Rallies may be by Oli or Dahal but it’s always citizens who sufferPolitical parties and their leaders are interested in mass protests, but the people, including the participants of such demonstrations, say they are not.
On Wednesday, when Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced that one million of his party’s supporters would encircle Singha Durbar during the next round of protests, Sanumaya Thapa, was walking home with her two-year-old daughter from Nidan Hospital, Pulchwok, where her husband is undergoing renal dialysis.
“I had to walk in the morning as well to bring my husband food,” said Thapa, 37. “I don’t have my own vehicle and due to this protest, I couldn’t find a public vehicle to take me to the hospital,” said Thapa as she made her way from Kupondole to her room in Koteshwor.
Like on any other protest day, Wednesday saw hundreds of people in Kathmandu Valley forced to walk as thousands descended on the streets of Kathmandu to participate in the rally organised by the Dahal-Nepal faction of the Nepal Communist Party against the dissolution of the House of Representatives by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on December 20.
“What’s the use of this mass gathering? Why can’t I go to the hospital to see my ailing husband?” Thapa asked.
Wednesday’s demonstration was the third of its kind organised by the faction against caretaker Prime Minister Oli in Kathmandu. Earlier, the faction had organised a mass gathering at the same venue—Pradarshani Marg—on Jan 22 paralysing public mobility in the city.
But Wednesday’s demonstration was a bit different from the previous two—the leadership decided to swap the sofa on the podium with chairs after it was criticised on social media as protesters were forced to sit on the road while leaders enjoyed the view on their cozy sofa.
But that didn’t matter much to ordinary citizens attending the demonstration. “I do not see any difference between Oli, Dahal and Nepal,” said Sitaram Giri, 58, a retired teacher, who came from Lokanthali to Pardarshaini Marg.
“He murdered the constitution, but it was Dahal and Nepal who worked with him shoulder to shoulder. They fall apart after not getting their share,” said Giri. He said he came to the protest to pass the time and see how gullible village people were made fools.
According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division traffic in Kathmandu was disrupted from 8am. “There were rallies from 11 different places, even though we mobilised 1,500 traffic police we couldn’t handle the traffic,” said SP Shyam Krishan Adhikari, spokesperson for the division. He said over 1,000 buses entered Kathmandu from outside the Valley to take part in Wednesday's mass protest.
Many protesters who participated in the mass rally were basking in the sun in Maitighar. Some of them said they were not interested in the protest, but the free meals on offer brought them to Kathmandu.
“I came here because we were getting a free ride. They offered free meals and this is my first time in Kathmandu,” said Hanuman Raya Yadav, 65, who was eating beaten rice on a newspaper with his villagers in Sarlahi.
Mangal Gurung, 25 who came from Barpak Sulikot Municipality, Gorkha, said he was in Kathmandu because he got a free ride. “I had to visit a consultancy in Gongabu,” said Gurung, who wants to go to Malaysia for work.
But some ardent supporters of the Dahal-Nepal group were making their case for the protests. “Oli is acting as if he is above the constitution,” said Asha Yadav, a former lawmaker from Siraha. “KP Oli is a tyrant, he should be sent to exile,” said Yadav.
Meanwhile, for citizens such as Thapa, the political rallies are nothing but disruptions to her normal life, already under stress. “If it was not for the rally, I could have saved time and I would not have had to walk on foot carrying my baby,” said Thapa.
“For rich people, neither coronavirus mattered, nor will the protests because they have their own vehicles,” said Thapa.