General Strike Rocks Kathmandu
Revolutionary Worker #956, May 10, 1998
On April 6 the city of Kathmandu and other areas in Nepal were brought to a standstill by a general strike. The successful strike--known in Nepal as the "bandh"--was led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the United People's Front, referred to by the bourgeois press as the "political arm" of the CPN(M). The CPN(M), a participating party in the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, is leading an ongoing people's war based in the countryside. The April 6 bandh was an indication that revolutionary struggle is also shaking the urban areas of Nepal.
According to a news report from the Inter Press Services, "The strike virtually turned Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, into a ghost town with few people on the streets and almost no vehicles on the roads. Most businesses remained closed throughout the day." The Agence France Presse reported, "The strike was fully effective in the three cities of the Kathmandu Valley, with all shops, markets, business centers, industries and educational institutions closed throughout the day."
The April 7 issue of the Kathmandu Post carried some reports on what happened in various other places around Nepal: "In Hetauda, the bandh left a major impact as the entire market area and transportation remained closed. Factories and industries halted their usual business, reports said. Supporters of the bandh had torch-marched last night shouting anti-establishment slogans and opening blank fires.
"In the eastern district of Bhadrapur, most places remained affected by the strike... In Dhangadhi in the west, the bandh had a partial impact. Shops and private vehicles opened as usual in several key pockets. However, telephone threats compelled most of them to respond to the bandh in the late afternoon, reports added.
"In Dolakha, nearly 150 Maoist cadres, some of them clad completely in black, posted communist flags in a farmland and declared that `any poor man could till the land' no matter whoever was the owner. `Should anyone claim the land we'll show him the path to Yamraj (the god of death),' a Maoist guerrilla was quoted as saying by a witness....
"In Pokhara, even the famed pilgrimage site of Bindyabasini Temple came under Maoist pressure. `The temple was closed for the first time in history owing to threats from Maoists,' reports said. Other areas in this lakeside town also were hit by the bandh.
"Reports from Lamjung, Arghakhanchhi, Gaighat, Sindhuli, Siraha, Salyan, Jajarkot, Biratnagar, Dharan, Syngja and many other places said the bandh had `total impact' in those places."
The Nepalese government and its police forces tried to prevent the bandh by arresting hundreds of people in the days leading up to the strike and on April 6 itself. The Home Ministry declared that "a huge number of police forces will be deployed in the streets to prevent unpleasant incidents." But their attempts to stop the bandh clearly failed!
No statements about the April 6 bandh are available yet from the NCP(M) or the United People's Front. According to the news reports, the strike was called to protest government corruption, police violence, discrimination against minority nationalities, price hikes, the unequal Mahakali Treaty with India, and other issues. The April 3 Kathmandu Post said it had just received a CPN(M) press statement which read in part: "The country's ministers, lawmakers, and high-level bureaucrats are all mired in corruption. The police commandos under the infamous Surya Bahadur (the Prime Minister), Khum Bahadur (Home Minister), Achyut Kharel (the police chief) have their hands stained by the blood of the innocent people."
This is not the first time that general strikes have rocked Kathmandu and other cities of Nepal. For example, the latest issue of the internationalist magazine A World to Win (1998/23) describes the Nepal Bandh of December 12, 1996: "During the Bandh, transport, educational institutions, factories and markets of major cities were closed. Hundreds of vehicles were burned by petrol bombs and thousands of people demonstrated in the streets of the Kathmandu Valley. Major cities including Kathmandu, Bhaktpur, Patan, Htauda, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Nepalganj saw torch-light processions attended by thousands. Three hundred thousand leaflets were distributed all over the country during the Bandh."
Nepalese Rulers and the "Maoist Problem"
The news reports about the April 6 strike do not say much about the People's War in the countryside. But there are signs that the People's War continues to grow and sink deeper roots. The Inter Service Press article on the bandh began, "A two-year-old Maoist-inspired insurgency in Nepal is taking a turn for the worse as rebels step up attacks in a renewed bid to establish a republican state in this Himalayan Kingdom."
April 3 was the opening day of the new session of the Nepalese parliament. According to the Kathmandu Post, the Maoist People's War was "featured prominently" in the discussions of this reactionary political body. The Post reported that the prime minister and representatives of major opposition parties "all voiced serious concern over the Maoist problem and the deteriorating law and order situation in the country." One of the main opposition forces currently is the UML, which parades around as "Marxist-Leninist" but is in fact a bourgeois party. The head of the UML expressed his worry: "If the Maoist problem is not resolved immediately, it may very well snowball into a serious crisis with international implications."
A little over a week after the April 6 Bandh, the Kathmandu Post reported on a major new action by CPN(M) guerrillas. On April 14, a large group of fighters attacked a rural loan office in Parsa district and set fire to loan documents. Attacks on rural banks and loan offices are one form of action in the People's War in Nepal. As A World to Win explains, these institutions "are a pillar of comprador and feudal domination in the countryside... Such actions as burning the loan papers, apart from actually destroying the records of unjust and back-breaking loans, point towards the new class relations the Party is fighting for."
According to the Post, "around a hundred masked Maoists in uniforms" entered the loan office in the village of Biruwa Gudhi in Parsa district, near the border with India. The guerrillas, armed with knives and guns, burned the loan documents and then left after igniting firecrackers to create confusion. The Post quoted a police report that the group of Maoist fighters included 10 to 20 women.
Twists and Turns
In response to the People's War, the reactionary state in Nepal is carrying out savage repression against the masses. Especially in areas where the support for the revolution is strong, the police often attack and arrest all young men in the villages. One team of human rights activists reported that a village they visited in Rolpa was deserted because "many of the young boys and men had been compelled to go into hiding due to police terror." Other reports indicate that police entering villages in search of activists shoot unarmed people. When the police cannot find who they are looking for, they arrest, torture, rape and sometimes kill their family members.
The people's war is advancing step by step in the face of this counter-revolutionary violence. In May of last year, the CPN(M) summed up that its fighting ability had grown during the First and Second Plans of the People's War. The Third Plan started in August under the slogan "Develop Guerrilla War to the Next Higher Stage." One aim of the Third Plan is to expand the areas of influence, especially in the Terai region--the southern plains bordering India, which is the most populated part of the country.
As A World to Win points out: "The People's War has brought the fundamental weakness of the old state in Nepal to the light of day and has awakened hope among the masses of the oppressed, even beyond the borders of the country... The road to victory will no doubt be full of twists and turns but the downtrodden of Nepal are coming forward as active creators of a new social order, and a whole new generation of youth is being trained in the theory and practice of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism."
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