04/02/2009, 00.00
NEPAL
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Kathmandu proclaims 8,000 Maoist martyrs

by Kalpit Parajuli
Maoist fighters who died during the civil war constitute most of the martyrs. Opposition parties as well as the ruling party’s junior coalition partners are against the move because it belittles those who “sacrificed their lives for the nation”. But the issue is also about money.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s government has proclaimed 8,000 people martyrs. They died during the Maoist-led anti-royalist struggle which culminated in the Democracy Movement (also known as the second ‘People’s Movement’ or Jana Andolan-II in Nepali) that led to the 2006 overthrow of the monarchy. Members of the Madhesh movement who died for Madhesh rights are also included.

The list of martyrs is made up of names submitted by Maoist committees in each of the country’s 75 districts; among them 25 people who died during the second People’s Movement and 21 Madhesh activists. However the list also includes people only known by their nom de guerre or by nothing more than their ethnic background, Mongolian (most Maoist fighters are Mongolian in origin) or Madheshi.

This has not gone down well other parties. The main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC), and the ruling party’s main coalition partner, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), have criticised the government of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal for the decision.

For NC leader Ram Sharan Mahat, such a high number of martyrs sounds like a joke and belittles real martyrs “who sacrificed their lives for the nation.”

For his part CPN-UML Secretary Shankar Pokharel called on the prime minister to lay down the rules by which martyrs can be identified.

Under the existing policy martyrdom means that the state has to compensate martyrs’ families to the tune of one million Nepali rupees (about US$ 13,000). Under the government’s plan, each family would get only 100,000 rupees

But this debate is much more than about fallen fighters; it is about the ongoing row between the ruling former Maoist rebels and the rest of the country.

The Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fought a ten-year war against Nepal’s regular army (1996-2006), which ended in the abolition of the monarchy and the first democratic elections in Nepal’s history.

Now the rebels are a cumbersome presence in Nepali society and the Maoist government seems at a loss to find a solution.

According to United Nations, the PLA still has 19,000 fighters. Their re-integration in Nepali society is going slowly and plans to bring them into the fold of the regular army is being opposed by opposition parties but also by junior members of the ruling coalition.

What is more, in early March the PLA began a new recruitment drive to bring its troop level up to 25,000.

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