Friday, August 1, 2008

In my previous post on the newly elected executive branch I mentioned that the VP had caused a small international incident by taking his oath of office in Hindi rather than Nepali.

Well, the reaction from the Nepali people was quite strong and the protests effectively shut down Kathmandu on Monday and Tuesday. As one of my friends said, "Kathmandu is CLOSED." I have since learned that this is the phrase that was used frequently during the ten years of political turmoil and insurgency. Here's a photo from a youth group showing just how strongly they feel about their new VP.

Of course I had no idea what was going on and headed out to run errands only to find most of the stores closed. I saw streets blocked by burning piles of trash and tires, a common protest strategy here. Later, Sudip and I headed out to walk to the fair trades stores across the river in Patan. On the way, we encountered a huge protest on Kanti Path near the Martyr's Gate and witnessed the hanging and burning of an effigy of the VP over an elevated pedestrian walkway. We were on a parallel walkway over Kanti Path and had a great view. After the burning VP dropped to the ground the crowd beat it with sticks. The gathering also threw rocks at taxis and other vehicles violating the roads but were letting school buses and ambulances go through. The security police were remarkably restrained and according to Sudip, much more so than in previous years. Hello freedom of speech and non-violent (well, mostly) protest.
Here's another strong article on the matter published in The American Chronicle:

The following day the VP offered a formal apology to the people and said he did not intend to insult the people, the nation, or Nepali nationalism, and promised to not offend again in the future.

There are some quite intricate political entanglements between India and Nepal that I am just beginning to understand. Nepal controls the flow of water from the Himalayas to India and has, with the building of more hydroelectric plants, the potential for selling utilities downstream as well. Nepal, as best I can tell, very much wants sovereignty without a lot of control by India or the rest of us. Interesting stuff.


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