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Nepal one year on

The demonstrations had been going for a couple of days, and my middle class ass was feeling impatient to join "the masses" and engage in the united protests against over 230 years of medieval tyranny in Nepal.

Attempts at gathering people for a candlelight vigil after curfew hours at the Infoshop failed. Only the singer of our band showed up; everyone else was afraid. Our pro-royalist neighbour expressed his dissatisfaction at the candles, and we thought he was going to turn us in.

We were 10 kilometres from the agitations. I convinced my husband that I had to demonstrate and the only way to do it was to pack our bags and head down with our 11- and 13-year-olds on our motorbike to stay at a friend's house where he was stuck at home during curfew with his four-year-old niece, right on the ring road, where a lot of the big confrontations happened. Before leaving that day, I painted “Punks Vs Monarchy” on pieces of cloth that we could wear as headscarves once we were on the streets.

On the ring road

Once on the ring road, we had a hard time fitting in with groups of people who were in procession shouting “Loktantra, jindabaad” (Long live people's power!) holding mainstream party flags. We felt alienated; we did not belong to any party.

We decided to try to mingle with one group without flags. Seven drunken men reeking of alcohol shouted, “Gyanu chor! Kattu khol!” [a reference to king Gynendra]. Amidst the fear and excitement, I burst into laughter as they were literally saying, “Gyanu thief! Take off your undies!” (In Nepali, rhymes, which makes it all the funnier.)

We nervously trailed behind them around the ring road until we heard shots in the distance and fled back. The UN vehicle we saw did not really provide much comfort and, in retrospect, the drunk gang that we trailed behind were probably army or police.

Seeing a woman get beaten up on the news with her child beside her screaming made me realise we are all still new to this-both sides (the police and the protester) are still just figuring out how far they themselves can go.

Victory?

After the king's truce, we headed down to Ratna park where a mass gathering marked victory day, and raised our banner high; we were the only non-political party banner in the sky.

Our banner read (in Nepali): “What victory? Stop brutality on unarmed civilians. Without justice, there is no peace. The king lies-resist!”

Our banner read (in Nepali): “What victory? Stop brutality on unarmed civilians. Without justice, there is no peace. The king lies-resist!”

Some men in dark glasses approached us and said, “You should not say this about the king. This is just a start.” These men had strong Indian accents and asked us which organisation we were, and what punk meant. We told them to look it up on the internet!

On the days that followed, I felt that we were accepting victory too fast without fully comprehending the situation. We witnessed many motorcycle gangs buzzing through the streets with mainstream party flags and face paint shouting victory, as if persuading us into acceptance.

What was obvious however, was that a republic had not been declared as we wished. It still has not been declared to this day. In fact some leaders-with the exception of the Maoist party-are even downplaying the fact that a republic was one of the main demands of the jana andolan II.)

There may have been unity on the streets at the time, but two of my foster kids are still not allowed to enter their friends' homes to play because of their “low” caste. For now, I rely on each individual to demonstrate change. Start at home and then take it out on the streets.

Sareena Rai is an organiser of The Infoshop, a place for radical politics and punk music.

Topics: Nepal | People Power