Nepal is renowned for its fighting men, the fabled Gurkhas. The worldwide reputation of Nepalese soldiers as a superior fighting force can be attributed mainly to the qualities of the troops of Nepalese origin who have fought as contingents in the British Army since the early nineteenth century and for the Indian Army since its formation in 1947. With their long record of martial prowess and battlefield heroics, the Gurkhas provide one of the more colorful chapters of modern military history. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

The history of the Royal Nepal Army is intertwined with that of the Rana Dynasty and its Shah predecessors (see Rana Rule under History). In the post-World War II era, the army served as a bastion of support for King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and his heir, King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, Nepal's reigning monarch until 2001.*

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, armies were raised when needed and disbanded when the need expired. This practice created a sizable reserve of trained veterans but resulted in a recurring unemployment problem. In general, only members of the higher castes were retained in military service between wars. The first steps toward the creation of a sizable permanent military establishment were taken by Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa, who governed from 1804-37 and who raised the army's strength from 10,000 to 15,000 persons. He also built arsenals, ordnance workshops, and cantonments. The large parade ground constructed at Tundhikhel in Kathmandu during that period still was in use as of 1991.*

Many Nepalese opponents of the monarchy complained that the military was a reactionary institution bent on defending a quasifeudal system of government in the face of mounting popular calls for democratization. More conservative Nepalese, however, regarded a strong king and a traditional military beholden to royal patronage as essential elements of political stability and national independence. During the 1990 Movement for the Restoration of Democracy, or prodemocracy movement, which transformed Nepal's political system into a broad-based constitutional monarchy with elected civilian leaders, the army was used as a stabilizing force.*

Early History of Nepal’s Military

The old Gorkha kingdom was established in the mid-sixteenth century by Dravya Shah, the founder of the dynasty of Shah Thakuri kings that have reigned in Nepal ever since (Expansion of Gorkha Under History). Two centuries later, the Gorkha kingdom began a major expansion under the energetic, young King Prithvi Narayan Shah (reigned 1743-75), who conquered the Kathmandu Valley and unified numerous petty kingdoms while consolidating his control over an area substantially the same as that of modern Nepal. The first two regular Gurkha regiments, designated Sri Nath and Purano Gorakh, were raised in 1763. As Gorkha rule expanded, control over the conquered territories was left mainly to district governors (bada hakim), who were responsible for establishing military strong points and for maintaining a local militia.*

The military prowess of the Nepalese soldier first became known in the eighteenth century, when forces from what was then known as Gorkha invaded Tibet. Within Nepal itself, certain ethnic groups, such as the Magar, Gurung, Limbu, Rai, Chhetri, and Thakuri, had much earlier won reputations as "warrior tribes." The Magar, Gurung, and Limbu furnished the bulk of the kingdom's soldiers up to the rank of captain. Higher ranks tended to be filled from the Thakuri, Chhetri, and Rai groups. These officers came almost exclusively from families of the ruling elite.*

Until the middle of the nineteenth century, armies were raised when needed and disbanded when the need expired. This practice created a sizable reserve of trained veterans but resulted in a recurring unemployment problem. In general, only members of the higher castes were retained in military service between wars. The first steps toward the creation of a sizable permanent military establishment were taken by Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa, who governed from 1804-37 and who raised the army's strength from 10,000 to 15,000 persons. He also built arsenals, ordnance workshops, and cantonments. The large parade ground constructed at Tundhikhel in Kathmandu during that period still was in use as of 1991.*

Before the end of the eighteenth century, Gorkha rulers had sent successful military missions into Tibet and China. Pressure to the south and west, however, met resistance from the military forces of the British East India Company, which were expanding north of the Gangetic Plain into the Terai and the foothills of the Himalayas. Increasingly frequent clashes of the opposing forces culminated in the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814-16, in which the victorious British forces were impressed by the fighting qualities of their Gorkha opponents. When Nepal's General Amar Singh Thapa was forced to capitulate west of the Kali River in 1815, the remnants of his troops were accepted into the service of the British East India Company. By the 1816 Treaty of Sagauli, the British recognized the sovereignty of Nepal and received permission to recruit Nepalese soldiers (Relations with Britain Under History). [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

