The Road to Rolpa: constructing the Sahid Marg and the dynamics of state legitimacy during the armed conflict in Nepal


  • Madhusudan Subedi Tribhuvan University
  • Rekha Shreesh
  • Riti Hermán Mostert Wageningen University & Research



Using the road construction case, Road to Rolpa, as a basis for our study, we explore to what extent service delivery by non-state organisations might have affected state legitimacy in a period of violent conflict in Nepal. During the armed conflict, the government withdrew development activities and cut the budget from many of the Maoist-controlled areas, particularly from areas where the insurgents were governing parallel to the state. In this critical situation, and at the peak of the conflict (2002-2006), the Maoists initiated the construction of the Sahid Marg to win the hearts and minds of the people while also aiming at undermining the ruling power. This study portrays that it was more important for people that services were actually delivered than who delivered them and how they were delivered, even under very deprived conditions. People granted the Maoists a certain degree of legitimacy, mostly in terms of what they obtained. Simultaneously the legitimacy of the government as basic service provider was historically weak, but it was strengthened by the oppressive working procedures of the Maoists. This article argues that gaining legitimacy in one form by the Maoists can result in the gain of legitimacy in another form by the state.