After a 6 week break from blogging due to time constraints, I’m back on to it with more of a photo blog style. Enjoy!
On April 30, Bhanda began. Bhanda, meaning “closed” or “strike” describes a fairly frequent political strike in Nepal held whenever a political party wants to achieve some goal. This Bhanda was led by the Maoists, interested in forcing the current Prime Minister to resign. The Maoists hoped that by shutting down the city of Kathmandu along with the entire country, the Prime Minister would see the significance and popular support for their cause, and would concede his position to a Maoist leader. A few years back when the civil war ended around 2007, the first round of democratic elections placed a Maoist PM at the top of the government and the party held 40% of seats in the Constituent Assembly, the interim legislative body tasked with drafting a Nepali Constitution. However, when the Maoist PM failed to convince the army chief to resign, he resigned himself, and a new PM was selected from the existing Constituent Assembly.
During Bhanda, which lasted from April 30 to May 7, all roads were closed to traffic and all businesses were shut down. Businesses were often forced to give donations to the Maoists in order to finance their basic needs. If a store refused to close, it was nearly certain to be destroyed. Some businesses were permitted to open between 6-8pm each evening to provide food and water to the residents of Kathmandu, though without transport allowed produce was hard to come by within the city and the shops were selling their stocked supplies without replenishing. Though a few instances of violence and vandalism were reported during Bhanda, the demonstrations were quite peaceful. Walking to work in the morning, I pass one of the main intersections in my neighborhoods, which was also a main gathering point for Maoists. Every day I would pass and the Maoists would be either lounging or singing and dancing in the streets to Nepali folk music. The atmosphere reminded me more of a summer music festival than a political uprising. Each day Maoist demonstrations were held near the center of Kathmandu. One day, the Maoists formed several human chains along Ring Road that encompasses the city of Kathmandu along 28 km. On May 7, the business association of Nepal and some other apolitical organizations organized a peace rally for those against the Bhanda continuing. More than 10,000 Kathamandu residents turned out to demonstrate. Following the peace rally along with negotiations between the political parties facilitated by the EU, Bhanda was ended late Friday evening. The city was back to normal busy, polluted, noisy life by Sunday.