14-09-03

SWEAT, BLOOD AND TEARS IN KATMANDU

Well before we came to Nepal, we heard about the Nepalese Maoist movement. At some point we even switched our travel destination to Ladakh, Northern India. When good friends, visiting Nepal in February of this year reported back to us that the atmosphere in Nepal was calm and peaceful, it did not take us long too reconsider and go back to our original plan. By now, we understand that the situation then was so peaceful, because of the cease-fire in effect.

                So we came to Nepal in the middle of August. By the end of the month, the Maoists walked away from the negotiations and broke the cease fire. At first, it did not mean much to us. We were assured by locals that the Maoists are not targeting the tourists.

                However, we cannot ignore that we are in the midst of it. We read reports of casualties among soldiers and rebels. Daily The Himalayan and The Katmandu Post report Maoist bombings, bank robberies or political assassinations. Occasionally an article reminds us of the cruelties of the Nepalese army and the Maoists prior to the cease-fire. Sometimes we are reminded of Vietnam era stories as related to us in “The Killing Fields”. Fortunately, we also get plenty of reports expanding on the roots of the situation.

                Two aspects become defined. On the one hand, we have to be aware of the roots of the conflict, in order to understand the conflict. On the other hand there is the unnecessary, meaningless violence committed by the Maoists and by the army ( We must add however, based on present reporting, that the army seems to be on the defensive, responding merely to Maoists attacks. )

The situation really struck a chord within me about a week ago when the manager of our present residence and Shangri La told us of his experience with the Maoists. With his charming, hospitable wife, they ran a guesthouse in The Solu Khumbu, the Everest region. At one time the Maoists, over a hundred of them, came to his place and demanded that they be fed. In my mind I recalled the scenes of Henry Fonda versus the Wild Bunch in “My name is nobody”.  Soon after, they locked up the Guest House and came to the safety of the Katmandu Valley.  That was about a year ago.

Unfortunately, since the ending of the cease-fire last month, the Katmandu Valley is no longer safe from the strikes of the Maoists, who seem to have adopted a new terrorist strategy.

To illustrate I quote the following excerpts from local papers, as published during the past week.

Suvecha Pant, reported in The Katmandu Post:

[…] Last Monday I headed toward Lazimpat for an easy reporting assignment, covering the virtues of electric vehicles. On the road from New Baneshwar to Old Baneshwar, passing Ratna Rajya School, a deafening explosion shook the morning air. The blast was followed by a hail of shattered glass, covering me and some bystanders. It was 9.20am. My bike slid on the road from the shockwave. For a moment I thought I had met my end. I could not figure out what had happened. People were shouting all around. A thick white smoke hung in the air. The street was covered with a fine layer of black glass. All I could think of was to get out of there. I managed to get myself back on my motorbike […] and headed home. I was in shock, but realized I had just kidded death.  

 Badly shaken, I just could not calm down. I heard that there had been five bombings that morning. killing one 12 year old boy and injuring many other innocent bystanders. The boy lost the most precious gift of life at such a tender age. I realize I was lucky, he wasn’t. Life is fragile, for sure.

It made me angry. I think I speak for all those who are alive and for those who are dead when I question those who planted the bombs. “Why? Why your own people?”

 Rajendra Dahal in The Nepali Times, a weekly magazine.

                [...] Within two weeks from the end of the cease fire, Nepal is once again a wartorn nation. Helicopters are in action in many places […] villages in the East live in terror of indiscriminate arrests and killings. Innocent people have died in army action […] there is a palpable atmosphere of terror across the county. […] Politicians believe the brutality of this war will exceed previous levels. […] Curfews have been imposed in 35 districts, including the Katmandu Valley. […] The Maoists have also intensified their attacks in the villages. […] While the state rules […] with an iron fist in Katmandu, the Maoists control the countryside.

PS Realizing that one of the bombings mentioned in foregoing report was uncomfortably close to Bodnath, our present hangout, we started planning our move West to Pokhara, preparing for our first trek to Jomosom. We have our seats with Buddha Airways booked for departure on Monday.

PPS The Nepalese Army helicopter - hopefully they have more than one - is flying overhead as we sit here posting in COSMOS, our habitual cybercafe. 

                                                                               On the way to Jomsom, Thompson & Thomson

 






07:11 Gepost door johanpieter | Permalink | Commentaren (1) |  Facebook |

Commentaren

gelukkige verjaardag Johan, een tijdje niet meer naar je site geweest. Er staat me een hoop leeswerk te wachten. Je schrijft (of jullie schrijven) zo mooi maar op PC leest dit niet zo vlot. Boekje uitgeven? Soit, stipt op tijd een gelukkige verjaardag! groeten ook van tom en de kids. Die massages lijken me wel het einde zoals jij dit kan omschrijven.

Gepost door: nick | 15-09-03

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