As thousands of Maoists gathered in Kathmandu yesterday to celebrate the anniversary of their Peoples’ War, some in Pokhara did their best to mark the event. Here is a report:
By Neil Horning
The Maoists were actually giving out candy and tika at the desks at Halan Chowk. I was told they were also doing at Prithvi Chowk and other places around town. It was strange, because it gave the impression that everybody who had tika on that day was a Maoist supporter. I talked to the head of the porters and guides union at the Halan chowk desk about an interview, and he said he would call the District secretary. The secretary had gone to Kathmandu. They gave me a candy, and offered me tika which I turned down.
Prithvi chowk was entirely covered with Maoist slogans. Prithvi Nyarian Shah was dressed up in red and was holding up a Maoist flag instead of his finger. After seeing and photographing the decorations I went to the local desk. They were selling literature, some of which I had actually seen the printing of. There is a print shop in the floor below the consultancy I work for. The book I recognised was about ethnic autonomy. They were also selling tapes of revolutionary songs. These were playing over the loudspeaker they had strapped on top of the car. I could tell they were revolutionary songs because every once in a while I would hear Jana Mukti Sena (PLA) as part of the lyrics.
I went to the liaison office just after that, it’s down the street at Shrijana Chowk. I took a photo of the new Mural they had painted and talked to the receptionist and her friend. I was asking if there was anybody there who could conduct an interview. My Nepali is very limited, but I’m fairly sure the answer was no. No district secretary, and no area in charge. They took down my new mobile number and said they would call me. The receptionist and her friend offered me Tika, but I refused again, trying to explain in my limited Nepali that my students might object: “Mero officema mero kakshama mero vidyarthi mon par daina.” They knew I was American, so that might have something to do with why the receptionist’s friend got out an American flag, but I’m really not sure. It certainly didn’t seem like typical Maoist behavior.
Later that night the Maoists entirely covered Prithvibi Chowk with candles. They were being lit by dozens of small children wearing tika. Photos were pretty much impossible in the light. I talked there with a district committee member I had met before. He said I could get an interview in 4 days when the District Secretary gets in. He took my cellphone number and sent a text message to test it:
Hearty greeting to you on the occasion of the 12th anniversary of a great protective war in Nepal. Red salute to the brave martyrs. Lets go ahead and submit in a great campain by promissing and supporting their path to build a “New Nepal” Bishwash pokhara
He had probably sent the same one to everyone on his contact list.