Nepalese Military in the British Period

Within Nepal itself, Prime Minister Ranoddip Singh, who governed from 1877 to 1885, introduced a militia system in the early 1880s by which the army could be rapidly expanded on short notice — an expedient which proved of great value to future British war efforts. Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher Rana, in power from 1901 to 1929, introduced many military reforms under a program to modernize government service. Among measures affecting the army were the adoption of translated British military manuals for the use of troop units, promotion examinations, improved standards of efficiency, reorganization of administrative processes, and payment of all ranks in cash, rather than in land tenure (jagir) or grain, as was formerly the practice. Despite these reforms, the officer corps above the grade of captain continued to be limited to members of the Rana family and to the Thakuri, Chhetri, and Rai ethnic groups. Barracks remained inadequate for accommodating all the men in the twenty-six battalions stationed in the Kathmandu Valley. Many soldiers had to seek their own food and lodging in towns and villages outside their garrisons.*

During World War I (1914-18), the army was expanded and six new regiments, totaling more than 20,000 troops — all volunteers — were sent to India, most of them to the North-West Frontier Province, to release British and Indian troops for service overseas. Simultaneously, the Nepalese government agreed to maintain recruitment at a level that both would sustain the existing British Gurkha units and allow the establishment of additional ones. The battalions were increased to thirty-three with the addition of 55,000 new recruits, and Gurkha units were placed at the disposal of the British high command for service on all fronts. Many volunteers were assigned to noncombat units, such as the Army Bearer Corps and the labor battalions, but they also were in combat in France, Turkey, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. The Rana prime ministers urged Nepalese males to fight in the war. Of the more than 200,000 Nepalese who served in the British Army, there were some 20,000 Gurkha casualties.*

Following the war, the Nepalese government requested that Britain cede portions of the Terai in recognition of Kathmandu's contribution to the Allied war effort. London refused, but the Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship, signed in December 1923, granted "unequivocal" recognition of Nepal's independence. This treaty formed the basis for Nepal's continued independence following the British withdrawal from India in 1947 (see Rana Oligarchy Under History). *

Nepal Military After World War II

The British ended their two-century rule over the subcontinent after World War II and agreed to an independent India, shorn of its Muslim-majority areas that had formed the new nation of Pakistan. Unlike most territories belonging to native princes, which were soon absorbed into the British successor states of India and Pakistan, Nepal and its feudal dynasty survived the British withdrawal intact. Still an independent entity, Nepal thus became a small South Asian state wedged between Asia's greatest land powers, India and China. Nepal nevertheless continued to provide a fertile recruiting ground for the British and Indian armies. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

After World War II, the end of the British Raj (1858-1947), and the anti-Rana revolt of 1950-51, Nepal struggled to find its identity in a vastly changed Indian subcontinent. By 1950 all important army posts were held by members of the Rana ruling family. Many of the battalions had just returned from war duties in India and Burma; the battaloins included some soldiers who had defected from British units and fought with the Japanese as part of the Indian National Army. The returning soldiers found that pay, rations, equipment, housing, and general conditions of service in Nepal contrasted unfavorably with what they had known under the British. Many of the general officers had never served in the lower ranks. The bulk of the army was stationed in the Kathmandu Valley, where the Rana government, aware of growing opposition, could keep potentially disloyal officers under surveillance. As remained true in 1991, British recruiters attracted the best candidates for military service because of improved prospects for advancement and higher pay. Those unable to land positions in the Brigade of Gurkhas usually opted to serve in the Indian Army, leaving the Royal Nepal Army with the remaining large pool of recruits from which to choose.*

Many World War II veterans were discharged at the end of their enlistments. Many of the officers who remained in service were unqualified to give proper training to the young replacements, and poor pay added to mounting discontent. By the time the revolt began in 1950, many soldiers were predisposed to defect to the anti-Rana forces (Return of the Monarchy Under History). Most soldiers, however, remained loyal or, at a minimum, did not lend active support to political forces attempting to overthrow the Ranas. The officer corps, however, remained staunchly loyal to the king throughout the crisis. The organization leading the revolt, the Nepali Congress Party, developed a distrust of the army leadership that reportedly still persisted in some quarters in 1991. At the same time, memories of India's moral and limited matériel support for the 1950 uprising led some sections of the military to question the national loyalties of the Nepali Congress Party.*

Legal Basis under the 1990 Constitution

The promulgation of the constitution in November 1990 opened a new era in Nepalese civil-military relations. Under the Ranas and the two monarchs of modern times, King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (reigned 1955-72) and Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (reigned 1972- ), military and national defense decisions were the sole prerogative of the palace, acting on the advice of a small coterie of retainers and senior military commanders. Decisions were not ordinarily subject to the approval of elected bodies other than the narrowly based Rashtriya Panchayat, or National Panchayat, which served as a rubber stamp for the palace. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

