After the decade-long Maoist conflict ended in 2006, ex-guerrilla commanders and local governments here saw great potential for ‘war tourism’ in the revolutionary heartland.
These craggy and remote mountains of mid-western Nepal were where the Maoists launched their armed struggle in February 1996, and many obscure villages like Holeri, Khara and Gam became household words because of the famous battle that raged there.
More than 15 years after the war ended, the former guerrillas have been in and out of government many times and have earmarked a budget every year to take the region ‘from Maoism to tourism’.
The idea is to use the historical memory of the conflict to honour the sacrifices of those who died in the insurgency, generate income from trekking tourism, and create local jobs.
In the past 15 years, the central government alone has spent Rs500 million to promote ‘war tourism’. But the money has mostly been doled out to the cadre of the Maoist Centre party, which is once again a member of the coalition government in Kathmandu now.
Rolpa today is as neglected as ever, former guerrilla commanders who are in government have not done much to provide health and education, or lift the living standards of the people in whose name they fought a war of liberation.
An example of the enormous waste of money is a safe house in Rolpa in which Maoist Supreme Commander Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) once sought shelter in 2001 during the conflict.
In 2019, the local infrastructure initiative spent Rs10 million to renovate this house ostensibly to turn it into a museum. The mud and thatch two-storey house belongs to the brother of Maoist leader Jayapuri Gharti, and another of her brothers was made the chair of the project. The money was used to purchase the house and build a metal structure to shelter the shelter from the elements.