Kaushaltar, a urban village on the Arniko Highway between Bhaktapur and Kathmandu, is witnessing a unprecedented incidents of protest and police-people scuffle; an example of how people are uprising for fight for democracy
Kaushaltar was never an unlikely place. In 1990 AD too, during popular movement, there were a few incidents like vandalizing of village development office. That’s probably because Kaushaltar is a bit politically aware due to late Jagnath Acharya, who was one of the commanders in 1990 and also because it’s a hub that nexus other villages around. People of Kaushaltar and adjoining Lokanthali, Balkot and Ghatthaghar have always been politically aware.
But what I am experiencing right now, during these general strike days, is different than that of earlier events. I remember the day exactly 16 years ago, when we, a group of children studying in standard seven, took out a rally to express happiness over dawn of democracy. At that time we were considered not old enough to go to Kathmandu for main celebration.
This morning when I was at the Kaushaltar Chowk at around 8:00am, people have already started protesting by burning tyres on the road. The temporary police booth was just a few meters away and the police looked without any reaction. For more than an hour, it was just that. A few police vehicle and army vehicle passed by but without stopping.
At 9:00am, a group from the mass rallied east towards Ghatthghar while we stayed drinking tea. Police started increasing their number and started advancing towards the fire. Leaders asked the police not to intervene saying that ‘the people are ready to hurl stones at them.’ They just strolled around stopping occasional motorbikes and telling them the people may refuse them to pass by the fire.
With half-an-hour remaining to the beginning of 11-hour curfew, the police tried to disperse the people when the people denied them saying they would leave by 10. When the argument was going on, a large group of people was seen coming from Ghatthaghar towards Kaushaltar. After a little while, the police who were not around two dozens in number went away in two vehicles.
Seeing the police fleeing the scene, people vandalized the temporary police booth and lit the woods from it on the road. Though, we have not disrupted to ambulance or army vehicle or press, an army ambulance returned without coming near to the fire. People then advanced towards Lokanthali on west.
There was a large number of police stationed on the road. A few of us tried to advance hurling stones at them but they fired tear-gas shells and we all dispersed. My eyes were burning; nose and mouth chilling when I found a jar of water to wash up. The police then chased us back for a long way.
At a point, two policemen hurled stones at the roof of a house adjacent to road from where a few onlookers were watching all this. We have to made noise and scold police before finally they stopped stoning and went ahead. It was all over for the morning.
But when I considered who were hurling stones at the police and we were chanting slogans, I feel surprised because they all were the people who I didn’t think would participate in such protest. They were all indifferent when a few political activists burnt tyres at the same place on January 20. Even I was just an onlooker, not a participant of such programs earlier, but today was different (I was without my identity as press man).
Yesterday evening people at Kaushaltar held a torch rally. One of the leaders told me they prepared around 300 torches but that wasn’t enough for the people participating. Even household women went to the rally and my wife told me that that rally was big despite the rainfall.
I was at Lokanthali that time witnessing a police-people scuffle. The people had burnt tyres and all on the road and chanting anti-King slogans when police arrived the scene in a van and a truck. They tried to chase away the protesters but they fought back with stones forcing the baton-charging policemen to move back.
I was standing on the police side and a policeman came towards me raising the latthi. I told him I was from press and flashed my card. He wasn’t moving back but a friend of him asked him to leave me. Sadly, two young boys couldn’t save themselves. The same policemen charged them when they were returning back after being asked to.
The police fired rubber-bullet on air. The slogans were still being heard but to lessen extend as I move to Kaushaltar where my relative and a leader Madhukar Khanal was curing his injured leg.
Kaushaltar and its surrounding is not big and by the number of local participants in such program, I now say that people are uprising for the revolution.