KATHMANDU, NEPAL — Having reported on the impact of 10 years of conflict in Nepal (see story here), I realized how human right violations during the conflict left this society with deep scars due to torture, rape and abduction. War was waged to transform life here and some of the issues were addressed, but the stigma of issues including the use of child soldiers are still ignored by the state.
While I was reporting on conflict victims, I met Devi Sunuwar, who was campaigning for justice for her daughter’s killing during the conflict. She had with her a book about former Maoist soldiers, which she had picked up at a conference organized by a group of former child soldiers.
I am always keen to read new reports and books so I browsed through it. Soon, I realized that this was another story to write about the pains and gains of war.
“We are not the only ones who suffered during the war,” Sunuwar told me. “There are former child guerillas who were also exploited during the war.”
Those former fighters are now struggling to get compensation for the injustice they endured and to reintegrate themselves into Nepalese society.
I found it easy to find former child soldiers, since most stay in Kathmandu, far from their home villages. They want to avoid the stigma associated with having been child soldiers. Their families and former friends consider them to be worthless because their only skills have to do with fighting. They feel they have nothing to show for having been fighters.
Even when I was interviewing them, they closed the doors to their rented rooms and spoke in hushed tones because they didn’t want their new neighbors to know their past. They are shocked that society has forgotten them and their contributions.
This story was revealing to me, in terms of how a society behaves in the aftermath of war.