By Prakash Mahatara
While on the way to a wedding party in Dailekh, the police killed 12 people in the Daha Village Development Committee (VDC) of Jajarkot district, Jumla-Dailekh, on the border of western Nepal in 1998. The police looted food and other things. In the same year, the police killed 8 farmers working on their fields in the nearby Nipani village, and left their bodies in the jungle. After the murder of the men, dozens of kids became orphans and women became widows. It was very tough for these families to survive, even to find enough to eat. To help the people, the CPN-Maoist managed a common settlement for all the families of the slain. Later on, they set up the ‘Juni Commune’, where the families now live and where property is held in common.
At present, there are four communes in Nepal; the Juni commune in Jajarkot, Balidan in Rukum, and the Ajambari and Jaljala communes in Rolpa. The biggest commune is the Ajambari commune. Located in Thawang in Rolpa, it was also a front of struggle during the People’s War. During the Peoples War, the Royal Nepal Army destroyed more than two dozen houses in Thabang, leaving hundreds of people homeless. They were forced to hide in the jungle for 22 days amidst air and land attacks by the Royal Nepal Army. After the Royal Nepal Army threat was repelled, the commune was established. There are 141 people from 38 families living there.
Based on the principle of ‘ from each according to his ability, to each according to his need’, the commune deals with finance, agriculture, education, arms, health, construction, elderly and child care among other things. The commune has members who are illiterate and members who are university graduates. Though there are only four fully-fledged communes, there are more than 50 co-operative communes in Nepal. The commune members say commune settlement and production is a better and more rational system than the old feudalistic production system.
Nirman, the In-Charge of the Juni Commune, says that the feudalist mode of production creates a decentralized labour system that reduces production while the Commune system helps labour and increases production. The commune does not waste money or resources.
Every year at the commune, the anniversary of the People’s War is marked on 1st of the Nepali month of Falgun (February). Although there are Brahmins, Chettris, Dalits, and other nationalities and castes, yet there is no caste discrimination in the commune. There is likewise no gender discrimination, men and women work equally.
The Commune is putting into practice a cultural transformation, to create a more rational way of life. In the commune, for example, if a member dies, they don’t fast or stop taking salt according to religious custom. Instead, they cover the dead body with the flag of the commune in tribute and they set up a dharmasala or a public guest house to their memory.
Soap, confectionary, shoes, pashmina shawls, and biscuits are among some of the things the commune produces. The In-Charge of the Balidan Commune, Deepak Thapa, says: “We aim to convert these cooperatives into a production brigade”. Besides these, some communes also have a hotel, restaurants, a cooperative bank, a hospital, a model school and other services for the commune.
‘All the adults of our commune work with the soil since dawn to sunset, but we never suffer any lack as the adult division looks after us’- says eighty year old Mangal Rooka of the Jaljala commune. “Our commune has finished off the rumours that Communists kill people at the age of 60, but the reality is quite opposite. A group has been mobilized to serve the older people like us.”
Last year, a national conference of the Communes stated that: ‘we will be united until the last drop of blood remain in our body’.
There is a burning necessity in the world to find better and more rational ways to live, to not waste so much, to not be so dependent on petroleum, to not repeat the mistakes that have already destroyed so much of the environment in other parts of the world. The communes in Nepal are a very important experiment for a better way of life, especially for countries with similar conditions to Nepal. For example, in India, so many farmers are driven to suicide because of the feudal system and because of the ruthless exploitation of capitalism. The communes show that a better way of living is possible. – The Red Star, Kathmandu, June 16-30, 2008
Another report from the Red Star is reproduced in KERALA LETTER blog