It was in this impoverished district in the hills that the first Maoist guns opened fire on remote police posts, signalling the start a 10-year-long ‘People’s War’. Six years after the Maoists laid down the guns in 2006 and joined the peace process, the dream of a “people’s state” (janasatta), it seems, hasn’t died among the faithful. Early morning in Libang, the district headquarters, a stationary store owner next to the government buildings plays communist songs set to the tune of folk music. A chorus of women sings to a happy beat, but the words are melancholy.
“Where is our base area?
Where is our janasatta?
We have been deceived by dalals.”
Bearing the brunt
More people died in Rolpa than in any other district, and nobody here expresses nostalgia for the war. During the insurgency, the Libang village was quieter than rest of Rolpa, the first and strongest of Maoist “base areas”. The bazaar area in Libang was barricaded with barbed wires; iron gates on all sides were manned by government soldiers. Those considered ‘feudals’ by the Maoists sought refuge here, and few dared to venture outside into the villages.
“It’s not like that anymore,” is a common refrain. All political parties feel free here, says a local politician with the Nepali Congress (NC), whose activists were targeted by Maoist during the war. The Libang bazaar, with old stone-topped roofs dwarfed by newer concrete structures, is doing good business.
The hotels are almost full. From Tundikhel, a football-field-sized flat area in Libang that has been turned into a bus park, a bus crammed with passengers leaves for Dang every morning and night, and another leaves for Kathmandu. Two-thirds of a separate road started by the Maoists has also been completed. The “martyrs road” connects the flat land of Dang to Holeri, Ghartigaun and the mountainous Thabang, the Maoist “headquarters” during the insurgency.
Other Maoist projects in Rolpa are barely surviving. Two communes in the villages of Thawang and Jailbang, each with about 20 families, mostly populated by those who lost parents during the war, are in a coma with no support, says a former PLA soldier who stayed in Rolpali villages during most of the war. The villages remain inaccessible except for those daring to risk muddy trails and forests in between them, swarming with leeches.
All former PLA soldiers The Hindu spoke to agreed that the PLA had been humiliated at the end of the “integration” process with the Nepal Army.
“We should forget about the war and start improving Libang”, said Phabindra Acharya “Kshitij”, a former PLA soldier who chose the splinter CPN-Maoist party over the Prachanda-led party after leaving the cantonments last year because of, in his words, corruption in the Prachanda-led party. It won’t be the same when you visit again. There will be no muddy roads, no trash everywhere.