Tag Archives: Conflict

The Strike Continues…

P talked to his family on the phone last night—Day 5 (now day 6) of the national strike I mentioned in Maoist Protests and Everest Expeditions . There has been no water for days (his family eventually purchased some for cooking purposes) since the little water available in the city is being re-routed to strikers in the streets. Electricity has been sporadic, businesses and schools are closed. In fact a few days ago one of our Nepali neighbors flew home to visit family and had to walk home from the airport since there are no cars allowed on the streets. Another friend is probably landing in Kathmandu as I write this, and will most likely have to walk home as well. I asked her to write a guest post and email it to me to give us some updates on what is happening “on the street.”

Strikes are not uncommon in Nepal. I’ve mentioned them before in my own travels in the country. However  these extended, nationwide organized strikes make it difficult on the average person to survive. As one recent New York Times article mentioned:

Katmandu has come to a halt as bands of Maoists brandishing sticks march through the streets ensuring that government offices and businesses stay shuttered. Schools are closed, households are running out of food, and even money is in short supply, since all the banks are closed. Tempers are flaring. It would not take much for people’s discontent with the strike to tip into civil unrest.

No wonder P’s dad insists that P never permanently move back home and why my university would rather create student programming in India than in Nepal.

Another article states:

Nepal is often hit by strikes, but this one is particularly severe. Journalist Prashant Jha said it was unusual in its strict enforcement and longevity.

“Tourists are going back, people are suffering, there is going to be a shortage of supplies, exports will dip and industry is crippled,” he told the BBC.

A peace rally was organized for Friday night so demonstrators could protest against the strike and advocate for a return to normal business, but latest word on the street is that the peace rally was cancelled due to security concerns. (Update… I just heard that the protest is still on– Nepali Times: Rally Goes On Despite Threats, you can also show your support through a Facebook group…)

Let’s hope the strike ends sooner rather than later.

Some of the latest articles on the strike:

New York Times: Powerless in Kathmandu
BBC: Nepal Brought to Standstill by Strike
BBC: Nepal Feels Effects of Maoists’ Anti-Government Strike
NPR: Nepal’s Maoists Block Roads to Government Offices
Republica: Maoists to Retaliate if Attacked
Republica: Maoists Ban Milk Supply
Republica: Maoist Strike Brings Traffic to Halt (and lots of other similar stories)
Nepal News: General Strike Turns Violent; Clashes in Various Places

Political Cartoon from today's Republica featuring Maoist leader Prachandra

Sari Soldiers

While on the topic of recommending things… a friend in Canada recently went to a documentary film festival and saw this film: “Sari Soldiers.” It looks really interesting. It doesn’t seem to be available on Netflix yet, but if I can find it and watch it, I’ll let you know how it is. The trailer is below:

Nepali History, a Beginning…

This is the first of a series of posts on some of the history, politics and current events of Nepal. As I mentioned on Sunday, a lot of stuff is happening in this little country which has a history that the average person probably isn’t aware of (certainly I wasn’t until I became an “honorary” Nepali of sorts). I enjoy writing about Nepali culture, and I think this topic is relevant as well. I don’t think it veers too far astray from my main theme of intercultural relationships… I mean, isn’t it nice to have some holistic knowledge of your partner’s home?

I also want to give the disclaimer that I am not, by any means, an expert on Nepali history or politics. I will definitely make a point to talk to people who know far more than I and look up additional resources, but feel free to call me out if something doesn’t sound right or if you disagree, or vice versa. I mean, that is what the comments section is for anyway, right?

alooparatha

Our aloo paratha *almost* looked this pretty. Practice makes perfect...

So where to start? Tonight P and I went to AS and N’s place for dinner. Inspired by an Indian dinner we had a few nights ago, AS and I rolled out homemade tasty spicy aloo (potato) paratha and fresh tomato achar, and over dinner I tried to pick N’s brain about Nepali politics. His dad is a prominent politician back home, and N’s life has been surrounded by politics. Whether he likes it or not he is a politico at heart.

