Trekking in Nepal: Guerrillas in our midst

We had encountered Maoists in Nepal before. On the Annapurna Circuit Trek in 2003, two men visited our teahouse demanding a “donation” to the revolutionaries’ cause. Extortion by another name, it was a strangely businesslike transaction, with negotiations, payment of 1,000 Nepalese rupees (about £5), and the production of a receipt with our names, date and amount paid. The words: “Nepal Communist Party (Maoist)” ran across the top, alongside tiny sketches of Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Engels and Marx, the Five Fathers of Communism.
Fast forward 10 years, and today’s Maoists are hoping to collect tourist revenue by more legitimate means. The “People’s War” that lasted from 1996 to 2006 led to the death of 16,000 Nepalis, displacement of more than 100,000, and desperate human rights abuses by both rebels and government forces. Winning the majority vote in 2008’s historic elections made the Maoist revolutionaries mainstream.

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