Daily life in and around Banepa appears to all intents an purposes much as it has been since arriving here…. and tea is very much part and parcel of Nepali life. And so, because I particularly like this photograph, here’s a view from inside one of the myriad of cafes in Banepa, out onto the street….
For Nepal however the coming weekend appears likely to be to be the first of a number of significant political events for the country. A planned mass demonstration organised by the UCPN-Maoist Party in Kathmandu on 1st May appears to be a possible catalyst for a protracted general strike from May 2nd. I’m already learning from a variety of sources that a day can often be a long time in politics here in Nepal. There are a number of local English language papers, so it is relatively easy to read the latest pronouncements of the various political parties. It is clearly difficult as a bideshi (outsider) who has only been here for a short period of time to have much more than a rudimentary grasp of the politics involved. Inevitably I am beginning to form my own opinions, but that is all they are….opinions. Suffice to say however, that this appears to be a potentially crucial moment for Nepal.
A couple of quotes from “The Himalayan Times” (27 April 2010) perhaps give a flavour of what is happening…
“Unified CPN- Maoist chairman …‘Prachanda’ today said his party had decided to go for an indefinite general strike from May 2 to topple the government….”
“ Nepali Congress and CPN-UML jointly told the Unified CPN-Maoist that (their) threat would not force Prime Minister Madhave Khumar Nepal to resign….”
What is clear is that for this weekend all roads appear to lead to Kathmandu, for what is undoubtedly a show of strength by the UCPN-Maoists, as they seek to demonstrate that they can mobilise a significant proportion of the population. An article in the same issue of The Himalayan Times suggests that some 40,000 villagers are expected to be bussed in from Nuwakot and Kavre, (Kavre being the district in which Banepa is located). The methodology of ‘recruitment’ is interesting, with each family apparently being expected to ‘deliver’ one family member to the demonstration….
What this does mean is that my plans to travel to Kathmandu over the coming weekend appear to have all but evaporated. Not for any particular concerns of safety, rather the fact that the potential general strike could result in no movement at all out of the city for some time after May 2nd… Having been forewarned, getting stuck in Kathmandu is probably not something that would endear me to VSO!!!
For us volunteers too, next week brings another journey into the unknown. We will each be living in one of the nearby villages with a family and experiencing first hand, however briefly, something of how many Nepali’s live day to day… It will probably be a week or so before I post anything again, and as we all know, a week is a long time in politics…