Locals search for kids in vehicles ferrying Maoists

Palpa, November 21:

Locals stopped and searched 27 buses that were ferrying Maoist fighters from Chirtung in Palpa to Nawalparasi at Aryabhanjyang today.

They also staged an anti-Maoist demonstration at Aryabhanjyang chowk. Six district-based rights organisations also took part in the demonstration.

Stating that the Maoists had been taking along with them children and youths to recruit them in their People’s Liberation Army (PLA), locals searched the buses from 8 am to 12 pm. The locals found two youths — Narayan Rana, 15, and Ram Bahadur Hitanga, 17, of Madan Pokhara, Palpa — travelling with the Maoists.

Maoists have taken more than 150 children to recruit them in the PLA, locals said.

The guardians are finding it difficult to take back their wards as the Maoists have promised them many facilities, said Ruk Bahadur Hitanga of Madan Pokhara. According to him, 10 children refused to return to their homes and instead claimed that they were associated with the Maoists for the past three years.

Ram Bahadur, who returned home with his guardian, said: “I left my house without informing my family. I was interested in going along with the Maoists. However, I had to return after my father ordered me to get down from the bus in which I was travelling with the Maoists.”

Bishnu Pokhrel, the facilitator of the District Child Welfare Committee, said: “I was informed that the Maoists abducted more than 150 students from different parts of Palpa district.”

The Maoists’ Palpa district secretary, Netra Pandey, said they have not been forcing anyone to join their armed ranks. “In fact I turned down the request of 80 persons who had come to join the PLA,” he said.

Maoist fighters had gathered at Chirtung as the Maoists had proposed setting up a temporary camp there. However, the UN team has said Chirtung is not an appropriate place for the camp. The team instead proposed the camp at Arunkhola in Nawalparasi. More than 1,300 Maoist fighters left for Nawalparasi in 27 buses today, Pandey said.