Life in Kathmandu crippled by strike
For those who are not only interested in Nepal’s beautiful mountain ranges but also share an interest in the political life of the country, here is a short update on where Nepal stands politically at the moment.
The week has started with a so-called Bandh, or shutdown strike, which was called by the Young Communist League (YCL), a group connected to the Maoists, in protest against the alleged killing of one of their leaders.
Shops, schools and offices were shut across the city as protesters burned tyres and forced buses, cars and even bicycles off the road to demand an investigation into the death of Rajendra Phuyal.
As I was scheduled to do an interview with the UN about the political situation in Nepal, I had to cycle across town to the United Nations Headquarters in New Baneshwar. Once on my bike, I was actually amazed how strict the strike was. Several cyclists were pulled off their bikes and sometimes the members of the YCL even deflated their tyres. As a foreigner you often get away, however, several guys tried to pull me off my bike but I was sitting firmly in the saddle and did not let them get to me. It was actually amazing to ride in the capital today, as the air was clean and the roads were completely empty.
However, situations like this have not been unusual since the Maoist government, which was only elected one year ago, resigned at the beginning of May. In recent weeks they, and groups affiliated to them, have launched attacks, called strikes and blocked roads all over the country.
“Life in the countryside is almost chaotic and people get held up by roadblocks and strikes,” said Kunda Dixit, editor of the popular weekly newspaper ‘The Nepali Times’, who has just returned from a two-months tour around the country.
“People in the villages are fed up as they have they feel let down by the politicians once again. They worry that this country is going back to war, which in my view is not going to happen,” Dixit continued.
Kosmos Biswokarma of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) agrees with Dixit, however, he thinks that if the 24 parties that are forming the constituent assembly keep on bickering, the peace process will continue to stagnate.
“As long as the newly elected prime minister, Madhav Kumar Nepal, does not have a fully formed government it will be hard to continue with the peace process,” he told me.
Now, where is the political situation at at the moment? Since I moved to this country in 2004, I have seen many political changes, however, I have noticed little change on the ground.
Nepal is full of surprises and even though it was not that much of a surprise when Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, formerly known as Prachanda, won the elections in April 2008, it was a surprise when his government resigned over a dispute with Nepal’s president over the leadership of the army on 4th May.
I was obviously not in Kathmandu at that time but I remember one of my team members telling me that one of our ministers had resigned. Little did I know that it was actually the prime minister but when I found out what had actually happened, I was once again surprised that the situation in the country did not blow up.
“I think it was a good thing that the government resigned as it shows its commitment to the peace process. Now the Maoist and the ruling government have to work together to achieve long-term piece,” Dixit said.
However, while the parties in Kathmandu bicker over the writing of the constitution, people in the country are faced with a different problem: ethnicity. According to Dixit there are 103 different ethnic groups in Nepal and they all want to be included in the constitution writing. “If the current clashes are not controlled soon, Nepal is in real danger of seriously degenerating.”
Well, let’s hope that the different parties and the 103 ethnic groups will soon find a common denominator and the country will not be thrown back into anarchy, or even civil war. Nepal and its people is just too beautiful to go back where it was ten years ago.