Wednesday, January 23, 2008
The Revolution is Back!
Yesterday the interim government of Nepal announced increases in the price of cooking and heating fuel and other petrols. The students staged protests that shut the city down, and they vowed to do the same today. We were riding around last night avoiding one burning tire protest after another to get to our destination. We woke this morning to students right outside our hotel burning tires in the streets. All the shops and businesses were closed and there was no traffic. We took the opportunity to see the sights of Patan in the deserted City. We saw the old Palace which has an excellent museum of the different Buddhist and Hindu gods amongst other things. We saw all the temples in Patan Durbar Square and the Golden Temple, both World Heritage sights. We saw the temple of 1000 buddha's. It was cold probably 40 degrees or less.
The streets were empty all day with roving protests going on, and as we found out, the whole country was shut down. By the end of the day the government run monopoly which controls the petrol prices backed down and rescinded the price increases. Public protests can have its effects. Noxious air not being the only one sometimes.
Nepal is very friendly place and the protests seem very tame actually and we do not feel in danger. At one point the police met with a group of marchers in the street and a quick decision was made that the marchers would keep marching down the street in one direction and the police would go in the other direction and put out the burning fires lit by the gang. Very convivial.
Nepal is going to have its first ever elections in a couple months. The country seems in its infancy of finding out about itself. The Maoists who have a few different factions amongst them have lain down their arms to participate in the government. I think the people are hopeful that the deposing of the King and the new democracy can lead to better things. I, unfortunately, have a bit of doubt that a country that is very corrupt by all accounts, with a bunch of thug terrorists trying to grab a share of power is somehow going to end up with a benevolent leader class. Still, there is definitely a feeling of optimism in the air and I think that if they can get some of the basic problems worked out this could be a country ready to move on to bigger and better things. It certainly is a wonderful place to visit.