What I secretly wanted was for him to sit down and give me a nice neat intro to Nepali politics and history. I said to him, “pretend I know nothing about the country and we are planning to meet for coffee, what could you tell me in 15 minutes that would give me a very brief general context for what is happening now?” (as if any political situation can be summed up like this… fat chance…)

“That is impossible” he said, “everything is so interconnected and complicated. Where would I begin?” So we spent the reminder of dinner going back and forth about some of the larger issues, but I still don’t think it is what I needed for my introduction.

So I guess I’ll start with this: Nepal has a long history of conflict. Whether the conflict stems from forced Hinduization, or caste struggles, or land reform, the past several hundred years have been a cycle of various conflicts and power struggles culminating in the  “People’s War” from 1996-2006 which might just be in the process of rekindling. I guess one could argue that continuing conflict is common in many countries around the world, so perhaps Nepal is not so unique. Fair enough, but in our situation I know that conflict in Nepal has hit a lot closer to home for P’s family (riots, power cuts, strikes, burning tires, blockades of the city, etc) than it ever has for me in the United States.

Nepal_Prithvi_Narayan_Shah

Prithvi Narayan Shah

Modern Nepali history begins around 1768 with the formation of the Nepali state and the institution of the first Shah king, Prithvi Narayan Shah, who conquered the peoples of the Kathmandu Valley. Under the king, and within 40 years of the king’s death, his Gurkhas (warriors from Gorkha) had expanded the borders of the kingdom beyond the present day borders of Nepal into large regions of northern India. Unfortunately, around 1814 the British East India Company was gaining strength in the region to the south, and the Gurkha had to engage the Company on multiple occasions to keep the kingdom’s autonomy. Although Nepal proper was never colonized, a peace treaty with the Company in 1816 led to the shrinking of Nepal’s borders to their present day position. The failure to protect all of Nepal from western seizure caused much political turmoil for the monarchy, leading the Rana family to usurp power from the ancestral line of kings in 1846 and caused the monarchy to be nothing more than figure heads for the next one hundred and four years.

On a side note, the  Gurkha became famous for their fierce fighting and courage. Although the British didn’t colonize Nepal, they did create a “Gurkha” division in the British army which still exists to this day. You can learn more about the Gurkha’s HERE and also read about their recently won campaign to give retired Gurkha soldiers immigration rights to the UK HERE.

“Namaste: One Teen’s Look at Nepal”

Due to some recent events in Nepal,  I really wanted to write something about the political situation in the country. As part of my blogging prep I wanted to interview my “political” friend N for a quick overview of the (unfortunately) ongoing conflicts. Instead a giant momo party was organized (literally… there were between 40-50 people there… we made and ate at least 550 momo… if not more!) and our friends R and S came for the weekend to attend the party. I know–excuses excuses–but my plan is to write about Nepal’s conflicts a bit later in the week.

One reason I want to write about the situation in Nepal is because most people don’t realize there has been (essentially) a civil war going on there for nearly a decade. Around April of 2006 the king of Nepal was overthrown, and more recently the Maoists were elected into power. Since then, several things have happened which have caused high-ranking Maoists leaders to quit the government, and within the past two weeks large demonstrations have taken place, and the Maoists guerrillas are starting to train again.

As I’ve noted before, many people don’t even really know where Nepal is, let alone that there is so much strife in the region. To give a silly example, I remember in the Disney/Pixar movie “Monster’s, Inc.” the two main character monsters were banished to the Himalayas to live with the Yeti (who in the movie was portrayed as a jolly white hairy snow-cone making beast). At one point one monster was giving a pep talk to another monster who said, “I picked out an easy door for you in nice… quiet Nepal…” as if nothing ever happens there (earlier there was mention of “wait until you see the village… its just the cutest little village… and I haven’t even started telling you about the free yak’s milk!”) Not that Disney and Pixar are known for astute political representations of things, but I remember at the time I thought it was a bit ironic.

Anyway, my goal this week is to write more in depth on this subject, but in the meantime a friend recently posted a link on facebook that was pretty interesting. In 2008 an American teenager from California was awarded a grant from the Asia Society and the Goldman Sachs Foundation to make a mini film about her experiences in Nepal. Her project is called, “Namaste: One Teen’s Look at Nepal.” It is only 6 minutes long and definitely worth a view. She did a wonderful job juxtaposing life in the US to life in Nepal, as well as giving a brief insight into some of the issues large portions of the Nepali population face everyday.