Under the shadow of violence is a depiction of a state of anxiety and pain, reflections of a disease, that in itself is the indicator of causes.

Kishor Nepal, prominent Nepali journalist, undertook a gruelling two-and-a-half year long travel over 2,00,000 km across hills, plains and distant mountain areas of Nepal, to hear the lot of common man. The reverberations make up ‘Under the shadow of violence’, a telling chronicle of government apathy and Maoist anarchy in detail.

The book is a partial diagnosis, partial prognosis and remedy of the current insurgency. It touches upon the roots of the malaise and reflects upon the post-1990 era of political awakening and the eventual betrayal of people’s aspirations and trust.

The book, the voice of the voiceless, is neither a didactic documentation nor is it an academic accumulation but a frozen account of terror. A terror that haunts in similar fashion Kehar Singh Saud, former chairman of Duni VDC of Accham in the western part of the country and Lava Kumar Rai of Khotang in the eastern periphery of the nation.

The first part of the book gives accounts of different sectors like economy and education that are worst hit by the insurgency.

In the ‘Classroom in the frontline’, the writer depicts the agony of the education sector that has become the scapegoat both of the rebel and government, who use schools as their battlegrounds.

Similarly, ‘Crumbling business’ paints a picture of the deteriorating state of economy in the country.

Through the terror and pain, the question stares at the reader: for whom are the Maoists fighting?

Lack of social cohesions and the demoralisation of society may have made the Maoists stronger for a while, but the reckless destruction of physical infrastructure and brutal killings are backfiring.

Having first created a mesmerising miasma of social unanimity, the Maoists only disappointed people by their brutality and coercion.

Going through the horrific accounts of the Maoists atrocities, a reader might be reminded of the Nazi concentration camps. Nazis killed six million Jews six decades ago on the pretext of racial and social justice, in search for an unearthly utopia. Maoists seem to be doing that, justifying killings.

Apportioning blame for the on-going tragedy, the writer laments, ‘the inadequate exercise of democracy and Nepal’s traditional social structure’ that ‘has made it difficult for civil society to pressurise the government and the administration to act decisively to end the violent conflict’.

The book, in the second part, features tales from 18 districts where terror has sunk deep in the hearts of people, putting identities in crisis and leaving future prospects bleak. There is an alarming commonality in plight and angst between Pyuthan district in the west to Khotang district in the east.

Leaders are equally blamed for reneging on promises to address social, political and economic disparities, furrowing fertile ground for Maoists movement to germinate. The blatant self-aggrandisement by political parties has left people caught between the internecine conflict between the armed Maoist militia and state machinery.

As the writer puts it, ‘Khalanga was not so remote until four years ago. In 2001, Maoists attacked Churajahari airport and it is now cut off from the other districts.’ Isolating every district from the other and the centre from all, is what the Maoists are doing. Where will this disintegration lead? It might fulfil their immediate cause but in the long run what will be the consequence? What kind of Nepal have they envisioned?

According to the people, “today we are living in a different country from what we had dreamt during the 1990 movement”. They underline that there are new realities. Issues that the Maoists highlight have deep roots in our historical moorings and the author suggests that a profound reassessment of our political and social values are inevitable in order to put balm on the festering wound.

The last decade has been a decade of myopic politics and brutal killings. Kishor Nepal’s untiring efforts and hard labour brings alive the darkness of this decade. It is hoped that this history of revolution and revelation will guide us towards a united, socially and economically equitable and prosperous Nepal.

The book gives us a chance for serious introspection. The failure of certain leaders is not the failure of the multiparty democracy. After 1990, democracy had slowly started to make modest inroads into the existing traditional authoritarian structures but wide spread corruption and the Maoists insurgency have totally derailed the process.

The time for totalitarian doctrines seems to have passed. As the writer concludes in the last chapter ‘Power shift’, Nepali society is undergoing a massive transformation, something that is yet to be understood. And it is the last chance for political parties to unite people and lead them to a better tomorrow as both the Maoists and the establishment continue to ignore and belittle the causes of the common man.

The political parties must expand their visions and rationales, move away from little parochial interests to higher entity — the nation. That is when the tears might dry.