It was a hot evening, the school ground was crowded with villagers and all eyes were glued to the television set. I sat on a bench right in front of the tv set while my sister was going crazy having to seat on benches of unequal height. The air smelled of sweat, which reminded of these lines:
“So they danced in the courtyard
Sweet summer sweat
Some danced to remember, some danced to forget”
It was an odd timing for a song like that but I guess it had a connection to what was going on that night. Perhaps we had all gathered to do a bit of remembering and forgetting of our share of woes in a country ravaged with war. The show began, the Maoist Commander did ask “Priya Janasamudaya, tapain haru ke herna chanu huncha, yo(the tv serial that was going on ) ki yuddha( war) ko cd?” Tell me what goes in the mind of most teenagers when asked do you want to see porn or keep playing this video game? I found the question exactly like that. A question whose answer is already known to the inquirer itself .Why would anyone want to see the tv show given the option to watch a full fledged war?
Nevertheless he did his share of making the show consensus-oriented. It was a video that had been taken when the war was going on, so couldn’t expect it to be a great one with the constant running. However it had everything, right from how plans to attack a certain place had been made to going to fight the “Dushman” as they called it. It gave a detailed version of the battle in Nawalparasi(hope u all remember it), it was on the highway itself, army trucks had been burnt. Then the other one was the war in Gam where the Maoists killed many Armed Police and got hold of plenty of ammunition too. But the video was gross, it needed PG(Parental Guidance) for sure and just wasn’t for the little boys who were present there marveling at the sounds of the guns and sounds without blinking their eyes.
The confrontation in Gam had taken place during the night. The armed police and RNA had used lights which came up like the moon and peered in the place the Maoist were hiding, the speaker had used a term ( I forgot) but not night vision. I had thought that meant all the Maoists would be killed but just the opposite happened. They ended up killing the govt soldiers and police and burned the bunkers, they had been hiding in a tunnel like structure, just enought to fit a person and when all were dead the Maoist had captured the dead bodies in the video, one of them had his brains spill out. It was a terrible sight. And I don’t think I will ever forget that scene. They got hold of a lot of ammunition. A Maoist in the video was going through the weapons and asking ” Yo kasari chalaune?” ( How to operate it?)
And I could hear the real life Maoist beside me tell his friend”Pahile hatiyar chalauna naayera kasto garo bhako hai?” ( It had been so difficult for us to use the weapons because we didn’t know how to use it. )
There was another war scene, the fighting was going on, the Maoists were atop a hill while the government soldiers were below (though not shown, could figure that out). The Maoists were using stones as weapons too, and hiding behind big boulders, occasionally the RNA bullets would strike the boulders. And I remember these lines of the Reel life Maoist (the one fighting in the video) instruct his companion, “Han, han tyahan her ta kasto majjale chatpatairako cha” (Hit him he is struggling already- couldn’t get the exact word for chatpataunu) but could feel my temperature rise on hearing that. How inhumane can you be? Don’t you have a heart to say that I wanted to question. And then I realized how helpless I was, a mere spectator, hell I couldn’t kill the Maoist with my questions. But the video had just begun to gain momentum. What I saw next was the most inhumane, devilish act ever. The Maoists killed most of the RNA and walked downhill to loot the weapons, and there lay a soldier in a pool of blood moaning “Aiya” in pain, he slightly raised his head and someone (Maoist) literally put the gun on this head an shot him dead. He fired two more shots on the dead body. (And as I am writing this, I am re-experiencing all that anger and helplessness I experienced watching it). May the soldier’s soul rest in peace.
Then was the war in Nawalparasi. It was on the highway and the cameraperson only showed the running and yelling. An army truck burned at a distance and I could notice a body lying on the highway. However the one shooting the video didn’t focus on the body initially. And when he/she did I found myself muttering “Waihat, manche mariracha, photo khichera bascha” . Just couldn’t help it. The man lying on the road was a RNA soldier, his face smeared in blood, in so much pain that you could feel it and then the ******ing Mao- photographer or whatever keeps focusing his video cam on him for a long long time doing nothing! Yah, I knew he was a Maoist and all but what is wrong with human beings. How can you be a mere spectator when someone is dying? How dare you? Aren’t we humans first, what has happened to our emotions, have we bottled them up for so long that we have turned into heartless sculptures of stones?
