[Bigyan Babu Regmi]
I grew up in a small village in Nepal. There was an on-going Maoist insurgency in Nepal during the first eight years of my childhood. The insurgency lasted for ten years (1996-2006) and ended with the dethronement of the monarchy and the advent of republic democracy.
Maoist soldiers were mostly late teens or early adults recruited from the general public. They often travelled around, on the one hand avoiding encounters with government officials and armies, and on the other attacking national army barracks and various government offices. The place I was born and brought up in was known for providing prominent shelter to the Maoist soldiers that were rebelling against the government and the King. Just next our village was a hill with an army camp. Most nights, there were vigorous firing and attacks between the Maoists on one hill and government armies on the other.
I spent several nights during my childhood crying on my father’s shoulder, in fear of the fireballs and bullets that seemed to leave a trail hot breeze as they passed by the yard of my family house. When Maoist insurgents knocked on the door, my mom had to get up at mid-night after a tedious day on the farm to make food and arrange shelter for them. It horrifies me now when I recall the gloomy afternoons I spent with the grenades and ammunitions that the Maoist soldiers used to carry with them. The dawns my village spent listening to the Maoist commanders’ neo-nationalistic speeches are vivid in my memory.
Even before I went to school for the first time, I had already heard about concepts like development, democracy, freedom, sovereignty, equal rights, inclusiveness, etc., but these barely meant a thing to me then. My story is similar to those shared by many of my contemporaries in Nepal, with a similar background.
Finally, in 2006, a mass movement took place across the country that brought thousands, if not millions, of commoners onto streets. Communications, transportation, electricity, and various other day-to-day infrastructures were halted. The then government tried by all means to suppress the movement. However, on the 19th day of the demonstrations, King Gyanendra announced the handover of power to people. Following the nationwide election in 2008, Nepal elected its first president.
2016 marks 10 years after the end of the Maoist insurgency. One of the foremost agendas of the insurgency – to abolish monarchy and reinstate people’s power – has been achieved. Politics has been inclusive and many forms of social development, including those in health and education, have been remarkable in the past ten years. Political awareness, international concerns and public inquisitiveness have seen a tremendous improvement. However, the initial enthusiasm for development, result-oriented democracy, and resource mobilization seems to be fading. Elitism, lack of the rule of law, and deep-rooted corruption have simultaneously erupted over the past decade, which have been detrimental to macro-level development. Political frustrations over cronyism and the lack of meritocracy are wide spread, especially among young adults. The difference in the quality of education between government schools and private schools has been widening. Every day, nearly a thousand Nepalese youths are obliged to go to the Gulf States and the Middle-east as migrant workers. More than ever, people seem hesitant about the future of political openness, worried about the development of the nation, and concerned about the lack of opportunities at home for those who most deserve it.
If I had been born just a few years earlier, perhaps, I would have been one of the Maoist soldiers. Or conversely, If I had been born a few years later, I would have never gotten the chance to look at the Maoist insurgency and Nepal’s political background in such rare proximity. My childhood upbringing and its accompanying experiences have been foundational to how I understand politics and my passion for it.
At an early age, I came to realize that I desired to pursue a career in politics. In Nepal, those who perform well on academics are expected to be a doctor or an engineer; and with no surprise the same was expected of me. I knew that in order to stand out in my career, I needed to get quality education, global experience, and vital moral and intellectual development – which sadly were not achievable by merely studying in Nepal. Fortunately, I was selected for a two-years scholarship to study A-levels in the United Kingdom. Alongside embracing socio-cultural diversity, learning from fellow students from 10 different countries provided me an enriching and broadening education. Living at Pestalozzi Village in the UK opened up more opportunities to engage in community activities, intellectual debates, and leadership programs. And to a bigger extent in academics, the Pestalozzi experience became crucial to my admission at Duke.
Ever since coming to Duke, I’ve been able to kindle up my interests in many other branches through exploring its academic offerings, and through joining different student groups. But while I’m pursuing higher education and career development here in the US, many of my contemporaries are obliged to be trapped in poverty and unemployment. Every day, I am conscious of the problems that plague my home country. And every day, I am learning how these problems overlap with those in other regions. I see the struggle of the third world countries to pace and catch up to the rest of the world. I am driven to look even further at international development and policy-making to find solutions to Nepal’s political problems.
The location of Ghyalchok, Gorkha.
Links on Maoist insurgency in Nepal:
Resources on current development in Nepal:
BIGYAN BABU REGMI is a freshman from Nepal. He is interested in pursuing Economics and Public Policy Studies. Before coming to Duke, Babu studied in the United Kingdom for two years. He is passionate about current affairs and global politics.