I had this great idea. I was going to go to Kathmandu to meet with several elections experts to do some networking for COCAP and to elicit their help with a joint proposal we’re working on locally. I had meetings scheduled, ideas to run by them, and was ready to go. Unfortunately so far, it is all for naught.
For almost a week now I’ve been prevented from traveling to Kathmandu (or even to either of the “nearby” cities from where I could fly) due to 3 different bandhas. These bandhas are in multiple cities, called by 3 different groups, and cumulatively they shut down all movement in the entire country.
As inconvenient as this has been for me, there have been serious ramifications particularly in Eastern Nepal as well as across the country. Trucks filled with vegetables are rotting, fuel shortages are occurring, grooms and their families are being prevented from traveling to their waiting brides, and colleagues at my organizations have been prevented from attending various skill building and program related trainings.
Several questions logically spring to the western mind. Why don’t they just drive around a different route that isn’t blocked? “Why isn’t some law enforcement body stopping these groups from shutting down the roads?” What can be done to make these bandhas stop?
Unfortunately, in the Nepalese context the answers are less than straightforward.
People don’t use alternative routes to blocked roads because there aren’t any. The entire country has one major highway (which, for the record isn’t as nice as most of the 2-lane dirt roads I’ve experienced back home). They are in the process of building some alternate roads, but they are slow in coming.
As for law enforcement, the government is hesitant to mobilize them at this point because they are afraid to destabilize things before the constitutional assembly election (some people I’ve talked to also theorize that certain members of the government actually want the violence to escalate and the country to destabilize because that provides a political advantage).
I’ve asked my Nepalese colleagues how they think this situation should be addressed. They emphatically believe that at heart of the issue is the need for “inclusion” in Nepal’s political life. If those in power were seriously in dialogue with representatives of these groups they would not have to resort to these means to try to make their voice heard.
Essentially, my colleagues disagree with the methods (and particularly the violence) of these groups but they fundamentally relate to the issues they are raising. They believe that if the government would sit down and listen to the demands of the groups, the bandhas would stop and there would be a possibility of actually addressing the pressing issues they are trying to raise.
Posted By Nicole Farkouh
Posted Jul 4th, 2014