I remember watching the James Natchwey documentary and feeling just the same. Natchwey though seemed to have got hurt for trying to help but there was one instance in Indonesia or Thailand (confused) where a crowd of people chases and man and butcher him. Natchwey takes pictures; tries to help too but I had thought that is just not enough. Being unable to help is perhaps the hardest thing for war- photographers and journalists and maybe it creates that professional dilemma too but hell with everything when a life is at stake. The hell with professionalism, the hell with expensive cameras and everything because we are humans first, I believe one should stay in touch with their heart the first thing no matter what. At least I would never want to be a photographer or journo that brings news that someone is dead when I could have saved life, or die trying to do so than be busy fiddling with the damn camera. Everyone talks that way when emotional you might say, but yes am proud to be one and will chose to stay that way forever and someday if ever get to work with Red Cross or something like that I would rather choose to be emotional fool who is dead than be a hero on returning back safely. I think I am sick of being on the safe side like being a HR monitor, who merely observes (strictly only observes according to rule), reporting who beat whom and things like that rather than going out there and questioning How dare you? Or being in the action.( the writing turned into an emotional outburst, I know but that’s me, can’t help)
The war has surely made an invalid out of me. The killing, the guns, Comrade Samana saying ” Banduk chunai nahune ho ra?” (Its not as if you should not touch the gun) when I wanted to tell her “Yes, it is absolutely not something you should even come near to”. Her enthusiasm to fight in the Terai, the young lads as armies. I wonder why the hunger for dead bodies never ceases. And our Conflict teacher (G sir) sees the way to a constituent assembly so clear and smooth, stick to the 8 point and 5 point agreement and everything will automatically fit in place. He says its the government that is acting confused, the Maoists have given their words. So if the government doesn’t trust them, it’s their problem not the Maoist’s. But I guess he just has the power of speech and an imposing personality, which brainwashes us to nod our heads in agreement. The reality is different, the Maoist still take taxes, still collect funds forcefully, and then there are talks of reintegration of the army, of including the Maoist cadres in the National army. A lot easier said than done. The Maoist cadres have been taken in regardless of any criteria, no physical test, no mental capability to understand the choice they made, absolutely nothing. The Nepalese army does have its share of irresponsibilities, the disappearances and rapes but leaving that aside for the time being, at least the ones in the army made a conscious decision of joining the army. They weren’t forced to quit studies or talked into doing so in the name of giving up Bourgeois education whatever that means. And the irony of it all is the fact that the ones in the higher posts of Maoist party themselves reached the status by studying the same Bourgeois Education. Baburam Bhattarai has a doctorate degree, doesn’t he? Why couldn’t he have a Comrade title rather than Dr.?
And is anyone concerned about the problems women cadres will face if they decide to lead a civilian life now? A month ago, I had met a American student, had come to Nepal to work on her thesis for the Masters focusing on the same. In the process I had acted as a translator in the interview with Maoist leader Jayapuri Gharti. And talking with Maoist leaders is always the same, they use the same words, same sentences as if they have all mugged an interview lesson from the same book. The interview was nothing new too; there is no problem she said. The Maoist women run awareness programs back in the villages and yes the same old “All good” stuff.
But the most interesting part is knowing that the Maoist leaders are all emotional, sentimental people. Heard Prachanda’s interview on the BBC, or watched it? He is so cool about it, only 14 thousand people died! And brought some much change. It is a great achievement. I don’t have links to talk to him but while interviewing Pampha Bhusal had asked if they felt nothing about so many people being killed. She had said of course they felt sad and bad about it but then change demands sacrifice. I had wanted to tell her, “Oh come on, even I who is named Philosophy don’t do the crime of philosophizing things to such an extent!” 🙂 But I liked her humble personality She had inquired about my studies and all and told me “Tapain ko lagi ta yo ramro anubhav hola hai?” (Being a part of such interviews must be an experience for you). And before leaving she’d invited me to the Maoist Women Conference to be held some months later too! Well, it took place before dashain but didn’t go, had tests or was rather tired of running around in midday heat. But that was a big mistake I guess because mom went to it and ever since her favorite line has become “Chahine thau ma chahin janu chaina, na chahine ma chahin thado puchar laudai kudche”. I roar with laughter everytime she says that.
I hope I can keep laughing that way in a peaceful nation. Hope the talks settle everything and we can all heave a sigh of relief and live in peace. After the April movement, being in Kathmandu feels so different. Everything feels different actually: I see hope everywhere, in studies, in having a great career staying back home itself with so much to do to in the development sector and a world of possibilities seems to have opened in all sectors. Guess everyone feels that way. May nothing disrupt the peace process, Hope the Summit talks come to a conclusion soon enough and then it will surely be a time for all Nepalese to party!!