In the name of Civilian Supremacy
I was so overworked all this while that I needed a break from work, from the chaos, the pollution, the congestion. Saturday, which is a weekend here, was so good; all I did was relax, basked in the sun, ate oranges, and peanuts, read a book, and just took it easy the entire day. A day for myself is just right to rejuvenate my senses. I would have loved to go back to the regular routine after the day off, but the Maoists had declared a three-day nationwide strike, beginning Sunday, 20th of December. THREE DAYS! That is just too much, I told to myself, like everybody else, but could I do anything about it? Absolutely not.
The party bigwigs said that they have taken to the streets as the current government has gone against the aspirations of the people and the Constituent Assembly. They are demanding “civilian supremacy” but it’s a very vague term for my brain to comprehend.
The Maoists had promised that they would not use force, and conduct everything peacefully. Well, peacefully is the last term that describes the strike. They created chaos everywhere. They attacked policemen, army personnel, vandalized government offices, vehicles including ambulance, and defied the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). The Chairman of the party said that the three day strike was immensely successful (The Himalayan Times, December 22, 2009), but his words kept me thinking, “In what ways?” The three-day reports justify the way I feel.
DAY 1: MAOISTS RESORT TO VIOLENCE
Education institutions, industries, and businesses remained closed, while the vehicles stayed off the roads. Clashes erupted at several parts of the country and the protestors vandalized scores of vehicles and offices for defying the bandh. Dozens of people were injured in the clashes, including DSP Dilip Chaudhary, who sustained severe head injury when the protestors attacked him with baton at New Baneswor, Kathmandu.
Even the journalists were not spared. Photojournalist Navesh Chitrakar of The Himalayan Times sustained head injury, and Narayan Neupane of RSS was also injured. Moreover, the Maoists even vandalized a vehicle of Sahid Gangalal Hospital, which was carrying the hospital staffs. Few press vehicles were also vandalized despite Maoists’ commitment to refrain from such activities.
Outside the valley too, there were many events that created tension. In Rajbiraj of Saptari, Maoists burnt the office of the campus chief of Mahendra Bindeshwari Campus for defying the bandh by conducting examination.
Similarly, the protestors torched a motorbike in Sankhejung VDC in Illam while many motorbikes were seized in Nepalgunj. In Dang, the Maoists vandalized three government offices and torched a motorbike belonging to a commoner. (Republica, December 21, 2009).
Six teachers were detained inside Tribhuvan Multiple Campus in Palpa for defying Bandh. The office of the 3-MW Arun Valley Hydroelectricity Project in Sankhuwasabha was padlocked, disrupting power supply.
DAY 2: MAOISTS’ VIOLENCE CONTINUES
Life across the country was crippled on the second day of the three-day general strike. Continuing their violent acts, the protestors attacked officials defying the strike, vandalized offices and torched vehicles, including an ambulance. They stormed into the Curriculum Development Center under the Ministry of Education, and attacked the Executive Director of the center, who sustained injuries in his head. They also vandalized three vehicles belonging to the center.
In Mugu, photojournalist Kabiraj Karki was thrashed while he was taking pictures of bandh. Maoist cadres manhandled five officials at the Land Revenue Office in Parbat district. They set fire to four motorbikes in Biratnagar, a stationary truck in Jhapa, and one motorbike each in Chitwan and Sindhuli districts. They vandalized an ambulance carrying a patient at Bangahi in Rupandehi while it was en route to Butwal from Kapilvastu.
Surkhet-based office of USAID and the office of Woman Development Programme in Birendranagar were also vandalised. The unruly mob barged into USAID office soon after the office opened in the morning. Computers, telephone sets and tables were damaged.
In Biratnagar, where offices of Nepal Electricity Authority, Nepal Airlines Corporation, Department of Food Technology and Quality Control and Land Mapping were vandalised and vehicles were torched for defying bandh. In Phidim, eight persons, including three policemen, were injured when protesters clashed with cops.
In Birgunj, the Maoist cadres mercilessly assaulted managers of two large industries for defying the bandh. The Maoist cadres affiliated to Nepal Trade Union Federation attacked the managers and the employees of Himal Iron Industries inside Jyoti Farm in Parwanipur and Shivashakti Packaging of Simara in Bara after vandalising the offices.
DAY 3: LIFE RETURNS CLOSE TO NORMAL AFTER NOON
The Maoist protest concluded Tuesday afternoon after the Maoists converged at Baneshwor chowk from across the three districts of the valley (Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur). Party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka, Prachanda, addressed the gathering at 1 PM.
After the strike was concluded, the life in the capital and other parts of the country returned to normal. Public as well as private vehicles started operating on the streets of Kathmandu after 1:00 PM. However, majority of the shops remained shut. Similarly, educational institutions and private offices remained closed since transportation resumed only in the noon.
At the end of the three-day strike, I can’t even say “All’s well that ends well”, because it has not ended on a positive note, and moreover, it has not ended at all. The Maoists have said that if their demands are not met on time, they will declare an indefinite strike, which will be even worse. Here in Nepal, we have experienced so many closures that an indefinite strike won’t actually come as a surprise, but come to think of the loss to the economy that these strikes bring along with them. Everything comes to a total halt. Industries stop production, businesses are closed, shops are closed, and to top it all, there is so much loss of life and property. Bandh does nobody any good, but they still continue. I don’t fully understand the Maoists philosophy. On the one hand, they are talking about “civilian supremacy” and on the other, they are acting against it, at least that’s what I understand from their acts of violence they inflict on the general public.
If I as a civilian do not buy in the way the Maoists work, I think it is important for them to do some soul searching, and understand if their activities are doing any good to anybody. Peace.