So reads the headline in yesterday’s Kathmandu Post (7 May 2010).
Day five of the general strike completed, and the picture remains unclear. Dialogue continues to take place between the main protagonists to resolve the situation, but outcomes appear to be in short supply. In the meantime, tensions appear to be mounting in Kathmandu.
“…it increasingly appears that the strategy of shutting down the entire country down to pressure the government into giving in to the (Maoist) party’s demands may not continue to pay…the dividends that they had initially hoped for. Although the protests continue to be largely peaceful, there are increasing incidents of violent clashes between Maoist cadres and others” ( Editorial: The Kathmandu Post: 7 May 2010).
With the Maoists having ‘delivered’ thousands of protesters to the city, there appears to be an increasing expectation amongst many of them that they cannot/should not leave Kathmandu without “something” to show for their efforts. This sense of frustration cannot be helped by the fact Kathmandu is clearly unable to cope with large numbers of protesters sleeping on the streets. Health and sanitation problems, added to a dwindling food supply only serve to add to the tensions. It is also becoming increasingly apparent, if it wasn’t already, that this action doesn’t have universal support…
“Fed up to the gills of the general strike imposed by the UCPN (Maoist), enraged locals at various places in the capital took to the streets and retaliated against the agitating Maoists on Thursday. In the ensuing clashes, 12 persons…were injured.” ( The Kathmandu Post: 7 May 2010)
Here in Banepa commercial premises remain closed and the roads are free from traffic. A small number of street traders are doing business, but these tend to be fruit and vegetable sellers. There is still a Maoist presence on the streets, ‘ensuring’ that the banda is observed, whilst the police continue to keep a weathered eye on proceedings. However, beyond the fact that they are gathered on the main street, it appears to me, as an admittedly uninformed outsider, that their presence is rather more symbolic than elsewhere in the country. Certainly there are few visible signs of tension in the town.
Scratch below the surface however, and it is clear that a great number of people have already had enough of the banda. Buying fruit from one of the street vendors virtually guarantees a conversation with the vendor and anyone else in the vicinity. People seem keen both to ask me what I think of the banda, and offer their own opinions. Those that I talk to seem understandably to have had enough already. In addition to the shortages and inflated prices brought about by shop closures, people are frustrated by not being able to get to work.
Closer to ‘home’, several of the men from the yoga session that a number of us have been attending at nearby Baktesor Mandir, (Hindu Temple) are unable to get to their place of work in Kathmandu,whilst another who is a lorry driver, clearly cannot ply his trade whilst many of the roads are blockaded. To compound matters the schools are closed, leaving a lot of children at a loose end throughout the day.
The tiger may yet turn…