Nepal

Maoists lock up over thirty houses, evict families in east Nepal

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Kathmandu (dpa) - Maoists forced out at least three dozen families from their homes and locked up the houses in east Nepal, a Nepalese newspaper report said Wednesday.

The Nepali language daily Kantipur reported that the three dozen families were forced out of their homes after at least one person from each of the families joined the security forces.

The number of people affected by the Maoist eviction is unknown as most Nepalese still live in extended families.

According to the newspaper, most of the young men in Ranitar village in Panchthar district, about 280 kilometres east of the capital, joined the Nepalese army or police in the district headquarters of Phidim in February this year.

"We have become Maoists' enemy number one because one of our family members joined security forces,'' the newspaper quoted the victims as saying.

Jhukimaya Shiva was widowed last year and her two sons joined the Nepalese army this year. "The Maoists beat me up saying that I failed to force my sons to resign from the army. I never asked them to join the army, they did it out of their own choice,'' she said.

She told Kantipur that the Maoists threatened to bury her alive if she did not force her sons to quit the army.

Another victim said they were not even allowed to collect their essential belongings from their homes when they were evicted.

Human rights groups in the district called on the Maoists to open up the locked houses to the evicted families, but so far no action was taken.

According to Kantipur, the secretary of the Maoists acknowledged that a large number of people were affected by the lock-up but ruled out the possibility that the evicted families would be allowed to return to their homes anytime soon.

The eviction in east Nepal came amid allegations that Maoists were increasingly targeting civilians. The government said last week the Maoists killed nearly two dozen civilians over the last three weeks.

According to media reports, the killings came despite the diktat from their top leader Prachanda - whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal - not to target unarmed civilians and political activists.

Political analysts say continued killing sprees by Maoist cadres at the local level could indicate loosening control of the leadership over the movement and what they call "increasing criminalization in the rank and file of the underground outfit.''

In an interview Tuesday with the pro-Maoist weekly Janadesh, Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara said his party would probe into reports of incidences of attacks on civilians over the last few weeks.

Mahara said party leader Prachanda had expressed his commitment to not targeting any unarmed civilians, and pledged that it would be fully implemented in practice.

But some political analysts say that with division within the party and loosening control over local cadres, Maoist "atrocities'' against civilians were likely to continue.

The Maoists began their armed insurgency almost ten years ago to set up a communist republic in Nepal. Over 12,000 people are estimated to have been killed during the period. dpa sb tl

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