Sunday, February 18, 2007

Post-Revolutionary in Rolpa

Nepal has an amazing quality of being able to not change even as its own world is changing around it...

Josh & I are just back from a short trip to Liwang, the district center of Rolpa district, where the Maoists had their capital over the past ten years of civil conflict. The ride from the East-West highway along Dang district up through Pyuthan district, over 1800 m. ridges w/ magnificent views of the winter wheat fields below along the Rapti river, was breath-taking. Stunning snow-capped mountains peered over the nearby horizon. Slate-covered stone homes sat like contented toadstools on the terraces.

Snow fell as we crossed Sato Batto, just above the Liwang valley and we stopped for Josh to make his baby snowmen, draw a heart in the snow for his girlfriend, Lisa, and for all of us to enjoy the rare pleasure of feeling snow drop & drizzle among us in the rough-hewn middle hills of Nepal.

After many years hearing of Rolpa as the Maoist stronghold in Nepal, it was fascinating to reach there, passing Nepali army outposts on steep ridges, like scenes from "The Man Who Would be King", newly re-established police checkposts and isolated villages living as they have for decades.

With all of the promises made by the Maoists and past governments, the truth of Liwang Bazaar appeared no different from it had been for before this People's War. Rough, isolated poverty in a setting of absolute beauty. The 'hotel' where we stayed was as basic as anything I've stayed in over the years in Nepal. Definitely nothing you would write home about or take one's spouse to visit.

The ironies pre-dominate. For all of the high rhetoric of the Maoist achievements and commitments, the health & education facilities appeared no different after their stay than they were before. For all of the government's antipathy to the Maoists, the government offices remained open in Liwang throughout the war. In fact, it seemed that it was safer to be a GON official in Liwang than any other district. There appears to have been a mutual agreement that the GON would not attack the Maoist stronghold while the Maoists would not attack the GON offices/officials in Rolpa. Strange bedfellows indeed...

The red hammer & sickle flag waved above the basketball court by the muddy bus park while the police chowk and policemen lingered by the entrance to the bus park as we drove through. Inspirational paintings of children in peaceful marches had been painted on concrete walls above barefoot Magar village women who sat crouched on the damp ground patiently selling their dokos of oranges or firewood.

Little there was on the surface to imply that the politics of Nepal has revolved around the revolutionary fervor of this distant district for the past decade. Until, of course, we sat and spoke with the civil society & political leaders the next day...

(it's late tonight, so i'll continue w/ my impressions of post-revolutionary rolpa 2morrow...)

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