“The thing about riots is that they tend to be concentrated in one part of a city. The truth is there could be mass protests happening and yet just two or three streets over you would have no idea.” - Tim Cahill, 'Road Fever'
This quote has somewhat dominated my thoughts when I have occasioned to leave the house during the last few days, I have no idea what might be around the corner. It is very difficult to know exactly what is going on, mainly because all the news channels are in Nepali and everyone I ask simply says “it's not good.” This was highlighted when I discovered this morning that the police had administered a couple of beatings.
The Maoist demonstrations were scheduled to start on Sunday, but the workers union decided to jump on the bandwagon and do their own protest on Saturday, meaning that most of the city was locked down anyway. These were perfectly peaceful and I even went out walking with Nir & Prakash for around four hours and took in the crowds.
The way it has worked is that the Maoists have given villagers from the hill regions a couple of hundred rupees as payment for joining the protests. They then come to Kathmandu and shout what they're told to, meanwhile the rebels go to local businesses and demand “donations” for their “worthy cause” of around R6000, which is why everything is shut as that is a crap load of cash to these guys.
The rebels have tried to find accommodation in public buildings for these out-of-towners but many are left on the streets, which has led to bugs spreading. I'm confident that a load of people suffering from diarrhoea is hardly conducive to peaceful protests.
Where the problem really kicks in however, is when the locals in Kathmandu get fed up of being unable to earn. Many people here live on a day-to-day basis, so what they earn from their shop or whatever, they use to buy food for that night. So far everything has been shut for three days, and the longer that goes on the more likely the Kathmandu residents will start fighting back in an attempt to get rid of the rebels, then it gets nasty. In 2006 the demonstrations lasted 18 days.
I saw thousands of people on my Saturday walk, and then on Sunday morning when I came back up to Thamel a massive group marched past me. In truth about half looked under 16 and one guy had his headphones in, so really did not seem that interested. It was all peaceful enough but that evening I was back in town to try and catch Liverpool v Chelsea and was in an upstairs bar. I heard shouts from the streets and looked out the window to see thousands of rebels running through the streets carrying burning torches. It was dark and was actually quite a frightening sight, especially with the shouting and hollering, they looked like the Ork Amy from Lord of the Rings. I reckon there was a couple of thousand at least.
I have ventured out a couple of times since, but am staying pretty close to home. I have numerous other stories to tell since my last post, some really rather amusing, but they don't seem that relevant right now.