Day 1 of four-day General Strike paralyzed lives in Nepal closing down the capital and transportation as protesters playing ‘catch me if you can’ game with police
The morning was as beautiful as usual. It looked all normal sans the rush of traffic and noise of blowing horns. People leisurely strolling around; chatting at tea-shops and commenting on the stories published in the newspapers.
But nothing was as usual in lives of the people of Kathmandu Valley. Though after a number of strikes in the past, strikes have become habitual to the lives of the people, it still affects their lives. They have to walk if they are employed or otherwise sit idle watching television or playing cards.
Throughout the day, I accompanied with photojournalist Bikash Karki went around the city to see the happenings. These happenings probably best reflect how the general strike went on the first day.
NEW BANESHWOR, 9:30am
When we reached the area, we saw ashes of burnt tyres and all but there was no one. We met a friend who was a protester. He told us that they burnt the tyre and were chased down by the police who put off the fire and tried to clear the dust. He said they would do it again.
It was a little away from the main intersection so we returned to the main intersection where we met a few friends including Saroj Raj Adhikari. They told us a motorbike was burnt down at Teku. Saroj showed me the picture (posted in this entry).
The burnt motorbike was there on a side with policemen and army watching it. A lot of people were watching the proceedings who were occasionally asked to move away the policemen. Bikash took a few photographs and we moved.
TEACHING HOSPITAL, 10:00am
Photo by Bikash Karki
We had heard that the doctors in Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital Maharajgunj were staging a protest. When we reached the hospital, journalists form various national and international agencies were already there. There were a few doctors and nurses.
I remembered, not so vividly, the doctors with black band around their arms watching down from the roof of Bir Hospital in 1990. I always believed it was a turning point for the dawn of democracy two days after it then. The doctors remembered the day and requested the King not to force them come to street again.
Dr. Badri Narsingh KC was said to have been intimidated by the police in the morning and he was admitted in the emergency. He was beaten for nothing and doctors were furious about it. Though I don’t see large number of doctors attending the program, it was good example of how the fight of democracy is spreading.
Dr. Subash Acharya later texted me informing that the operation of the injured doctor went all well.
NEW BANESHWOR, 11:00am
Photo by Bikash Karki
When we were just riding bike lazily we saw a group engineering students (becasue they were all carrying the long ruler) walking towards Bhaktapur. Bikash took a few snaps and they are all teasing su saying ‘Press’.
We asked them if they were returning from exam and they responded positively. They were from Bhaktapur and their exam center was Thapathali.
We just speeded and would meet them at Jadibuti after some 45 minutes waving at us.
Photo by Bikash Karki
After having lunch and spending some time at office, we went to Ratopul where we were informed popular student leader Gagan Thapa was making an appearance. When we went there two ladies were chanting slogans around the burning fire at the road.
Gagan Thapa with a few of his friends came out on the street, chanted slogans walking around a 100 meters to the fire and addressed a small gathering there. He is a good speaker and a most vibrant against the royal regime so many people, who I believe were just onlookers clapped for him.
He then entered into a nook with his friends and after around 10 minutes of that police van entered the scene. The first police van poured two bottles of water on the fire and went away. The second one put off the fire and when the third one came there, the policemen entered another road asking the young people to produce their identities.
Ramesh Chandra Regmi, a local, was not happy that his tenants were being asked to produce identity for nothing.
REPORTERS’ CLUB, 2:00pm
We then went to Reporters’ Club where the family of kidnapped Chief District Officer of Sarlahi made an appeal to everybody for his release. I didn’t know but I happened to be near to the family.
First because they were living in my village and second because the brother of the CDO happened to the lawyer who had helped me during my early college time by giving me details of legal provision on foreign employment. I much appreciated his half-hour time to me because it was just a college project and I had told him it won’t be published anywhere. Unfortunately, I never met him again and this time to didn’t get chance to talk with him.
At the program, I also realized how a family suffers. A son came to Kathmandu paying Rs. 1500 to a taxi and they were all requesting to release him soon as he was patient of diabetes and high blood pressure and was on everyday medication.
I hope the Maoists would release him soon.
NEW BANESHWOR, 3:00pm
Photo by Shruti Shreshta
Once again we missed the burning tyre at Baneshwor because when we reached there police had already arrived and chased down the protesters. The police also arrested four at the place. We met the guy again and he said that’s all for the day.
I heard the slogan chanting while I was browsing the internet. When I looked out of the window, I saw a group of youngsters burning tryr just outside our office and chanting slogans. They spread when a police van arrived. The police put off the fire.
The youngster began once again 100m east from the point and I went to the scene. They were chanting slogans while the policemen watched them from the earlier site. As soon as I reached the place, the police advanced and the protesters went around. A few of army vehicles passed the scene without stopping.
At the same time, I heard from Bikash, at Minbhawan, the policemen had to fire a few rubber bullets and tear-gas to end the protest and clear the road. One tear-gas shell even landed on the roof of a civilian’s house.
At Tinkune too, police fired rubber-bullets and chased them through narrow roads. Within a few minutes there were hundreds of police while the anti-King slogans were being heard occasionally. Later, the police then arrested a guy from the shop just outside the main gate of the Kantipur Complex.
Photo by Shruti Shrestha