A man in Thabang, Rolpa, face smeared with colored powder, celebrated Maghi festival. On the background is an anti-election slogan- “the one who asks for vote will get chot (hurt).”
(यो लेखलाई नेपालीमा पढ्न यहाँ क्लिक गर्नुस्)
On November 19, 2013 Nepal held national elections for the second Constituent Assembly. The country witnessed a record turnout. I was among the 9.4 million Nepalis who voted that day. But one entire village in remote mid-west Nepal abstained. Thabang boycotted the elections.
One more reason to go to Thabang, I thought.
My desire to go there predated the village’s post-election “fame”. In 2011, I was just five-hours hike away from Thabang. There was a hill between me and the village. That, after walking for three days. But an unexpected and severe knee pain had forced me to abandon my plan.
Thabang is where, it is said, the Maoist “People’s War” began in 1996. That’s where some of the top leaders of the insurgency found shelter as they planned more attacks against the Nepali state. “The local people would compete among themselves to host party Chairman Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal),” Durgalal KC writes in the Kathmandu Post.
The Maoists decided to end their 10-year-long janayuddha in late 2005. The conflict actually ended in 2006 following the spectacular success of the peaceful multiparty mass demonstrations in April that year.
During the insurgency, the Maoists had tried to develop Thabang as “a model Maoist village”. After the end of the conflict, the elected Maoist-led government recognized it as one of a few dozen model villages in the country. This ensured more attention and state funding to the village. To cut the long story short, Thabang is not just another sleepy Nepali village (at least in description). It knows how to take risk and grab national attention at the same time.
Smash the ballot box- Boycott the election. Thabang, Rolpa.
In a recent sunny afternoon the people of Thabang, Rolpa gathered to chat under a Maoist anti-election graffiti. 1st line: Don’t divide Thabang; 2nd line: Middlemen leaders are not needed.
Former Maoist guerrilla Jeet Bahadur Gharti and his mules pass through a landslide in Rukum
On that October day in 2011, I stared at the hill that the locals said I would have to climb to reach Thabang. It looked like a tough climb. My knee was not up for it. So I limped with a mule caravan to reach Rukumkot to catch a jeep. (Limping all day long with a mule caravan to reach Rukumkot).
My wish to see the guerrilla village remained unfulfilled.
But I knew that I would be back. Continue reading