Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Bread and Circuses in Nepal
Many of us have been talking about it, but I am going to blog on it: why have there been no strikes/protests/demonstrations in Kathmandu while we have been here?
Every book and academic paper we studied about Nepal, everyone we spoke to who has been to Nepal, every news paper article we read before coming to Nepal, warned us that regular disruption due to bandhs, chakajams and julus was inevitable in Kathmandu. However, we have been in the capital for almost a month now and everything has been calm (relatively speaking).
And its not like there is any shortage of material to incite unrest. In the weeks leading up to our arrival, the city was paralysed for weeks by Maoist protests as the deadline for the promulgation of the constitution loomed. Of course, a deal was ultimately struck averting crisis, but its terms provide plenty of material justifying protest. First, the agreement was supposedly signed after the deadline had passed, meaning the body charged with drafting the constitution had already expired . Second, as part of the agreement the existing government, and in particular the Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, would resign – this still has not happened. But despite all this, daily life continues uninterrupted. Why?
While bread maybe in short supply in Nepal (with Kathmandu currently enduring a water shortage) our time in Kathmandu has coincided with the global circus that is the World Cup. Everyday two or three football matches are being broadcast into people’s homes, and when the electricity cuts out there, they can head to a local generator-driven bar. Every cab is sporting the flag of one nation or another, and discussing performances with their clients; people are proudly wearing the shirt of their favoured team. Is this quadrennial spectacle responsible for the smooth functioning of the city (relatively speaking)?
The test will come when the World Cup ends. It is concerning to think that there may be a backlog of unrest waiting to be realised. But if that is the case, at least this charismatic but overwhelming city allowed us to find our feet before showing us this other aspect of its personality.