Nepal: Mass Upsurge Against the King
Revolution #045, May 1, 2006
Tens of thousands of people have taken to
the streets in Nepal. An alliance of seven political parties
called for a four-day bandh, a general strike, starting
on April 6, aimed against King Gyanendra's autocratic feudal
monarchy. And as we go to press on April 17, there have now
been daily days of demonstrations in the capital city of Kathmandu
and in towns and cities throughout the country.
Leading up to April 6, the government tried
to stop the strike by banning rallies and public gatherings
and arresting hundreds of people. Dozens of people were arrested
at a rally in defiance of the ban on April 5. And the police
attacked a rally of journalists and physically disabled people,
organized by the Nepal Journalist Association. Security forces
also carried out raids on the homes of opposition leaders
and arrested many opposition activists.
But despite such repression, thousands took
to the street on the first day of the strike, in Kathmandu
and in other cities and towns. Normal life was completely
paralyzed, with shops, commercial centers, schools, and other
businesses closed and very few vehicles in the streets. A
thousand people were arrested across the country on this first
day of the strike.
Tens of thousands continued to take to the
street, even after the end of the four-day strike that had
been called for. In the first five days of protests, there
were demonstrations in over 70 districts. On April 7, more
than 50,000 people took to the streets in Chitwan, in the
Terai area near the Indian border. In different areas, roads
have been blocked by burning tires and tree logs. Huge numbers
of riot police have been deployed against the protests and
there have been daily clashes with protesters burning cars
and hurling stones and bricks at security forces. The police
are using tear gas, rubber bullets and regular bullets, injuring
many. At least four people have been killed and dozens have
been injured by bullets. Thousands have been arrested, including
Fourteen months ago, on February 1, 2005,
King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency, dissolved the
parliament, sacked the prime minister, and suspended many
constitutional rights. This was a desperate move by Gyanendra,
who has been unable to crush the People’s War led by
the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The CPN(M) began their
armed struggle against the government in 1996, now control
some 80 percent of the countryside, and have set up base areas
ruled by new revolutionary forms of government. (For more
on the People's War in Nepal go to revcom.us/s/nepal.htm).
In spite of a brutal counterinsurgency by
Gyanendra's Royal Nepalese Army—backed by political,
financial, and military support from the United States, India,
and the UK—the People's War has continued to grow and
expand and this is what has set the stage for the current
demonstrations called for by the parliamentary parties.
The Maoists supported the four-day strike
and for those days, suspended armed operations in and around
Kathmandu. The third day of the strike, the Maoist People's
Liberation Army (PLA) assaulted a Royal Nepal Army base in
the central Terai region. About a dozen army barracks were
destroyed and some two dozen Royal Army personnel were killed
and a large quantity of weapons were seized.
The CPN(M) reports that there have been dozens
of recent military actions by the PLA, including the seizure
of district headquarters, commando attacks, and frontal battles—carried
out in the western, central, and eastern regions of the country.
On April 6, the PLA took over Malangwa, the district headquarters
of Sarlahi in the eastern Terai (plains) region. The action
left dozens of security personnel dead, and dozens injured.
All of the government offices were destroyed and some of the
officers including the security forces were taken into custody.
Some 125 prisoners, most of them political prisoners, were
released from the prison.
Throughout the world—whether in Iraq
or Los Angeles, helicopters are used against the people, and
in Nepal, the RNA has been using them to drop bombs and fire
on PLA soldiers and ordinary people. On April 6, when an RNA
helicopter flew into Malangwa, ground fire from the PLA brought
it down in flames, killing 10 Royal Army officers. This is
the first time the PLA has taken out an RNA helicopter.
The growing protests throughout the country
are a powerful indication of how much King Gyanendra is isolated
and widely hated by a wide spectrum of people in Nepal. And
it is significant that the government's increasing brutality
has only fueled the anger and determination of the people
who have continued to defy the ban on protests and the palace's
"shoot on sight" warnings.
Students have been a big part of the demonstrations
all over the country. Dozens of journalists have been arrested
at rallies organized to protest the arrest of journalists.
Human rights activists monitoring demonstrations have been
arrested. When writers, actors, musicians, comedians, and
poets staged a march against the atrocities of the government
and performed anti-government skits, they were attacked by
the police with bullets, tear gas, and batons.
Farmers and workers are joining the protests,
with peasants traveling from their villages to towns and cities
to demonstrate. In one town a list of police, soldiers and
vigilantes engaged in violent repression has been circulated
and residents are urged not to rent to such persons.
Women's groups, professors, and lecturers
have organized protests. The Nepal Medical Association mobilized
doctors to demonstrate. Engineers, lawyers, and accountants
have taken to the streets in the thousands. Government office
workers have staged work stoppages and sit-ins.
The police attacked a sit-in of white collar
professionals, arresting and beating more than 50 people.
When a memorial was held for protesters killed by the government,
thousands of security were deployed to arrest and beat people.
Security forces are firing indiscriminately
at demonstrators, attacking with teargas, wounding hundreds.
In Kathmandu alone, on one day, more than 200 were injured,
including people hit by bullets. After security forces entered
the dormitories of student doctors at a teaching hospital
and beat them, doctors and health workers across the country
protested by wearing black armbands.
Students at Kanchanpur’s Siddhanath
Science Campus boycotted classes, set up burning tire barricades
around the campus and declared they would not take exams until
the andolan (movement) succeeds. The students took over the
roads into the campus and declared the campus off limits to
Right now in Nepal, there is a very complex
situation in which there are various forces—with different
interests and agendas—contending and maneuvering. And
throughout all this, the United States has continued to act
on its staunch position that “the Maoists must not be
allowed to win.” The U.S. has officially put the Communist
Party of Nepal (Maoist) on their “terrorist list,”
despite the fact that the politics and practice of the CPN(M)
clearly has nothing in common with groups like Al Qaida. The
United States has backed a brutal counterinsurgency against
the People's War, with millions of dollars, thousands of automatic
weapons and military training. U.S. Ambassador to Nepal James
Moriarty has repeatedly urged the mainstream parliamentary
parties to unite with the King to defeat the Maoists. And
he has harshly criticized them for working together in any
way with the Maoists.
Now, in a situation where Gyanendra may not
be able to hold on to power, the U.S. is maneuvering to ensure
an outcome that will be in its interests—continuing
to agitate that the Maoists are an illegitimate political
force. News reports say that Moriarty has been meeting with
leaders of the two main parliamentary parties, the Nepali
Congress and CPN-UML. And on April 10, the U.S. urged Gyanendra
to hold talks with the opposition parties.
On April 7, Richard A. Boucher, Assistant
Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, addressed the
Confederation of Indian Industries. In a response to a question
about the U.S. position on Nepal, Boucher said: “These
are nasty people, the Maoists are. And I think we need to
work as much as we can to pressure the King to restore democracy,
to encourage the parties to stay together and to come up with
a workable, functioning democracy. And to be able to expunge
the Maoists from Nepali society. I think it's very much the
attitude of governments in the region including India, and
we've had some very good discussion today about how to advance
those goals.” Later Boucher added, “Our diplomats
are in touch with everybody in Kathmandu, all the players,
the political parties and the King, delivering very strong
messages I think every day and coordinating with other countries
who are represented there.”
In such a situation, there is the real possibility
of even more direct intervention by the United States, in
some form—which would be very bad for the masses of
people in Nepal.
The involvement and efforts by U.S. in Nepal
are not about “restoring democracy.” They are
about maintaining a state rule, in whatever form and by whatever
political parties, which is subordinate to foreign domination
and will enforce the underlying economic and social relations
of oppression in Nepalese society that serve the interests
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