[Marxism] Worker Self-Activity in Nepal
kcbest0737 at sbcglobal.net
Tue Apr 11 22:37:30 MDT 2006
This is an amazing piece on the self-active, autonomous revolt of workers in
Nepal and the democratic currents which is defining its politics.
Popular protests ignite Nepal
By Bikash Sangraula, Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - A nationwide civil uprising gripped Nepal for the fifth
consecutive day Monday as civilians from all walks of life brazenly defied a
government curfew imposed in Kathmandu and half a dozen districts outside
the capital. This is the first time a curfew has been widely defied here in
The protests started after an alliance of seven democratic parties announced
a four-day general strike from April 6 to 9 against the rule of King
Gyanendra. The strike quickly gained a life of its own, with party leaders
not seen at the forefront of the demonstrations.
Unlike past protests organized by the alliance since the king seized power
last year, the demonstrations now are coming from the grass roots with
spontaneous participation from women, children, and the elderly. Ordinary
citizens - fed up with a decade-old insurgency that has crippled life, and a
king who has curbed civil liberties - clashed with security personnel during
curfew hours, decrying repression, demanding that the king be exiled, and
declaring their localities republics.
"The scale of this uprising is unprecedented," says Lok Raj Baral, head of
the Nepal Center for Contemporary Studies in Kathmandu. "During the people's
movement in 1990 that brought democracy to the country, the uprising was
significantly smaller in size and scale. This time, every locality in
Kathmandu Valley, and every district in the country are in spontaneous
Baral added that participation from unexpected quarters is a clear
indication that the movement has now become a "people's movement" and can
sustain itself. "Even the parties had not expected this degree of
spontaneous participation," he says. "The massive participation from the
people is more due to disillusionment with the royal regime than due to love
for the parties. People have no expectations [of] the royal regime anymore."
Groups of protesters have swelled into thousands with ordinary citizens,
students, teachers, professionals, doctors, and even civil servants joining
in. Employees at government-run banks have locked bank vaults and joined the
Buoyed by the support, the alliance extended the general strike indefinitely
"until the end of autocratic monarchy and restoration of full democracy."
After four days of tough security measures including nighttime and daytime
curfews failed to drive demonstrators away from the streets, Home Minister
Kamal Thapa Sunday said that "stricter curfew" would be imposed to "protect
life of civilians and public properties."
The minister chastised youths, whom he called "hooligans," for injuring
police with bricks and stones. Mr. Thapa had initially imposed the curfews
out of concerns that Maoists would infiltrate the demonstrations. He said
that "new faces" seen in the demonstrations bear out those fears.
Maoist rebels, who announced a cease-fire in the Kathmandu Valley during the
strike, said Sunday that they are participating in the parties' protests.
However, many of the "new faces" are ordinary people.
Hari Chandra Koirala, a math teacher at a tuition center who has been
demonstrating from Day 1 of the general strike, says many people who are
like him have joined the protest on their own volition to put an end to
violence and misrule.
"The Nepalese people have gone through enough duress in the last several
years. It is true that the parties made mistakes during their 12 years of
rule from 1990. But the king has outdone them in just over a year.... We
want the king out of the country," he says.
Mr. Koirala says that while the king does not intend to solve the conflict
that has already claimed over 13,000 lives, the parties have taken steps in
that direction. Last November, the alliance entered into a 12-point
agreement with the Maoists, in which the rebels committed to multiparty
"All we want is peace. We won't stop the demonstrations until peace and
democracy is restored. Even the parties cannot stop us now," he says,
putting up a brick and stone barricade over a section of Kathmandu's ring
Individuals like Koirala have taken it upon themselves to barricade roads,
burn tires, and chase away police in most localities in Kathmandu. Streets
in the capital are littered with bricks, rocks, charred tires, and torched
vehicles. The number of protesters coming onto the streets rises as curfews
begin. In places like Gongabu and Kalanki in Kathmandu, thousands of
demonstrators who have been defying daytime curfew since it was imposed
Saturday, have asked Army personnel to shoot at them, saying they are ready
The killing of four protesters, one each in the towns of Pokhara, Banepa,
Chitwan, and Janakpur, by Army bullets and batons, has inflamed tensions.
Daytime curfews imposed there to control riots have been defied.
Demonstrators even declared Chitwan the country's "first republic region"
after chasing away security personnel and taking control of all government
On Sunday, the government denied curfew passes to independent media.
Eyewitnesses say security personnel, who had shown relative restraint during
the defiance of curfew the previous day, used brutal force on demonstrators
in Kathmandu. Four dozen protesters were injured around the country when
security personnel resorted to firing, while hundreds were injured during a
The head of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal said in a
statement Monday that "the use of force against peaceful demonstrators is
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired
signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not
fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not
spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius
of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-Dwight D. Eisenhower
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