Under the new constitutional order, the king retains his traditional authority as the supreme commander of the armed forces. The king, however, is not the sole source of authority in Nepal but rather a symbol of national unity. In a major break from past constitutional experiments, sovereignty is vested in the people, not in the person of the king. The distinction is important in that the military no longer acts solely as an instrument of the king but also is in principle subordinate to the authority of the popularly elected Parliament.*

During the protracted discussions that occurred in 1990 over the outlines of the new constitution, King Birendra, fearing that a future civilian government might radically undercut the military's prestige and with it the monarch's power or very existence, reportedly insisted on retaining ultimate authority over the military. Having to contend with independent centers of power that were beyond his direct control, Birendra realized that the military was his only reliable institutional base of support. Military commanders, for their part, feared that civilian politicians might attempt to politicize the army and undermine discipline. Consequently, the 1990 constitution represents a compromise between the king, who still retains many avenues to power should he choose, and a newly empowered civilian government.*

Several provisions circumscribe the palace's previously unfettered right to employ the army as it sees fit. Unlike the legislature under the 1962 Panchayat Constitution, Parliament has real authority to determine and approve the annual defense budget. Although the role is not specified in the constitution, the civilian minister of defense oversees the day-to-day operations of the military. Conceivably, an assertive Parliament could hobble the king's authority over the army by denying funds. Day-to-day decisions affecting national security and military affairs are implemented by the king only with the advice and consent of the elected civilian government.*

The power to appoint a chief of army staff, another traditional royal prerogative that afforded the palace direct control over the military, also is subject to the recommendation of an elected prime minister. This provision has the potential to precipitate a constitutional crisis should the king refuse the recommendation of the prime minister. The constitution offers no guidance should such a disagreement arise. In the first test of this clause, however, the newly elected Nepali Congress government of Girija Prasad (G.P.) Koirala assented to the appointment of General Gadul Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana to head the Royal Nepal Army within days after assuming office in May 1991. The prime minister, the king, and the army were anxious to demonstrate that the new constitutional order was working.*

Article 118 of the constitution mandates the formation of a three-person National Defence Council consisting of the prime minister, who chairs the body; the defense minister; and the chief of army staff, the nation's senior uniformed officer. According to this provision, the king "shall carry out the administration and deployment of the Royal Nepal Army on the recommendation of the National Defence Council." Although as of late 1991 there was no clear indication of the role this hybrid body performed, its formation underscored the insistence of King Birendra and the army that Parliament must not be solely responsible for national defense. Accordingly, the National Defence Council will probably act as an intermediary body between the Parliament and the king where decisions affecting the military will be debated and negotiated. Under this arrangement, the army, still a critical component of political stability, also retains a formal say in national security affairs.*

Despite Nepal's transition from an absolute monarchy to a democracy, the king retains formidable emergency powers that, if activated, would decisively tip the political balance of power in his favor. Article 115, "Powers to Remove Difficulties," grants the king the unilateral right to proclaim a state of emergency in the event of a "grave crisis created by war, external attack, armed revolt or extreme economic disorder." Under a state of emergency the king assumes direct rule and "may issue necessary orders as are designed to meet the exigencies." Authority to implement this provision is not clearly spelled out, but the king is specifically authorized to suspend fundamental rights, except for habeas corpus and the right to organize political parties and unions. The proclamation of an emergency must be submitted to the lower house of Parliament within three months for approval by a two-thirds majority, after which it may remain in effect for six months, with one six-month renewal period. Although this provision was untested as of September 1991, the king clearly has the authority to dissolve the government and muster the nation's security forces to enforce royal decrees, if the situation warrants.*

Provisions relating to the conduct of foreign affairs also have national security implications. Under Article 126, treaties with foreign governments must be ratified by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Parliament as opposed to the simple majority required for other bills. Specifically, the constitution mandates a two-thirds majority parliamentary assent to treaties bearing on "peace and friendship," defense and strategic alliances, the demarcation of national boundaries, and "national resources and distribution in the utilization thereof." One provision forbids passage of any treaty or agreement that "compromises the territorial integrity of Nepal." The rationale for these restrictions, although not spelled out in the constitution itself, clearly reflects widespread suspicions on the part of political parties and, in particular, the Nepalese public that an overbearing India might press for, or even dictate, treaty terms unfavorable to Nepal..*

