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Published:December 7th, 2006 04:08 EST

Lamjung: Armed Conflict & Its Impact Upon Youth

By Shakti Ghimire

Geographic Region

Lamjung, a district that falls under the western development region, lies in the Gandaki Zone of Nepal. The district, which is the home of approximately two lakhs (200,000) people, has a literacy rate of 56%. There are 61 Village Development Committees (V.D.Cs) in this district. Five campuses, 15 higher secondary schools and 268 schools have been established to advance the education sector.

Because of the very small number of telephones available in the district, post offices are the main and the most reliable means of communication and are present in all 61 V.D.Cs. There is only one hospital in the district but at least one health post in all the 61 V.D.Cs.

Occupying an area of 1692kms, the district is neighboured by the districts of Gorkha, Manang, Kaski and Tanahu. Its abundance of natural resources goes untapped due to a lack in proper road infrastructure. Both, water and forest resources, have not been properly and wisely utilized. Most of the villages lack electricity and may continue to lack it in the coming years.

Armed conflict and Lamjung

Lamjung has not been able to avoid the effects of a conflict initiated by Maoists in 1996, which has turned into a civil war. Initially, the Maoists tried to promote their own ideas and philosophies but after the failed cease-fire of 2002, the human rights of innocent civilians came under attack in a very outrageous manner.

Resignedly, the majority of the local residents seem to have joined hands with the Maoists party and continue to involve themselves in their activities. They have even developed political faith in them, and as a result, some problems of local residents have been solved. On the other hand, most of the property owners, who are respected and qualified people, have started leaving the rural communities that were primarily affected.

Each day, people were unwillingly migrating to avoid the unbearable pain. In the search of a secure destination, most of them resided in the district headquarters, Pokhara and Kathmandu, and some have even immigrated to foreign countries. The livelihood of rural people is highly pressurized and is in a dire situation because of the conflict.

Print and electronic media have clearly identified that children, women and old people are the group most affected by violence. Many families are helpless and fear the loss of their family members because they have been kidnapped, abducted or murdered. Villagers are terribly distressed due to a lack of knowledge about the whereabouts of their relatives. The civilians (mostly rural) are the ones who have to tolerate the unnecessary harassment from both parties involved in the conflict.

Youth migration After the first ceasefire was declared in 2002, villagers have gone through terrible and terrifying situations, which have directly affected the region‘s youth. The Maoists started pressurizing the youths to join their parties and get involved in their activities. At the same time, the Royal Nepalese Army, after seeing the youths living idly, started charging them as Maoists. These youths then had to go through severe interrogations, harassment or physical torture in the custody of the army. As an expected consequence of these acts, youths were forced to wander around for a secure destination, which was likely to be the district headquarters, or anywhere they might find employment.

Still unsatisfied many started to look for foreign employment and the change to immigrate to other countries in the search of a peaceful working environment. To escape from their own country’s situation, hundreds of youths chose to live in a foreign country where they have to work hard for very low wages and very few facilities.

Presently, it seems that youths have vanished from the villages. Only helpless and aged people seem to dwell in these places. Obviously, the society, religion, culture, regional festivals, economical trades and developments are the directly affected by this reality.

The need for social services such as health, education, transportation and employment seem to have magnified and the people in rural villages are living in drastic conditions. Consequently, the international community has labeled Nepal with disgraceful adjectives and synonyms.

Youth for Peace

In efforts to increase pressure to expedite the peacemaking process, a peaceful rally is one of the best tools available. Youth can use the rally to denounce violations of civil and political rights; that is, the fundamental rights of the people. It is impossible to express in words the pain and grievance Lamjung’s people have endured over the last 11 years of conflict. We are all silent. Speechless. Even slogans of non-conflict and of non-violence have become futile.

In Nepal, lots of women and young girls have been raped by the warring sections and are now forced to live a painful life. It is time to start building campaigns for all the women and children who have lost their breadwinners, who have seen their homes destroyed, who have been captured or displaced. Similarly, youth have to raise their voices for the voiceless children crying over being orphaned or disabled, and all the women who have lost their husbands before celebrating even one wedding anniversary. All the silent voices must be united to obtain people’s rights and peace for all the victims of the conflict.

Young people are asking all parties to come to the table in search of lasting peace, leaving their egos, and agreeing to provide social justice for the people. Youth in the region continue to demand that conflicting parties join in the peace dialogue in order to protect the right to life of civilians. Youth demand protection against abductions, arrests and arbitrary detentions as well as the promise of a life without physical and psychological torture for women, men and children. Across the country, people yearn merely for a peaceful land to live.