A lot of the unrest here in Nepal has fallen under the radar, both in my blog and also in international news.
About once a week, sometimes more often, Tope will announce to us that there is a “Bunda” planned for the next day. “Bunda” in Nepali means closed, and essentially entails a strike, ordered by the Maoists (Communists) who hold the big stick around the country.
The Nepalese Civil War ended in 2006 after ten years of fighting between the Maoists and the monarchy government. In the end, the people of Nepal had to choose between two bad options, and they chose the Maoists. Lack of support for the government essentially propagated a peace treaty, followed by elections that saw the Maoists democratically gain strong control of the government. Two years later, the monarchy was abolished and the interim government set to work to write a constitution.
They failed, though, and almost six years later Nepal is still a very politically confused and porous country. This confusion pervades every level, from the rice farmers to the politicians – who is really in charge? The average income is something like $2/day. This is largely because employment is so hard to come by, and the unemployment rate in Surkhet is something like 60%. Can you imagine?
There was a 10 day transportation bunda leading up to the elections on the 19th. This meant that no cars or buses could travel on the roads, and was sometimes “enforced” by radical Maoists chopping down massive trees along main roads or even throwing the occasional petrol bombs at buses foolish and daring enough to try to travel.
This is the first place I’ve ever heard a bomb. Not a bomb with a fuse or a beeping timer, mind you, but still something that explodes and can kill and maim. The echoes went up and down the valley, but I was never scared for my own safety or that of the children. Westerners are never targets of political unrest, and are actually the only people who could have a chance at passing by a roadblock on the road. Yet still, knowing that somewhere, someone, something had exploded and reeked havoc was chilling, as the sounds came loud and then the echoes rolled away like thunder.
Everything has settled down now, and I don’t think anyone actually died from these bombs (which were mostly thrown on roads). The Maoists, unsurprisingly, fared quite poorly in the elections. Their leader, a man by the name of Prachanda, threatened that the “corruption” in the voting process would be met with consequences. He was ignored. The other prominent party, the Nepali Congress, has established firm control of the Parliament while the Maoists’ have lost 75% of their congressional seats. Ho hum.
Who knows what’s going to happen in the next months and years. The people here are wonderful – cheerful, resilient, and hardworking – and they deserve better than they’ve gotten for decades.