By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal All pics and videos by Wagle
Irony! You might think this policeman is attentively reading the poster with the photo of Prachanda but if you ask me I would say, NO, he is not. He is waiting for one of his friends to come out of the toilet so that he could go inside. This is also the part of the IRONICAL scene that I saw today. Policemen using the toilet facility in a Maoist office!
In this video, viewers will see Maoist cadres coming into the office in queue and suddenly starting to attack and chasing away the protestors. Within a few seconds, the scenes at Kupandole become chaotic like in a war zone. A sound of siren might give the impression that a police vehicle has started taking action. That’s not correct. That’s ambulance that happens to be coming from the Patan side and moving toward Kathmandu. The Maoists are shouting and screaming at the protestors.
Two major press conferences made first two lead on the evening news today. Koirala addressed his party men at the presence of reporters to tell them to have patience and vigil on possible efforts by reactionary forces to foil yesterday’s historic agreement where as Prachanda was so much willing to answer queries filed by reporters in a press meet organized by his party in the Yak and Yeti Hotel, not very far from Gyanendra’s Narayanhitti Palace, that his deputy had to intervene and tell reporters that the show was over for the day! I missed both of these events but that was intended.
I wanted to see the democracy in action. (Plus, I had to write an article on American election for Kantipur.) I wanted to observe how comrades, who have been engaging in violent protest against the state, will take peoples’ democratic right to PROTEST against their activities! That was interesting. After all, I have concluded, Maoists are still the comrades in transition! Within hours of reaching a historic agreement on several important issues with the government of Nepal, Maoists this afternoon faced an apparently organized protest by dozens of residents in Lalitpur district. Locals from the area and other parts of Kathmandu gathered in Kupandole, in front of a Maoist contact office, early this afternoon to protest the rebel pressure to provide shelter and food to the party cadres. [Maoists from various parts of the country are pouring into Kathmandu valley to attend a mass meeting in which Prachanda was scheduled to appear publicly for the first time in 25 years. The Friday, Nov 10 meeting has been cancelled, Prachanda told reporters today.] The protesting locals were shouting slogans against the Maoists and they had blocked the main road that links Lalitpur with Kathmandu by putting a long rope near the Bagmati Bridge. (story continues after the video info)
In this second video, Maoists are trying to resume the traffic after successfully flushing out the protestors. When I went there, a few protesters were still around, shouting anti-Maoist slogans and halting traffic. They complained that Maoists were forcing them to provide shelter and food the party cadres. “How can provide food and shelter when we are having difficulties with our daily life?” commented a woman. Later in the evening news, I heard more voices in Kantipur TV bulletin. While listening to them, I remembered how my villagers used to complain the highhandedness of the Maoists in the village.
Maoists would come in the middle of the night, enter inside homes without the owner’s permission, take out food items, make food and eat and go! People of Kathmandu were totally insensitive about those events, they didn’t do anything to pressurize the governments of that time to solve those problem. Now Kathmanduits are facing what villagers around the country have been living with for the last several years. I am not supporting Maoist activities by saying this but let me make it clear my brother felt exactly the same while watching Kathmanduites and people of Lalitpur complaining about the Maoist highhandedness.
IRONY of the recent memory! Policemen in duty to provide security to the Maoist office.
There was heavy police presence apparently to provide security to the Maoist office which was one of the most ironical situations I have encountered in recent memory. The Office was calm and quiet. There were a few cadres busy managing the publicity materials for the Mass Meeting. A few were cracking jokes in the canteen. The seven storey building is quite interesting to observe. You will see seven banners, some big and long and some small, and 14 signboards. It seems that the contact offices of all Maoist sister organizations are housed in this building. You just add Mukti Morcha (Liberation Front) on any ethnic group you like and that you will find the office here. That was obviously exaggerated statement but look at a few names: Nepal Kirati LF, Madhesi National LF, Sherpa National LF, Newar National LF, Tamu National LF, Nepal Dalit LF, Magar National LF, Majhi National LF, Tamang National LF. Other organizations were All Nepal Peoples’ Cultural Association, the Woman wing, the intellectual wing etc. As I was noting down all those names, a joke that came from inside the canteen caught my attention.
“Liberation Front” Building! A policeman walks toward the toilet in the Maoist Office that I think should be named “Liberation Front” Building! Boy, the colorful banners and signboards must have caught his attention!
A protester tries to explain a bike rider why the road was closed.
Here is the reason why the road is closed.
“If we invite them here and reach an understanding,” a male voice said, “they will come again tomorrow and day after tomorrow. We must chase them to Nagarkot so that they will never come again.” He was talking about the protesters just outside the building.
