The plan to open up a trekking route in what was the Maoist heartland during the years of the conflict has been around for a while. But it was only on Tuesday that the details of the route were unveiled at a programme where the Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal spoke. The reactions over the establishment of the route have been mixed. Many Maoists presumably feel that it will remind the world of their ‘People’s War’, and of their bravery and sacrifice. Many others, however, are not positively disposed to the exhibition of these areas to tourists as part of the “guerilla trek.” They feel that the decade between 1996 and 2006 was that of major violence and bloodshed, and as such needs to be condemned. They feel that establishing a trekking route in these regions will only serve to glorify the Maoists and their ideology.
Both of these views somewhat miss the point. It is true that the Maoist conflict was violent. It is also true that there should be no glorification of violence. But the decade-long conflict is an extremely important part of recent Nepali history. It did bring about major changes in Nepali society, and it is only right that it should be memorialised in different ways, such as through the “guerilla trek”. Further, rather than glorifying the war, the “guerilla trek” should serve as a memorial to the negative effects of the conflict. The inhabitants of Rolpa, Rukum and other surrounding districts suffered tremendously during the conflict. The scars of the war — in the form of demolished buildings and memories — continue to exist. These facets of the war experience should also be memorialised to remind the visitor of the suffering of Nepali society in recent history and the need to avoid such conflict in the future.
When the Maoists began their rebellion, the areas of the guerilla trek were extremely hard to get to and rarely ever received any government support or visitors. Over the past six years, things have gradually changed. There are more facilities provided by the government in these districts and researchers have flocked to Rolpa and Rukum to study the causes of the conflict. We hope that the “guerilla trek” will similarly provide the inhabitants of these areas with greater exposure to the outside world and opportunities to make a living. Of course, tourism is not the panacea to all the country’s economic woes. Together with other sectors, however, it can offer inhabitants of the country’s peripheral areas a chance at improving their livelihoods. As the Maoist Chairman said on Tuesday: “Political upheavals are of no value unless the country manages an economic transformation.” Towards that end, peace dividends have remained a mirage for Nepalis, a point Chairman Dahal and his party will do well to mull over why. Despite two Maoist prime ministers since 2008, not only economic transformation—and economic justice—remains as elusive as ever.
Posted on: 2012-10-04 07:53