Voices from Kathmandu

IssueMarch 2007
Feature by Sareena Rai
  • Kosh, sub-editor, mid-20's: I am from a lower middle class family; I joined the protests and got beaten up several times and arrested once. Change takes time. People who were suppressing their desires so far have openly started putting their ideas forward. This is the beauty of democracy. Hopefully, things will improve soon.

  • Dinesh, 22, (ex-member of the revolutionary wing of the students' union Akhil Krantikari): Now I can freely go to other areas in Nepal, which was impossible during the war. Unions and workers can now voice their problems to the government. During the king's reign there was no dialogue - the police or the army would shoot or jail you if you protested. They can't do that anymore.

  • Mandira, 20, journalist: The quality of streets has not changed. I was totally not supporting this movement as I knew parties were fighting to be in power as they exactly do now. I felt people were being cheated again.

  • Tenzin, 21, student: I felt everyone gave up too fast; it should have gone on longer. It was such a good feeling of freedom and we were all speaking our minds. Now I don't feel much has really changed. The king and his family should have been banished from Nepal.

  • Taxi driver, 38: I was a communist and joined the agitations in the first jana andolan (people's movement) in 1990. I've lost faith in politicians since then so I didn't go out during this one. When people were out on the streets in our area the police baton-charged them. They even targeted innocent bystanders. Our door was broken down when the police came looking for people who'd scattered to hide

  • Mandira: I did not notice any conscious commitment towards nonviolence by organisers and participants, otherwise fewer people would have been attacked.

  • Tenzin: I reckon it was the “vigilantes” or “spies” who entered our protests that instigated the violence, especially when breaking through the police barricades, provoking the cops. We were all shouting “Army police dajubhai, Sahayog gara hami lai!” which means, “The army and police are our brothers, Come and help us!”

  • Basnet: The agitation launched by the professors and teachers of Tribhuvan University in Kir- tipur was a classic example of the nonviolent movement. The protesters sat cross-legged in the main part of the city, defying curfew orders. When the securi- ty forces threatened the protesters with tanks and rifles, the protesters said that they were ready to die, and did not budge an inch. At last the security forces had to return with their tanks, leaving the city at the mercy of the protesters.

  • Tenzin: Ethnic and religious groups were united but it was a lower class uprising made up of people who mainly came from the surrounding districts of Kathmandu.

  • Taxi driver from Kirtipur, 30, ex-army driver: Kathmandu's upper classes had nothing to do with this movement. Most of the action occurred in Gongabu and Samakoshi where people have recently settled from surrounding districts, are highly politicised, and have somehow been involved in the past ten years' conflict.

    Then student settlement of Kirtipur - Tribhuvan University's home ground also has a strong political and anti-monarchy history. Rich people didn't come out because they had too much to fear and lose.

  • Shanta Maya, homeless, unemployed widow of 54, low caste: We joined the agitations in our neighbourhood, but we couldn't join the march down to the ring road. I wanted to go, but I didn't even have a rupee so what would I have done half way, tired with an empty stomach?

    The jana andolan was not bad, but how can I say it was good? Food prices haven't decreased as I'd hoped for after the movement. I can't say anything has changed for me, I'm still begging. I have approached the Maoists-they have a strong union and have managed to persuade factories in this area to pay workers from 50 rupees [36p] a day to 150 rupees. They have promised to find me work.

    [Sareena adds: Shanta Maya had a small bag of dried spinach given to her by someone who knows that she often goes hungry. After I interviewed her, she asked me if I might want to share it with her. Shanta Maya has yet to see the relevance of the jana andolan. Peace means food, and hunger is the reason to rise up and take to the streets each day.]

Topics: Nepal
See more of: Interview