Six vehicles were damaged in Chitwan alone, one taxi was burned in Kathmandu, shops were vandalized, and dozens of people were injured across the nation during yesterday’s general strike enforced by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the ruling Nepal Communist Party.
The Dahal-Nepal faction had called for the strike yesterday in protest after officials of constitutional bodies were sworn in on Wednesday without parliamentary hearings. Today, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is organizing a mass rally as “show of strength” a day after the general strike.
Despite the Home Ministry’s assurance for security, businesses and general life were affected on Thursday. PM Oli had remarked that yesterday’s strike had inconvenienced the public, but does not hesitate to inconvenient the public for his rally the very next day.
As Thursday’s general strike made life difficult for people across the country mainly due to disruption of vehicular movement from early in the morning, Nepalis were taken back to the grim era of incessant Nepal bandas (nationwide general strikes) enforced by various political parties to bring about political changes that the country has achieved till date.
The right to protest peacefully is a guaranteed fundamental human right in any democracy. A modern society advocates peaceful protests at the convenience of the working class. But peaceful protests are not always easy, or even feasible, for groups of oppressed people to take this moral high road.
And though some would argue that peaceful protests are more successful because they build a wider coalition, history has little evidence of any people getting their demands met through peaceful protests.
Internationally, recent protests in Hong Kong and the Black Lives Matter protests in USA turned violent because the authorities concerned did not heed to public demands. Although these protests began peacefully, they ended with forceful confrontation.
This does not mean one should condone the violence incited by protesters or state authorities in retaliation. It is human nature to draw bright lines between good and bad actors when it comes to evaluating protests, but doing so misses the point.
The aftermath of past protests in Nepal have welcomed progressive political shifts in the country while Nepali politicians protesting and showing strength in their counter-rebuttal today are only squabbling for power grab – fascism on both sides.
The public will have nothing to gain, despite losing life and property, or there is nothing for the country’s development in the current struggle for power grab. The ruling party said the government did not have enough funds to address the plights of labor workers who were hit the hardest by the sudden lockdown enforced nearly a year ago, government leaders then went on to say that they did not have the money to conduct free COVID-19 tests and treatments, the government refused to provide any financial relief packages to businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic, Nepal government has been amassing grants and loans from international donors for the country’s developmental projects with little progress to show.
But today – when push has come to shove in their race to power – Nepali politicians have the money to organize mass protests, depute their cadres, publish pamphlets and banners and flags and personalized caps, and provide food to their supporters. It’s only ironic that Nepal is currently being governed by a communist government.
Coming back to protests and their nature, there is no moral high ground here though one can work on minimizing damages. Violence is almost always the spark that ignites a protest.
Take the civil rights movement of the 1960s for example. Though the overall ethos of Martin Luther King Jr.’s movement was peace, the catalyst was violence — hundreds of years of lynchings, lawful inequality, and oppression.
Similar was Nepal’s movement to overthrow monarchy – powerful and violent protests were necessitated by decades of oppression and discrimination.
For Nepalis, we’ve had our many chances to change this vicious cycle of electing uneducated leaders who fail to perform when given the platform. We still have the chance to change this. The focus should be on studying about available alternative political forces and making the right choices.
In order for a movement to gain support and inspire lasting change, peace and consensus are essential. Whereas yesterday’s general strike and today’s show of strength have mostly backfired as they do not serve any solution to persisting problems.