During the summer of 2006, I traveled to Nepal to work as a journalism intern for a humanitarian organization located in Kathmandu. The country was at the end of the decade long Maoist conflict and the government had collapsed 3 months before my arrival.
While in country, I was also exploring a theory I had studied deeply in my Peace, War and Defense concentration at UNC. Security Demographics dominated my thoughts and I was seeing the theories presented in that concept play out in real time in Nepal.
I traveled deep into the mountains and documented stories of direct impact from both sides of the conflict. People graciously allowed me into their homes to document their lives and shared their stories of tragedy from war. Witnessing the direct human impacts of conflict allowed me to understand the conflict on a much deeper level.
I’ve embedded one of these stories, originally published in 2006 on a humanitarian news outlet in Nepal, within the metadata of A Day’s Work NFT minted on Foundation. Esita’s story is heartbreaking and powerful and we spent the day together, sharing only gestures and smiles, as I documented her life without her husband who was killed by Nepalese soldiers.
I also traveled deep into the Maoist territory with several local commanders of a region near Dholakat. The deeper we traveled into Maoist territory, the more economic activity and prosperity we witnessed. Nepal is a poor country by Western standards, but it is profoundly beautiful one that is mostly untouched by capitalism once you leave the major cities.
For all its faults, the Maoist’s took care of the communities where they lived. The tiny little towns we passed through were all bustling with commerce and activity. A stark contrast from the government controlled regions I had just returned from the week prior. I was struck by how normal and at ease the people of these villages were and how welcoming they were to the plain clothes commanders we were with and the handful of Western doctors who were my traveling partners.
The difference was stark and I didn’t have the time to truly dive into the disparities between the Maoist controlled regions and the areas dominated by the Nepalese army. But I did understand instantly why the commanders were so proud of their communities and why they insisted on bringing us to their villages to see the work they had done. Their pride was evident and they were right. At least from the perspective of an outsider studying Security Demographics.
The Maoist commanders showed me that yes, when the basic necessities are provided to a population and the young men are given work and hope, stability is possible. This is a sweeping generalization, I get that, and in conflict and war, the nuances run much deeper than what someone could assume from spending a day in one region. But still, the reality of stability was undeniable.
As with my exploration of understanding peace and resistance in the Tibetan Diaspora, I came to no hard conclusions in my observations. Only more questions. I traveled to Palestine the following year to revisit Security Demographics and again was left with no answers.