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Back on the road

Friday, November 27th, 2009

– After the well-attended launch of People After War at Yala Maya Kendra on Saturday morning, we headed off on the third phase of our three-week exhibition tour.

The highways are in a bad shape, but compared to April when we passed the same roads in the eastern Tarai, things are much calmer. There are fewer blockades, not as many bandas. Local police say that is because they now have strict instructions from Home Minister Bhim Rawal to keep the highways clear, even if that means using force. So, the night buses careen like trains with their turbo horns blazing through the rajmarga towns: the dubious sound of normalcy returning. Crime is still a problem but the Tarai is a lot less violent than it was six months ago.

So we weren’t all that worried when the first exhibition was put up on Monday at the cultural centre of Itahari Municipality. Built by the Luxembourg government, the building and the promenade around a large pond in the front looked like they had seen better days. School and college students, civil servants, traders, teachers and people from Dharan and Biratnagar thronged the venue. People queued right around the perimeter of the pond and waited, sometimes for over an hour, to get in.

The popularity is what seems to have worried the local Maoist honcho, an uptight YCL named Mukti Rijal. He threatened our local partner, Itahari’s Youth Media Club, and ordered them to stop the exhibition immediately. I seem to have particularly bad luck with Maoists named Mukti. The previous Comrade Liberation was a nasty piece of work we ran into in Daha of Kalikot in 2004. He interrogated us Khmer Rouge-style and refused to let us pass on to Jumla. (See: ‘On a knife edge’). He had taken a particular dislike for the fact that both Tula Ram Pandey of Kantipur and I wore glasses.

This Mukti in Itahari used his mobile to call in reinforcements and started screaming things like: “Why didn’t you ask for permission to stage this event?”, “You are contaminating the minds of young children by showing them such gory pictures”, “You are trying to defame our great party”.

Soon came in the area in-charge Manoj Shrestha, who played good cop but still accused us of bias and “damaging the psychology of young children”. I asked him whether he thought children who had their family members killed in front them during their war didn’t suffer greater psychological trauma. No reply. I asked him why his party had forced the closure of the entire school system in eastern Nepal the previous day to protest an attack in Taplejung.

I know from experience that it is futile arguing with people for whom the end justifies the means and who will use force to get there. Still, I had to tell him this exhibition was not for or against any party. It was trying to look at the long-term effect of the war. We reminded him that the dialectical analysis of violence as a political weapon of his own party bosses, including Baburam Bhattarai, was included in the exhibition.

The incident exposed the insecurity of some hardcore Maoist cadre who see the power they wielded through terror slipping away. They see advocacy for peace as a threat to their existence.

Comrade Manoj didn’t exactly apologise, but he said he “took responsibility” for the actions of his cadre in Itahari. So, does that mean he endorsed it?

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4 Responses to “Back on the road”

  1. aawartan on Says:

    People do all sorts of things and many people out there are eccentric and to the point of being mad to venture out, being on the frontiers and doing the unthinkable. Several times while reading your posts have I thought, what is it that makes people like you go out and do it again and again.. Anyway, knowing that you could have a discussion (very fearless) with them and finally got to do what you wanted to do, I somehow feel that they do have ‘some’ sense afterall and to a greater degree know are aware of what they have been doing to this country. And in that, your post of today is a success.

  2. Rajesh Budhathoki on Says:

    कुन्द सर
    नेपालयले अहिले मुलुकभरि गरिरहेको फोटो प्रर्दशनी यात्रा सार्‍है सराहनीय छ । म राजेश बुढाथोकी करिब २ वर्षेखि निरन्तर रुपमा आफ्नै ब्लग संचान गर्दै आइरहेको छु । मेरो ब्लगको देश तथा विदेशमा गरि जम्मा १,७७० नियमित पाठकहरु छन् । खासगरि विदेशबाट नेपालीहरु छन् । तपाईहरुको यस्तो कार्यको जानकारी दिँदै फोटो प्रर्दशनीमा राखिएका केही फोटाहरु सहित पोष्ट-लेख) लेख्न चाहेकोले ब्लगमा केही फोटाहरु राख्नको लागि अनुमति दिन हुन विनम्र अनुरोध गर्दछु । हजुरको जो विचार ।

  3. gangalal on Says:

    In the spirit of transparency, I would very much appreciate if you could post how much funding you have received for this exhibition project and from which donors.

  4. Suraj on Says:

    People After War ?

    I do not think war is over in Nepal. Every day we hear the confrontation and many Nepalis are being killed.

    One group is ruling another declaring provinces in Nepal beyond the constitutional framework. Third, fourth, fifth….. calling strikes in the hills, mountains and plains of Nepal.

    In addition, national coffer is affected by the looters.
    Where is ceasefire?

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