Nepal’s Military in the 1990s

In the early 1990s, the military retained its generally privileged position in society. Constitutional arrangements mandating an unprecedented degree of civilian control over national defense and military affairs still were being ironed out, however, and the country's experiment in participatory democracy still was in an embryonic stage. The Royal Nepal Army's position during the 1990 prodemocracy campaign prompted many observers to predict that the military would willingly accept its role in the new constitutional order. Other observers, noting possibilities of heightened political competition and strife in the kingdom, were not so sanguine. Nepal, however, has never experienced a military coup d'état — although the 1960 place coup by King Birendra was backed by the military. In sum, the military's position in society and its subservience to civilian authority was a continuing process, not a settled fact. [Source: Andrea Matles Savada, Library of Congress, 1991 *]

There were calls from some political quarters, particularly radical communists and a section of the intelligentsia, to abolish the monarchy, overhaul the military chain of command, slash the defense budget, and ban Indian and British military recruiting of Nepalese citizens. These objectives were not shared by the ruling Nepali Congress Party government, King Birendra, large sections of the Nepalese public, and the military itself — all of which voiced unequivocal opposition to any political attempts to radically alter traditional patterns of civil-military relations. By 1991 the Royal Nepal Army, long a bulwark of the monarchy, appeared to be adjusting to the new requirements laid down by the constitution and the new democratically elected government. Most civilian politicians also recognized the value of maintaining a disciplined, reliable military that could enforce public order, symbolize the nation's independence, and allow the government to proceed with the monumental task of improving the economic well-being of its citizens.*

Nepal's military establishment in 1991 consisted of an army of 35,000 personnel. Organized largely along British lines, the force included fourteen infantry brigades, an airborne battalion, an air defense regiment, a small air services wing, and a variety of independent infantry companies and supporting units. Service in the army, an all-volunteer force, generally was held in high esteem by the general public; benefits and terms of service were attractive by local standards. Although its soldiers generally were welltrained and highly motivated, Nepal lacked the resources to equip its army with anything beyond obsolete imported weapons. The officer corps had no political ambitions and invariably carried out the orders of the king and civilian authorities.*

Although the military's stated mission was the classic one of defending the nation against hostile external attack, internal security — assisting the police, patrolling remote areas, and protecting the monarchy — constituted the military's primary mission. The country's precarious geopolitical position between two giant neighbors, India and China, made anything more than a token conventional defense impractical. In order to ensure the country's survival, Nepalese leaders have traditionally sought to maintain good relations with both neighbors and to obtain international recognition of Nepal's de jure status as an independent buffer state. The protracted trade and transit dispute that poisoned IndoNepalese relations in 1989, although eventually resolved amicably in 1990, reinforced the common Nepalese perception of an overbearing Indian government willing to use its economic and military advantages to intimidate its small Himalayan neighbor. Most Nepalese regarded China as a more distant but benign power that served as a strategic counterweight to India's supposed hegemonistic ambitions in the region.*

Under the 1990 constitution, control over the nation's military is vested in the king, although the elected civilian government acquired new authority over military affairs and national defense. The 28,000-strong Nepalese Police Force, regarded by many observers as corrupt and inefficient, became a focus of the Nepali Congress Party government that came to power in 1991. The new government promised to reform the police system, overhaul the judiciary, and improve the country's deteriorating law-and-order situation. The constitution instituted significant reforms in human rights and judicial practices, both of which were the objects of considerable domestic and foreign criticism.*

Fighting During with the Nepalese Civil War

In February 1996, Maoist rebels calling themselves the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CNP(M)) launched a "people's war" against the Nepal government The official government death toll for the conflict, which ended in 2006 and is now known as the Nepalese Civil War, was 16,278. Among the dead were hundreds of police officers and hundred of civilians. The number of Maoist rebel casualties was hard to determine because the rebels carried their dead away from the battlefields. It was difficult to get any kind of information because the areas where fighting took place were so remote and difficult to get to and the movement of journalists was restricted.

