republic is puzzling. Their lofty rhetoric leads to naive ideas on how the marketplace operates and business principles in general and they often place unreasonable demands on the essential framework of a distressed economy: industries, companies, and business owners (as much as do overbearing bureaucrats) who might otherwise sympathize with a fight against social injustice. Although many business owners might have benefited from the distasteful favoritism of the past, at this point it is of no advantage to harass them. Business operators need less intervention to keep Nepal’s economy active.

Personally, I don’t endorse platitudes and reckon that most people worldwide don’t know Mao’s head from Mao’s ass. As crude as that sounds, what I mean to say is that people don’t know his teachings or political theories. Of the people who do, perhaps Nepal’s Maoist leaders know them best, which makes it curious that they used Mao’s discredited name in their struggle against apartheid.

Have distinctions based on caste and rank been eradicated? Nothing entrenched for so long changes so quickly, but impartialities based on social stratification have diminished and strides made but ethnic prejudice is as endemic in Nepal as elsewhere. At least nowadays, the lines of social ranking are less deep and the state has less of a grip on enforcing the wishes of a person of ‘higher ranking’. People have more rights, and the possibility to at least appeal to the police and justice system when previously the odds were stacked utterly against them. Before the conflict, hills people commonly report that they were not even allowed to look into the eyes of someone of higher social ranking, or use the same facilities such as vital water taps, or enter tea stalls, restaurants and least of all homes, let alone lodge a complaint against a ruler, no matter how justified, for fear of retaliation.

The Maoist had women elected to parliament from the so-called “untouchable” ethnic designation which was a first for Nepal and something other parties have a long way to go to match. The system is still stacked with unethical bureaucrats and the media is intent on tearing each and every politician down despite entrenched bureaucrats being the larger part of the problem. Bureaucrats are managed by politicians and even an honest and well-meaning leader cannot be everywhere at once.

Cadres of sly officials put on an acceptable performance when under scrutiny, to then make a mockery of the civil service (a more apt name might be self-service) when the supervisor is gone. That is, Nepali bureaucrats are clever enough with skullduggery to avoid a politician’s supervisory eye. With a strong sense of privilege, these entrenched officials hold enough power, status, and regulatory fluency that no one dares confront them. Nepal’s ten-year conflict partially addressed the issue. Some bureaucrats have since redoubled efforts to misappropriate state funds before it’s considered more than just an inbred formality that lubricates their phlegmatic machinations. Or, perhaps the situation is too deep-rooted to be reformed and the country is destined to wallow in administrative malfeasance. The one hope might be the prey, the good people Nepal, continue to stand against habitual venality.

A necessary part of cleaning up corruption is to replace the deeply rooted bureaucrats that infiltrate the system from top to bottom; a staggering task that is all but impossible as they hold a great deal of authority that cannot be penetrated, and they have the means to protect their positions.

Nowadays, when anything goes wrong, the facile trend is to link it to the Maoists. The Maoists are blamed one way or another for all the wrong that is happening. They would have to be very talented to have taken control of all the problems. Nevertheless, having entered the mainstream, they have become less inclined to dialectics. They have gained insight into a more comprehensive reality of world affairs beyond India and China and beyond choosing between communism or the wretched social hierarchies that Nepal knows too well. Maoism was chiefly a tool used to chip away at the walls of state-sponsored social and ethnic discrimination and administrative malfeasance.

They realize by now that foreign diplomats generally patronize power (and in the past foreigners were not just selectively supporting the right wing of Nepal but simply practicing real politick). The erstwhile dominant class still holds much negotiating power and fills the bureaucratic ranks. Many are trying to filibuster, believing that they can obstruct long enough to regain the reigns rather than give an inch to cooperate on tough issues facing the legislative body.

Since celebrations of the birth of the republic across the land in 2008, jubilation has turned into a four-year, post-partum hangover as the public waited in vain for a charter constitution and the final deadline, May 27th, 2012, come and gone. Up to then, agitation escalated with regional and nationwide shutdowns, primarily the blockade of roads, lifeblood of a landlocked nation. Businesses and schools were shuttered and kids were playing soccer and cricket in the abandoned streets while protest rallies were led by people furious at the political torpor and back channel dealings. The situation crept from controlled chaos towards something even less restrained and is now in a faltering limbo.

Frustration is centered on delays at re-drawing administrative zones, a task that has strayed into unabashed gerrymandering for political advantage. Nevertheless, politicians are obligated to restructure the state as part of a 2006 pact that ended the ten year Maoist rebellion. All parties signed off to it as well as to integration of ex-guerrillas into state forces, a herculean chore in itself and sine qua non for bidding a farewell to arms.

Parties on opposite sides continue to squabble ideologically and each side can be equally cogent and convincing, and all feel validated in their own stance based on ideology, status, class and often caste background and experience. Traditional rulers do not want state boundaries re-drawn which would lessen their centuries-long hegemony. So-called indigenous groups, long under-represented, are demanding chiefly the re-drawing of boundaries whether or not it is good for the nation as a whole. Meanwhile, the last four years have been spent currying favor for power swaps and trying to outmaneuver and obstruct rivals at any cost. Parties bolster their own corps while completely forgetting the nation as a whole and what might be best for her. These self-serving activities have thoroughly backfired while the good people of Nepal continue to agonize.

Nepal is the birth place of Buddha. Long ago he admonished relatives in a battle over water that became lethal. “How can water be more precious than blood?” he asked incredulously, and the incisive question there ended the toxic, deadly quarreling. If the parties and bureaucrats are willing to see themselves as Nepalis first and other designations a distant second, and if they are willing to be noble servants of the nation, only then will they cooperate inclusively to augur a future of peace, good will and prosperity that Nepal’s vast majority of kind-hearted people deserve, regardless of caste, ethnicity and creed.

“A peace is of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued, and neither party loser.” William Shakespeare

Go to the hills

The Guerrilla Trek offers a remarkable journey through the heartland of post-conflict territory. The route takes you through Myagdi, Rukum, and Rolpa, spectacular districts with low population density at the epicenter of Nepal’s ten year conflict (1996 to 2006) and homeland to many revolutionaries. At one time during this period, the region had an autonomous government in Banphikot, Rukum.

As a visitor, you can escape Kathmandu’s political quibblers and seek higher ground. The armed conflict is over and locals, former guerrillas and police in Rukum and Rolpa, the ones in the thick of the fight, will welcome you. They bore the brunt of the pain, and if they can get along now, why should others still hold a grudge? The people along these trails are clear evidence that Nepal is now an abiding place of peace. You are invited to experience the land and its inhabitants for yourself. Go and meet these people, interact with each other and exchange ways of life. The hardest part might be the rugged long-distance, vehicle transport to the trailhead.

While visiting this otherworldly area, another name may come to mind: The Shangrila Trek. Follow it and be transported to a timeless land; after which the more popular trekking regions might lose appeal in favor of more off beat travels in the undiscovered hills of Nepal, land of legendary hospitality.

Suva Yatra! (Have a wonderful journey!)