Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Riots Escalate in Response to New Vice President

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I wish I had my camera.

The country has gone into rigors over a speech the Vice President made four days ago. While we were in Jomsom, the Constituent Assembly elected a new president and vice president. The Vice President gave his acceptance speech in Hindi, the language of the Indians, and not in Nepali. Nepali people see this as a huge insult because the person chosen to lead them does not acknowledge their nationality. The situation becomes more interesting in that Nepal is a geographically trapped between these two up-and-coming world giants, without the population or developing industry of either of them. Thus, Nepal is forced to depend either on itself for products, or turn to India or China, as Nepal cannot import items by sea (landlocked) or air (yea right, too expensive). As the Himalayas lay between China and Nepal, the only option for imports is to traffic them across the Indian border - through places like Biratnangar.

In their legislative branch - the Constituent Assembly - the two main parties are the Maoists and the Nepal Party of Congress. As the Maoists have links with China from communism and Mao Ze Dong, India has jumped to support the NPC to keep their foothold in Nepal, especially since the Maoists won the general election in April.

SO, apparently, the president was supposed to be the leader of the Maoists, "Prachendra," but at the last minute, in a very lose race, votes changes to tip the scale and elect representatives from the NPC into office. THEN the vice president gave his acceptance speech in the language of the Indians, Hindi, making the situation of their Indian backing even more apparent to the public. (idiot) But, I think he did this to appease and impress the Indian government. Like us and Mexico, sort of. They should make sure they are on good terms with us, or we could potentially make their lives miserable, but we do not necessarily neeed to show them that same respect.

One specific instance of Indian control is the petrol situation. There is literally NOT ENOUGH fuel in Nepal for the demand. This is not like at home where fuel just gets really expensive. Yes, it's expensive, but nonetheless, it is there. In Nepal people simply cannot get petroleum unless India supplies it. This means that the infrastructure reaches a standstill at times. I mean, try to imagine going to the Exxon station and there not being fuel in the pumps... forget the high prices it is NOT AVAILABLE.



So, in protest of the Nepali government admitting to being stooges of India, the students and youth have risen up. The riots have very noticeably escalated. I cannot wait to show you pictures. Jill got caught up in them yesterday, a really big riot in Ratnapark, thousands of people. I am heartbroken I missed it. Luckily, I am sure there will be others.


Anyways, the students have gone up into riots, chanting in the streets, burning tires, burning effigies of the Vie President, and the rocks they throw at everything is amazing. There are broken glass and burned tires and brokwn bricks littering the streets. My neighborhood is a hotbed for this activism because there are several Colleges in the area... which house and produce the instigators and participants in these Les Miserables -like rallies. It's like in Sewanee if Lainchour Marg was University Avenue, I would be living at SAE or Fowler. Impressive.

It is really like a scene out of Les Miserables. I know saying that highly romanticizes the situation, but I am really intrigued just the same. These young boy students fighting the government for causes like patriotism and justice and liberty. It really really gives me goosebumps. I guess it just goes along with my serious desire to be a hero, and jealousy that these boys get to do things like that.

- Robel laughed pretty hard at that one -

I am awed, but Arya and Vivek are only marginally impressed. They, along with many Nepalis see these rioters as immature and unprepared. They point out that these people want a new and better government, a new and better Nepal, yet they use destruction to achieve their ends. They are physically damaging the same infrastructure they are asking the government to build. So, I don't know. I guess they could learn better activism tactics, but they look heroic from a distance.

Robel is interested from the standpoint of his job, but he talks about how blase even these are in comparison with the Maoist rebellions just 9 months ago - before they were disarmed. It makes me sad that I missed everything before, but I know that probably would not have been an ideal situation in which to be.




I found my camera charger finally, so I am going to try to get pictures in the next few days. I might go to Chitwan tomorrow for a day or two though. It is a huge tropical Terai jungle, part of which is a national park, in southern Nepal, on the Indian border. I am determined to ride an elephant before I leave, and hopefully see some tigers or rhinos or something too. I think Chitwan is famous for giant leeches in this season. Well, bring it on, I am DETERMINED to ride an elephant before I leave Nepal!

Oh, and I turned in the final draft of my project yesterday. Done!

Mom left two nights ago, and Jill just left today, so I am alone again with my thoughts in this strange land with these strange people. Such fun though.
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1 comment:

Jacquelyn said...

wow. i can't believe you're in the middle of all of this. what an experience.

i wish i could meet robel, arya, and vivek. they sound really cool, and i personally agree with their perspective on violence. perhaps not the best form of resistance. but of course i know nothing about the situation there, and am speaking as a complete outsider.

so anyway tell your friends if they ever make it to the states and want to see NC (or wherever jimmy and i land), please stay with us!

oh and congrats on finishing your report!

xo
j