Most fighting during the Nepalese Civil War occurred in rural areas and in western districts. Until early 2000, Nepalese police efforts against the CPN(M) were generally uncoordinated. The army became involved in February 2000 and began actively engaging the CPN(M) in November 2001. Government security forces were generally hobbled by a lack of funds, local support, and counterinsurgency experience. the mountainous, forested, generally roadless terrain favored the Maoists’ guerrilla tactics. [Source: Library of Congress, November 2005 **]

Human rights observers and foreign governments have suggested that some government efforts to address the conflict — including the suspension of civil liberties and elected government — have reduced the government’s popular legitimacy and thus have been counterproductive. The Maoists’ attacks on infrastructure reportedly have lowered their popular support, as have accusations of robbery, extortion, and forced recruiting. The CPN(M), however, claims such activities are either unauthorized actions committed by lower-level cadres or are justified to prevent the use of public resources to exploit Nepalese. Peace talks in 2001 and 2003 were unsuccessful. **

Indeed, unarmed civilians have been frequent victims. According to a Nepalese human rights organization, the Informal Service Sector Center, from February 13, 1996, to September 16, 2005, 12,809 persons were killed in the conflict, with 64 percent attributed to security forces, 36 percent to the CPN(M), and 82 percent of all conflict-related deaths occurring since 2002. Of the killings attributed to security forces, most were of actual or suspected members of the CPN(M) or political parties (65 percent) or agricultural workers (15.6 percent). Of the killings attributed to the Maoists, most were of police personnel (28.2 percent), agricultural workers (16.2 percent), army personnel (14.4 percent), or civil servants (11.6 percent). Additionally, 50,356 persons had been displaced by the conflict through 2004. However, these figures include only verified events; actual numbers may be higher. **

It was difficult to estimate the true number of deaths because both sides tended to underestimate their own dead and overestimate the number of deaths of their opponents. The Maoist rebels tended to pull their dead from the battlefield, making their number of dead particularly had to gauge. In a typical report the government claimed it killed 90 Maoist rebels as they attempted to launch a human wave attack on an army camps. In one series of attacks in May 2002, the government announced that it had killed 500 Maoist rebels while losing only three government soldiers.


Combating the Maoist Rebels

Initially the Nepalese government tried to fight the Maoists by pretending they didn’t exist and then largely fumbled opportunities to negotiate a settlement to the dispute.King Birendra, who was assassinated in June 2001 by his son, never used the army to fight the Maoist rebels which led to speculation he might have made a secret deal with them.

In the early stages of the conflict with the Maoist rebels, ill-equipped and poorly trained police forces were on the front lines and engaged in the bulk of the fighting. The government didn’t want to use the army to fight the Maoist rebels because that raised the status of the rebels and brought the conflict to close the level of a civil war. Many of the dead were policemen who only earned $40 a month.

In November 2001, after the Maoist rebels walked out of peace talks, King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency and the Royal Nepal Army formally entered into the conflict for the first time. Some had hoped this would turn the tide against the rebels. That didn’t happen. The government had some success using helicopters to attack Maoist rebels strongholds. Helicopters were used in the May 2002 attack that reportedly left 500 Maoist rebels dead with the loss of only three government soldiers in the Rolpa district of western Nepal..

After King Gyanendra grabbed power in February 2005, the government stepped up its military campaign against the Maoist rebels. In March 2005. the government reported that it had killed several dozen Maoist rebels in several attacks in the Arghakhanchi district and elsewhere. In April 2005. the government launched a major offensive against Maoist rebels camps and training facilities in the Rolpa district, the heartland of the Maoist rebel movement. Helicopter gunships were employed. There were reports of fierce fighting.

Most of the information on the successes and failures on government efforts to fight the Maoist rebels come from government sources and it was difficult to the judge the veracity of the reports. The government was also accused of looking solely for a military solution to the conflict and not doing enough to combat rural poverty, which to some degree had allowed the Maoist rebellion to take root.

Cracking Down on the Maoist Rebels and Human Rights Violations

In 2001, the Nepalese government enacted the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance that gave authorities sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspected terrorists or insurgents, search homes without a warrant, restrict press freedoms, and suspend righst to information and property. Anyone engaged in extortion or the threatening of life could be arrested as terrorist. The ordinance was extended over the years by six months extensions. In October 2004, King Gyanendra issued a new anti-terrorism law that gave sweeping powers of detention to the army.

Human rights groups accused both the government and the Maoist rebels of mass abductions, kidnappings, murders and rape. They accused the government of using torture and summary execution to fight the rebels. Bodies of rebels were recovered with their heads missing. The number of reported abuses increased markedly after the government launched its campaign to “break the backbone” of the Maoist insurgency.

