Saturday, May 8, 2010

General Strike Called Off, Protests to Continue

Report by Mukti N. Kattel.  This report covers the development until noon May 8 Nepal time (1:15 pm eastern time USA/Canada).

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has called off the general strike but has said  the peaceful protests will continue.  After the call off, schools are opening and now no room for protesters that came from outside the capital city will be available to spend the nights.  Maoists are reported to be asking them to go back home though they are said to continue the peaceful protests in the capital city. The Maoist leaders have thanked to the people for their participation and the meaning is unclear whether the leadership wants their participation in further protests. Yesterday, a huge anti-strike rally was organized successfully in the capital city (in which a few popular comedians also participated) and there were scattered physical confrontations of the protesters with the anti-protesters at the vicinity of the rally. The anti-protesters attacked the protesters at some places outside the capital city too. In some places, protesters were even shot but no casualties have been reported. An injured protester in the capital city yesterday has died today.

Some civil society leaders were suggesting that the Maoists should not to call off the strike before the resignation of the Prime Minister, that the call off and the resignation should take at the same time. The protesters were warning the leadership not to compromise. The participation of the locals in the protest was drastically increasing in the capital city. The ministers had a hard time commuting to their offices, having to enter before 4 am and leaving after 11 pm.  Some even slept over in their offices! On the other side, the government decided to deploy the old army in the name of involving them in transporting food stuffs.

Some diplomatic activities took place before Maoists called off the strike. The Indian ambassador to Nepal had met the chairperson of the Maoist party that morning. A few days ago, the foreign department chief of the party, Mr. Mahara, is said to have visited the United State at the latter’s invitation. The US requested the government of Nepal to be accommodative and considerate and for the Maoists to call off the strike. Some analysts are associating these diplomatic intercourses with the Maoist call off.

There are mixed reactions to the call off. The Maoists are justifying the call off by stating that it has prevented the people to people confrontations. Some Maoist activists argue that this step has put moral pressure to the government that was asking for a call-off of the strike before the resignation of the Prime Minister. The anti-call off people are arguing, however, that the call off  before any output will create frustrations in people and will reduce peoples' participation in future protests. They have argued that it was not wise to call off the strike when the protest was approaching the climax and had good potential to melt down the stubborn reactionary camp (the strike was called third Jana Andolan which means a movement to bring a major political change, not merely a change of persons in the government). A group of protesters have chanted slogans against the leadership (against the call-off) and have even locked a leader (Nabaraj Subedi, according to Radio Sagarmatha, a largely anti-protest FM radio station) in a Dharmashala building in the capital city. Some civil society leaders and some well wishers said over the radio that the call off is a surrender and should be explained to the mass of poor people who participated in the protests without food, sleep, etc. Some others are arguing that it is another expression of the reconciliatory attitude of the leadership that was been developing in them during recent years. Still others think that they might have taken this step to regroup and prepare for even bigger push in the near future.

While welcoming the call-off,  the Prime Minister has reiterated his usual demand that the Maoists should return the confiscated lands, change the YCL to a non-paramillitary organization, change themselves into a civic party, etc. etc. - meaning he may not resign before those demands are met! 

The major issue of dispute between the Maoists and the non-Maoists has been how the Maoist army will be integrated into the old army to create a new army. Whether the Maoist party made a right decision or not or whether they were honest to the movement or not will be judged on the basis of the nature and magnitude of the movement in the days to come and whether they achieve the set goals or not. Some people are suggesting Maoists to study why the reactionary camp was partly successful in mobilizing some businessmen and civil society people. Some left-inclined intellectuals have suggested the inadequacy of publicity of Maoists opinions and programs to the masses to be one of the factors why some non-reactionary people were not supporting the Maoists.

It is still worth creating public opinion in favour of the Maoists as it is not yet certain whether the Prime Minister will resign or not; whether they will honour the voice of the people or not; whether they accept the leadership of Maoists in the constitution writing process or not; whether they agree with the concept of creating a new army or not or whether they tolerate the incorporation of aspirations of the poor, dalits, women, ethnic minorities who participated in the 10-year peoples war and second Jana Andolan to over throw monarchy and the inhumane feudalist structures and institutions.

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