HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: A little more than 13,000 Maoist PLA combatants, after living in cantonments for about five years, were discharged earlier this year. While returning home, they had expressed different views regarding their future — some wanted to lead a complete civilian life, others wished to serve the party in their respective capacities.
But on April 27, the Unified CPN-Maoist huddled the former fighters together and formed a group — Ex-PLA Association of Nepal — under the leadership of former commander Nanda Kishor Pun. The objective of the outfit was said to be keeping the former combatants’ spirit high and recognising their historical contribution. The move, however, has stoked fears whether the UCPN-M was planning to keep its ‘militant organisation’ intact.
While inaugurating EPAN in Khanna Garment in Lalitpur, UCPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had said the association was formed with the view of keeping them organised and that the former fighters, disqualified combatants and Young Communist League members would have a greater role to play in the next elections.
Now what Maoist leader Sonam Sathi says might give other parties something to ponder. Sonam, who is busy preparing the party’s statute these days, told THT that certain number of ex-PLA members will take part in the party’s national convention scheduled for January. “The party, however, is yet to decide the number of former fighters taking part in the convention,” said Sathi.
But critics, who are already wary of the UCPN-M move of huddling the former fighters together, say by allowing the former fighters to participate in the party’s convention, it ‘wants to give recognition to them’, while other parties fear that EPAN could be given the form of ‘a military organisation’ to use it as a bargaining chip whenever the party felt the need.
Military expert Indrajit Rai says the real intention of the UCPN-M was to keep the military format of the PLA intact so as to use it to garner votes in the elections. Rai says the ex-PLA members have yet to shun ‘their military attitude and have been involved in illegal activities’ and therefore they ‘could unleash terror among the people’.
However, EPAN coordinator Nanda Kishor Pun claims that the ex-fighters will have their representation in the convention as party members and not as combatants.
According to Sonam, some 6,000 former fighters have been transferred to YCL — UCPN-M’s most controversial youth organisation for its military structure and the activities it carried out. According to EPAN, it will have four layers — central committee, state committee, district committee and the village committee. EPAN gives membership to former members of party’s militia which was formed by the Maoists to wage the decade-long ‘people’s war’.