Showing posts with label strikes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label strikes. Show all posts

Mar 20, 2017

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail....

"Rage" - Banksy
Nor nationwide strikes, nor intermittent internet service lapses, and nor electricity outages shall stay Bibi from blogging! Well, maybe power outages and no internet connection might but I'm still trying! At least once a week anyway. Yup, we had a huge storm the week of March 5th, then a nationwide strike for two days, and then two days of Holi holidays. The storm brought high winds, heavy rains, lightning, and a cold snap which left over a meter of snow at higher elevations. All that wild weather caused power outages for three days. Then our internet tower went kaput so no internet connection for over a week. No one could go up and fix the tower due to the nationwide strike or banda being enforced by one of the myriad political parties here in Nepal. Of course the strike was called off for the Holi holiday which lasted another two days. Even now we're having intermittent power shortages and gaps in the internet connection so bear with me! 


Curious as to what a nationwide strike is like here in Nepal? Well, a strike is called a banda and they occur quite frequently. Culturally, a banda is the preferred form of protest by Nepal's myriad political parties. A banda can be determinate, indeterminate, partial, regional, or all sorts of things. Usually all shops are closed, schools are shut, and vehicle traffic is prohibited. The banda is enforced by whichever political party declared it. Those who defy the strike are threatened with arson, vandalism (usually smashed windows or windshields), or other harm. Goons are sent door-to-door to threaten shops to close so that the banda can be declared both successful and peaceful. Party enforcers roam the streets with clubs or lathis looking for any motorcyclists or vehicles that dare not to conform to the strikes. Everyone keeps updated on the banda by watching local television stations or checking the banda page on Facebook.


"Torching" is a common enforcement tactic utilized by political parties in Nepal too. Vehicles, shops, or police officers defying the strike are set afire by tossing a bottle of flammable liquid and a lit match upon them. The above photo is of one of three trucks that were torched by cadres of the United Democratic Madhesi Front for defying a banda in September 2015. When asked why the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) resorts to torching the official spokesperson of the party exclaimed-

"The media never gives attention to us when we carry out peaceful protests. We held a motorcycle rally in Kathmandu yesterday, the media did not cover it. But when our cadre torched a taxi today morning, it was reported by every single media outlet."
-Santosh Budha, spokesperson for CPN (M)

Why this sort of strike enforcement isn't called terrorism is beyond me. If any Muslim or Islamist group did this it would be broadcast worldwide as acts of terror.


After two days of the entire country coming to a complete standstill only a tiny column was written about it on the second page of the national newspaper. Two days of empty roads, closed shops, shut schools, and reports of vehicles being torched and properties vandalized condensed into 3 brief paragraphs. That's how habituated and normalized strikes are here in Nepal. Can you imagine if this happened in a Western country? 


What triggered this banda? There was an altercation over the building of a culvert in the remote western border district of Kanchanpur on March 9th. The Nepalese side was building the culvert in an area that is claimed by the Indian side. About a dozen Nepali citizens and two Nepali police personnel were fired upon by officers of the Indian border security forces (Seema Sashastra Bal or SSB). Three shooting victims succumbed immediately to their injuries and two died later in hospital. Just how many bullets were fired in total and exactly by whom still seems to be a bit of a mystery. After reports of SSB firing on March 9th the Embassy of India refuted the claims, saying “there was no incident of firing by SSB in Kanchanpur.” A day later, the Nepali goverment delivered a diplomatic note to India condemning the killings, demanding investigation, and urging the Indian side to refrain from “such inimical activities." New Delhi replied stating the SSB had started an enquiry on the matter and sought reports to facilitate the process. This usually means we'll never truly know what actually happened. 

Prince Harry gets Holi-ed at the local airport, March, 2016
And then came Holi! The problem with a banda is that after a few days the law of diminishing returns takes precedence. Frustration, necessity, and boredom build to a point where it begins to overcome the fear factor and people start venturing out regardless of threats. Or a popular festival occurs. Nepalis aren't about to miss a festival! Especially one as fun as the Hindu festival of Holi. Whether demands have been met or not the banda organizers usually end up finding some creatively face-saving way to call the banda off. And so it was! The free-for-all festival of Spring then commenced with revelers being smeared and drenched with water and many-colored powders. In the above photo you can see Prince Harry getting politely Holi-ed at our local airport on his visit to Nepal last year.


Our Ms Dawg unwisely ventured from the compound gates on Holi morning. Yes, dogs get Holi-ed too! Foreigners and animals are not spared the festivities. A few years back I was smeared with some red powder on Holi that triggered an allergic reaction on my skin that lasted a month. That's why I don't go out on Holi anymore. And so after the dismal silence of the banda the air was filled with loud music, boisterous squeals, and the happy cheers of the Holi-gans. At any rate, Bibi's internet connection wasn't going to be fixed anytime soon. 


Spring weather in the Himalayas is certainly capricious. That storm last week brought a cold snap as well as copious precipitation. Gone was our balmy, tropical weather and in blew grumpy gray skies and icy blasts from the mountains. Elevations above 3,000m/9,000ft got over a meter of snow. Tourists and middle class Nepalis had fun riding buses up to play in the newly fallen snow. All the wind, snow, lightning, and rain knocked out our electricity, internet, and satellite television signals for three days.


At least my garden fared well over our recent debacles. Fortunately we haven't had the hailstorms that usually shred my flowers. Above is a double petunia. Rather than the typical trumpet shape of regular petunias it is a pom pom of frills and flounces. At first glance it looks almost like a wadded up and soiled facial tissue to me. The flowers are a bit prone to rot as water tends to puddle in it's many crevices. It also reminds me of those spectacular parrot tulips with their fimbriated petals and ombre coloring. Not sure if I'd plant it again though. I'll bring you up to date on the other flowers in all their Spring glory in my next Life & Love post.

That's all the news that's fit to spit around here. So far. 
I better not speak too soon, eh?
I've heard y'all have had some wild weather in the US and Europe too?
I'm still having internet issues over here so my posts might be sporadic until we get these tech problems figured out. 

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