Paramilitary and vigilante groups have carried out reprisal attacks against the Maoist rebels, often with the government’s encouragement. The attacks were often in response to some action from the Maoist rebels. In a typical series of attack, villagers in the Kapilbastur district, 300 kilometers west of Kathmandu, killed about 31 Maoist rebels in April 2005. The rebels retaliated by killing 15 villagers. Finally the army had to be brought in to control the situation.

One woman told the New York Times that soldiers showed up at her house in February 2004, rousted her 17-year-old daughter from bed and accused her of being a Maoist rebel. The soldiers than smashed her head with rifles butts tied her to a tree outside, stripped off most of her cloths and shot her in the head. Family members said the girl had ties with the rebels but was not in the movement herself. A 15-year-old girl, Maina Sunuwar, was murdered by soldiers in the Kavre district after her mother told journalists and human rights workers she had witnessed an extrajudicial killing.

Abductions and Disappearances and the Crack Down on the Maoist Rebels

Jeetaman Basnet, a Nepalese journalist, told the Times of London he was drinking tea at a roadside stall when soldiers appeared and blindfolded him and threw him into a car. He was detained for eight months. Jeetaman said, “We were kept handcuffed and blindfolded all the time. The only words we were allowed to say were toilet, food and water.” He said the only time the blindfolds were removed were when they were forced to sign confessions that they were Maoists. “One woman was crying, saying she could not sign it because she wasn’t a Maoist. So they hit here until she broke down and did.” Security forces told the Times that constant blindfolding was necessary to prevent detainees from identifying their captors and attacking them later and said if they weren’t handcuffed “they try to run away and then we have to shoot them.”

The number of disappearances increased as the conflict wore on. There were 700 in 2003, more than in the previous five years combined. In 2004, there were 800, earning Nepal the distinction of being the disappearance capital of the world. According to the United Nations there were more disappearances in Nepal than anywhere else in the world, even places like Columbia. More than 75 percent of these disappearances were blamed on government security forces.

Most of the disappeared are believed to have been killed by government security forces after or during interrogations. One woman in Kathmandu told Reuters that her husband went off to buy vegetables and didn’t return home. Three hours after he left she received a message from an anonymous caller that her husband had been arrested and bundled into a car. A year later she still didn’t know his whereabouts. She believes her husband may have been singled out because of his involvement with an ethnic Newar organization that had links to the Maoists.

Former Maoists Join the Nepalese Army

According to the terms of the November 2006 peace accord, the former Maoist rebels were supposed to go to designated camps in part so they could be accounted for, with the aim of rehabilitating them for ordinary life or preparing them to join the Nepalese military. The 27 Maoist camps set up in 2006 were monitored by the United Nations until January 2011 when a government committee took over. About 31,000 rebels were in camps by late February 2007, but the number of weapons that had been turned in was considerably less than the number of former rebels. About some 19,000 Maoist former combatants were living in UN-supervised camps throughout the country as of 2009.

In 2012, large numbers of former Maoist rebels began leaving their camps as part of their transition to normal life. Reporting from Shaktikhor, Gopal Sharma of Reuters wrote: “Former rebels shed their camouflage uniforms and began leaving their camps to join their families in a first step to their reintegration five years after the end of a civil war. The rehabilitation of more than 19,000 former rebels is seen as crucial for the stability. [Source: Gopal Sharma, Reuters, February 4, 2012]

“Authorities began sending home combatants wanting to end their military career and rejoin their families. More than 7,300 fighters are expected to leave the camps within two weeks. This will boost the stalled peace process, but several potential complications lie ahead,” said analyst Bishnu Raj Upreti, who teaches conflict management at Kathmandu University. The Maoists and other political parties agreed in November 2012 to integrate some fighters into the army and provide education, training and financial aid to the rest. Upreti said remaining challenges included decisions on the former rebels’ ranks and training and their new relationship with the army soldiers they fought against in the war.

“Those Maoists wishing to join the army will remain in the camps for now. The military establishment had resisted integrating their former foes, saying they had been indoctrinated. Authorities say the role of the Maoists will be restricted to non-combat operations such as the construction of development projects, emergency rescue operations and patrolling forests. Terms of their joining the army are yet to be agreed upon.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Nepal Tourism Board (ntb.gov.np), Nepal Government National Portal (nepal.gov.np), The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Wikipedia and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated February 2022

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