Home International How Nepal’s Maoist war started with Tibet rebels’ guns

How Nepal’s Maoist war started with Tibet rebels’ guns


Kathmandu: As Nepal’s Maoist party formally handed over its guerrilla army to the state, reminiscences by veteran fighters revealed how their 10-year “People’s War”, which killed over 16,000 people, had begun with firearms once used by Tibetan rebels to fight the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

Though the armed insurrection started in 1996, the Maoists planned to go underground, obtain arms and train supporters almost eight years earlier, according to Maoist leaders in their People’s Liberation Army (PLA) camp in southern Nepal, where the handover was effected Saturday.

Maoist MP and former minister Dev Gurung took responsibility for obtaining modern firearms for the party, the Naya Patrika daily reported Sunday.

Gurung’s uncle Ganesh Bahadur Gurung was based in mountainous Manang district in northern Nepal, near the Tibetan border.

It was he who contacted the Khampas – the Tibetan warriors who waged a guerrilla war from Tibet and Nepal against the Chinese annexation in the 1950s – and obtained two rifles from them.

A 303 rifle and a Mark 4 rifle obtained from the Tibetan warriors formed the most modern arsenal with which Nepal’s PLA went to war in 1996, the other weapons being country-made guns, home-made bombs and daggers.

One of the rifles went westward and another east to train the PLA fighters. But the training was basic, given the fact that there was hardly any ammunition.

The first most notable attack occurred in 2001 when the PLA stormed a police post in Holeri, a town in Rolpa, the western district regarded as the cradle of the Maoist revolt.

The attack made the government sit up and take notice as it resulted in the rebels taking nearly 70 policemen captive and spelling out the deadly seriousness of their objective.

During the Holeri attack, the rifle that had been sent west was carried and fired by Barsha Man Pun, known as Ananta during the war. Ananta is now a member of parliament.

The rifle – affectionately nicknamed “Wholetimer” by the fighters as it was as busy as any full-time party supporter – is now with the fifth division of the PLA.

Along with the other rifle, it is now part of the nearly 3,500 firearms laid down by the Maoists in 2006 after they signed a peace accord and ended the civil war.

Till Jan 15, the weapons, locked up in containers kept in PLA camps, remained under the supervision of the UN. But from Saturday, they passed under the supervision of a special committee that replaces the UN agency.

Ironically, the Maoists have now pledged to support Beijing’s “One China” policy that regards Tibet as an integral part of the Chinese republic. Both Manang and Mustang, another northern district where the Khampas had been active, remain under state and Maoist scanner to prevent anti-China activities.