Sowing the Wind

History and Dynamics of the Maoist Revolt in Nepal's Rapti Hills

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Sowing the Wind: History and Dynamics of the Maoist Revolt in Nepal’s Rapti Hills, describes the roots of the Maoist movement beginning in the 1930s in western Nepal's Rolpa and Rukum districts. The decline of the area's traditional occupations (sheep herding, iron-working) combined with the government ban on the hashish crop created enormous economic hardships for these poor, remote, sparsely-populated districts. Arbitrary actions by Kathmandu authorities generated increasing hostility towards capital elites, and with the leadership of one of the originators of Nepal’s Communist Party, the Rapti Hills soon established its own local communist party. The party grew in adherents each time a decision in Kathmandu disadvantaged the ethnic Magar communities of the area, which the Maoists dubbed their "District Number One."

This report describes the conflict's caste dimensions, assesses whether former British Ghurkas played any role, and details the significance of the Government's anti-Maoist Operation Romeo in the outbreak of the Nepalese Civil War. It also plots the intersection of the rise of the Maoist movement with the USAID development program in the region and contrasts the conduct of the Nepali Maoists with Maoist groups elsewhere — the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia before and after their accession to power, the Indian Naxalites, and Peru's Shining Path. Based on 250 individual interviews conducted in the Rapti Hills, the Terai, and throughout rural Nepal, Mercy Corps consultant Robert Gersony utilizes the recollections and outlooks of local residents to highlight Maoist social and economic influence during the revolution. The Nepali language version contains eighteen original full-color maps illustrating the topography, ethnic distribution, and political divisions of key districts of the Rapti Hills and the Terai at the time.

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