A motley crew of people and political talk at Capital protestThousands attended Friday’s rally called by Dahal-Nepal faction of Nepal Communist Party against Oli’s House dissolution move. But not everyone was there to protest.
A groundswell of people descended on the streets of Kathmandu on Friday to protest the dissolution of the House of Representatives by the KP Sharma Oli government.
Throughout the day the city’s traffic was thrown into a chaos as the Pradarshani Marg and Bhadrakali areas were overrun by a sea of people, to attend the protest rally called by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal-led Nepal Communist Party.
SSP Janak Bhattarai, the chief of Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, said Kathmandu’s traffic was severely disrupted till late afternoon.
“The Bhadrakali-Ratnapark road stretch was blocked till late afternoon. As a result, traffic flow was affected citywide. Traffic had to be rerouted and this caused severe bottlenecks in different parts of the city,” Bhattarai told the Post.
A large number of people who attended Friday’s rally were bussed in from outside Kathmandu Valley. And many had apparently come to Kathmandu because they were promised a free ride and meal by the party.
Rupa Thapa was one of them. The 38-year-old had travelled all the way from Gorkha district along with other villagers.
“We don’t know much about politics. Our ward chairman requested us to be here,” said Thapa, a resident of Gorkha Municipality. “We were told that the party would be paying for our food and travel.”
Thapa said she planned to visit her relatives in Kathmandu before returning home.
Among the rally crowd, there were also those who seemed genuinely concerned about the country’s political situation. They keenly listened to the leaders addressing the rally, every now and again, breaking into cheers, hoots and applause to display their solidarity with the leaders.
And then there were also neutral observers like Sunil Pokharel, a 27-year-old law student, and his friends. The group of friends claimed that they do not identify with any political party but stood against the House dissolution move by Prime Minister Oli.
“Listening to these leaders speak does have a galvanising effect,” Pokharel said observing the crowd cheering at the leaders. “There’s no doubt what Oli did was unconstitutional. But I believe that we should let the court decide on this issue.”
Pokharel and his friends had a rather cynical view about the country’s politics.
“Even if the court revives the parliament, we are getting the same old faces running the country. It will hardly matter for commoners,” Pokharel said. “And if the Supreme Court verdict came in favour of the government, the country will have to spend billions of rupee for the elections to elect those same leaders. There’s no win-win for the people.”
The Oli government, after dissolving the lower house of Parliament, has announced midterm elections on April 30 and May 10.
Even if the court rules in favour of the government, many suspect the elections will be held as announced amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Swyambhu Dangol, who was part of a musical troupe that had come for the rally from Khokana, Lalitpur, said no matter what the court decided every Nepali ought to defend the constitution.
“There is so much uncertainty going on in our country. If we do not defend our constitution, we will lose our rights and identity,” said the 47-year-old.
Another protester, Bhimnath Olakhey shared a similar view. The 74-year-old had joined 150 others from his village in Bagmati Rural Municipality to attend the rally in the Capital city.
“Most of us here are supporters of the party. We are here to protest against Oli who is bent on destroying the constitution for which many Nepalis have made an immense sacrifice,” said Olakhey.
“We fought tirelessly to reinstate democracy in 1990. I myself joined the Maoist party and fought the 10-year insurgency. I also participated during the people’s movement that overthrew monarchy. Now here I am to stand up against Oli who is trying to shred the constitution.”
For Sonam Tamang attending Friday’s rally was both an expression of his protest and a business opportunity.
The 37-year-old was busy selling peanuts to the people while listening to the leaders.
“I am not a Oli supporter. After his government, street vendors like me have faced a lot of hassles from the police. The municipal police have confiscated at least five of my carts and I never got them back,” he said.
“This government has never been kind to the poor and daily wage workers like us. True, a man like me doesn't know what’s written in the constitution, but I know that the government should be looking after the poor citizens. I support this protest and consider myself one of the protesters.”