Sunday, May 15, 2011

And the Bandh Played On

One of the only concessions that Nepal was able to seemingly get for Nepal tourism year 2011 that was worth a damn was the fact that the political parties agreed to no bandhs (something like a general strike) to disrupt daily life and more importantly the tourist industry. After the Maoists disastrous open ended bandh last May the country had mostly shaken the habit and one could almost forget how often Nepal is bothered by this somewhat absurd practice. Then a few weeks ago the groups that want ethnic federalism to be a cornerstone of the constitution took it upon themselves to enforce the first bandh of the year that actually affected Kathmandu (the Terrai has been on fire, and bandhs and bombings have been more common down that way).

This last Friday was the second effective bandh in just a few weeks, and this time it stirred up some opposition, and people marched, rode bikes and motorcycles in defiance. Part of the problem is that to most workers it's just an extra holiday, as their employers still have to pay them despite everything being forced to shut down. This is also the reason that such bandhs very often fall on one side or the other of a Saturday, making long weekends for people, and they are often enforced by people shipped in from villages that have nothing better to do. One gets the sense though that people in Kathmandu at least are getting quite tired of this foolishness, and there is a general sigh any time a bandh is mentioned.

Word I got through some UN staffers is that next weekend there is a three day bandh planned, which would be by far the biggest yet, and I'm thinking that this will not go over that well with the population here. Any group that thinks they are going to gain sympathy for their cause by implementing this is severely misreading am already disgruntled public that is only putting up with a failed political process because they don't really know what else to do. Making life more difficult by enforcing a general strike is like kicking a hornets nest, and they've already prodded it a few times- the bees are getting angry.

That said, if the city is going to be shut down next weekend and I can't sell stuff at the markets, it might not be a bad excuse to make my way over to Pokahara with Kim and chill out at Lakeside. I've only been out that way once since I've been here (almost exactly a year ago) and Kim hasn't been back there since we arrived. We all know that if you're going to have to spend a few days with things shut down, it's better to spend it where you can enjoy some views of the Annapurnas and relax than to spend it stuffed up in Kathmandu.

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