Nepal: Deadlock as the people fight for power

Issue 
Photo: Jed Brandt

On May 1, Nepal was entirely shut down by huge demonstrations called by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) to call for the resignation of the unpopular government. In Kathmandu, at least 500,000 marched — the streets a sea of red flags.

The Maoists are calling for the replacement by a “national unity” government headed by the UCPN-M, which easily won the largest number of seats on the constituent assembly elections in 2008. The army chiefs and political elite removed the UCPN-M-led government a year ago in a “soft coup”.

Maoist-led mass movement is pushing for a return to civilian supremacy and a new, pro-people constitution. This process has been undermined by the elite, with the government refusing to meet the May 28 deadline for a new constitution.

When the government headed by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal refused to step aside after the May 1 marches, an indefinite general strike began the next day, with the major roads around Kathmandu blockaded.

On May 3, Jed Brandt, a US communist in Kathmandu, said on JedBrandt.net: “At dusk, police fired tear gas at marchers near Gongabu bus terminal, and live ammunition into the air to push back the crowds.

“No one was seriously injured, nor was anyone too shaken at the scene. People are determined and won't be scared off. Rallies throughout the city.”

The next day, Brandt described the show of force in the blockades as “overwhelming”: “The ring road that circles Kathmandu was surrounded today in rings of protesters. [They were] 28 kilometers long in two rows, sometimes four.

“With 18 marches of roughly 20,000-plus each.”

With negotiations between the Maoists and representatives of the government failing to resolve the issue, the strike continued over the week.

On May 6, Brandt reported: “Government intransigent in face of the Maoist mobilization. There is still dancing, but after a week in the streets and the total shut down tempers are rising. Minor clashes are breaking out around bandh [(strike] compliance. Counter-mobilizations are threatened.”

Nepalnews.com reported on May 7 that thousands marched in a “peace march” that day, organised by the Professional Alliance for Peace and Democracy, which unites business and other organisations, in protest at the general strike.

Brandt said in a May 7 post: “Vigilante gangs broke off from civil society peace march, attacking protesters rocks and sticks. Police respond by tear-gassing canteen, beating Maoists who responded to the attack. Hindu-chauvinist groups attack Maoists with police assistance in the Terai, targetting leaders.

“Don’t believe the mainstream press. They smear the movement, portraying right-wing gangs as local residents and protesters as outsiders.”

With no resolution, UCPN-M leader and former prime minister Prachanda announced on May 7 that strike was being called off.

Nepalnews.com said Prachanda announced: "We have decided to stop the general strike considering the difficulty
caused to the ordinary people, and also in view of the conspiracy hatched by this government to instigate violence. But we have not stopped our people's movement.”

Nepali Times said on May 7 that Prachanda said the Maoists “reserved the right” to restart the general strike and announced demonstrations across the country for the next day. He said the Maoists would encircle parliament on May 9 ““until the current puppet government steps down”.

A statement issued was on May 6 by a number of left-wing parties across the Asian region, initiated by Australia’s Socialist Alliance.

To read this statement click here.

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