I came out and started exploring the compulsions behind the IRONY. I started interviewing three policemen who were sitting on a row along with their other colleagues.
Policemen I talked to: The first guy quietly covered his face as I started taking snap.
“How it feels?” I started the conversation.
The policeman was slightly confused. I rephrased my question. “How it feels to be here today?”
The first guy became slightly hesitated. The second one came up with the following answer.
“Nothing special,” he said. “We are just doing our duty.”
“It’s all about time,” the first one said. “It’s about situation. You kill us, we will provide you security.”
“Our job is the follow the orders,” the second cop said. “Whoever is above us, we follow the order. That’s it. That’s my job.”
“Do you know the political developments of last night?”
“No,” said the second cop. “We generally know about the events late.”
“Maoists and the government agreed to lock up Maoist weapons,” I explained. “It seems the war has ended.” No one wanted to be named saying that being quoted in media might create problem for “the lower rank” police.
“How it feels to provide security to the Maoists. They were your enemy until yesterday, weren’t they?”
“Yes, they were. This TIME! This does wonders. We fought and now we are here.”
As we were talking, Maoist cadres started coming into the office from the backyard. Around three dozens. The first cop said that he wanted to ask me a few questions.
“How do you take us, the Policemen?”
“Well, you guys are our brothers though I still remember fighting and clashing with policemen like you in King’s rule. Journalists were also on the streets. A policeman nearly broke my camera. But I have no complains now. I understand you guys just follow the orders. See that man holding the tear gas firing rifle? He fired teargas on us in the movement against regression. But now he is following the orders of peoples’ government. So I consider you guys as nice people.”
“What do you think about king’s future?”
“I don’t want king to be the king,” I said. “I want the king to be a citizen just like you and me and enjoy the freedom.”
“Why don’t you like the king?”
“Because he is the white elephant. Look he eats with our money, your and my money. If there is no king, a citizen like you and me can be the leader of the country. Isn’t that wonderful? You can the leader of the state of Nepal.”
Before the attack, there were handfuls of people in the Maoist office.
Maoist cadres coming to the office in a queue. Within a minute of taking this photo, they started attacking the protesters and chase them away.
Hello Comrade, how are you? Two Maoist men chat after successfully flushing out protesters in front of the Maoist contact office.
More people, Maoist cadres, started coming in. The cop appeared to be convinced by what I said about monarchy. More people, now in a queue, started pouring into the Maoist office from the small road. That was now interesting and I started taking video shot of the scene. As I was taking the video, Maoist cadres started shouting and running toward the main road where protesters had stopped the vehicular movement.
They were now trying to attack the protesters. Protesters ran away. Maoists, now in hundreds, took over the road and in about five minutes, they resumed the traffic movement on the road.
They shouted slogans, Long Live Maoist Party and Down with Vigilantes. At one point I heard Maoists shouting slogans against CPN UML. They said, “Down with CPN UML!” Then a guy who appeared to be leading them ordered the cadres to stop shouting slogans. I was partly shocked to hear the anti-UML slogan though that wasn’t a total surprise. Just a day ago, Maoist students had clashed with UML students in Nepal Humanities Campus (RR) and a few were seriously injured. But, after about 15 minutes, when I asked a Maoist trade union leader who was leading the rally that chase away the protesters why they chanted anti-UML slogans, he denied chanting any such slogans!
Go away you “vigilantes and feudals!” This Maoist cadre is shouting slogans (for his party and against the protesters) as he and dozens of his comrades successfully scare the protesting city dwellers away.
Maoist cadres destroy a black board in which protesters had written slogans: “No donation terrorism.”
“Those were vigilantes who want to foil our mass meeting,” Guru Prasad Pokharel, a leading Maoist cadre who had come to the office 20 minutes ago from Casino Anna, told. He said that all those new faces who came in the office 20 minutes ago were Maoist trade union laborers working in four casinos in four Kathmandu 5-star hotels (Anna, Everest, Royal and Hyatt). “We can bring 30 thousand workers and laborers comrades within half an hour anywhere in Kathmandu,” boasted another man, who didn’t want to be identified. When he knew I was working for Kantipur daily, he had this to say, “Kantipur has started working against people these days. They are writing nonsense about our party these days. At the time of jana andolan, they were doing good but now their popularity is waning.”
Maoists started distributing food, beaten rice, to cadres. As they started eating, I came out of the office compound and saw one Maoist talking with a policeman who was leading the mission there. “If you don’t control them,” he was telling, “we will be forced to take action.”
Lunch Time: A woman distributes beaten rice to Maoist cadres who had come in Kupandole from different casinos to chase away the protesters.