Kingdom of Nepal
how war affects daily life in nepal

At first sight, the war seems imperceptible. Locals will refrain from speaking against the king, nor comment the recent coup in public, most likely because of fear. In a private conversations though, some stories will come up. Suspicious rumours are involving the current king in the royal massacre of 2001, where former king Birendra and his family were killed.
Support for the Maoist rebellion is growing amidst the population, even in Kathmandu valley. The rebels know when to stop the Kathmandu blockade not to loose support, which is about when the price of food doubles.

Kathmandu is full of loyalist army checkpoints at strategic crossings.
So is Pokhara, a town set only 200km away from Kathmandu. However, because of the strike ("ban"), traffic is prohibited and burned vans obstruct the road.
I managed to catch a bus as part of the first and last convoy in weeks, making the trip 14 hours long, with regular stops so the army can free up the road.
Though difficult to interpret, the animation at the roadblocks around Pokhara as well as the presence of the army in the town's main street, let apprehend a Maoist attack soon. And indeed, the police station had to undergo an attack in the next few days. One policeman got killed.

Since the rebellion usually announces its attacks, they encounter little resistance.
The inefficiency of the loyalist army or police against Maoist attacks appears to be due more to sympathy towards rebellion, rather than true incompetence.
Pokhara is a main tourist centre near the Annapurna range. It suffers a great deal from the war. Keeping the control of this town is strategic to the government, though it also is a target for the Maoists.

Most shop holders and taxis still operate despite the strike, risking to be sentenced to death by the rebels. The taxi driver would not drop me in one of the villages around the city. He feared for his life, since the rebellion is in the area. At least 5 taxi drivers were killed in the last few weeks trying to operate during the strike.

In the mountainous villages the support for the Maoists is great, partly because they share the profit of bank attacks with the population, which is more money they could ever earn.
In these villages, the rebellion is responsible for the abduction all the children older than 12. One year is sufficient to make them true revolutionary soldiers.

The rebels are not as "underground" as one would expect. Just a phone call to the Maoists informs us that they will maintain the ban for the next days. So, it was not possible to drive back to Kathmandu by bus.
The tourist I was still had the opportunity to take an internal flight back to the capital, an option that is unavailable to most Nepalese…

michael van overstraeten, March 2005