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Eyewitness report: Nepal, May 1 -- 500,000+ mobilise, talks fail, general strike is on

Photo by Jed Brandt.

By Jed Brandt, Kathmandu

May 1, 2010 -- Late into the night, after a long May 1 in Kathmandu: I just left the Radisson Hotel where negotiations had been going on. Dr Baburam Bhattarai, a top leader of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and its negotiating team, came out the doors to say that the three negotiating parties have not reached an agreement. The general strike is on.

Others in attendance at the negotiations included the Congress party and the [pro-capitalist] Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist). The hated, isolated current prime minister M.K. Nepal will not resign.

Bhattarai was sharp and direct. Since they will not make way for a national unity government, the agitation will increase tomorrow with a national general strike to topple the unpopular and unelected government.

A city filled for May 1 and for struggle

The May 1 rally today was well over 500,000.

It was so large that it overflowed the Martyr’s Field and stretched for at least a mile to the north and south. The crowd was so large that it was between 500,000 and a million. The spirit was jubilant, serious, sober. The people are ready.

There was a dramatic enactment on stage with dancers showing a conflict between the crowds and murderous forces of repression wielding knives to cut the crowd. In the skit, people fell as martyrs, were carried away and were then replaceed by victorious surges.

Dancers in army and Armed Police uniforms retreated, and then a performer playing an army officer gave up the national flag to dancers in People's Liberation Army uniforms, which they held in tandem.

An amazing feeling swept through the crowd — they understood the message.

I won’t get photos out tonight. But soon, folks, soon. And I will send more reporting.

I have never seen anything like this. This is what a revolutionary situation looks like. The Maoists are not going to back down. The government is stubborn  and encouraged by India. And the people are simply charged.

The claim of reactionaries is that the people are being forced (or “coerced”) into attending. It is obviously nonsense, and not just to me. I spoke with another journalist, who works for a mainstream paper, who described how she had canvassed the crowd talking to one person after another — looking for people who had been pressured into attending.The protesters were eager to explain why they had come. These crowds were determined. And they are prepared for the coming days. This is a truly remarkable.

I want to note  the discipline of the protest. Concentric rings, coherent contingents, marching in file. The Young Communist League is out in force and must number around 20,000 in uniform, with tens of thousands more able to work as marshals and so on.

That’s all I can write now. The internet is getting cut off. Warm regards to all the brothers and sisters. May First!

[Please return for updates, or visit jedbrandt.net. Jed Brandt is a US reporter writing from Nepal. His reports and photographs appear on jedbrandt.net. He is a participant of the Kasama Project. Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Jed Brandt's permission.]

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Nepal news updates

http://www.nepalnews.com/main/index.php/news-archive/1-top-story/5775-th...

Three party talks for consensus stuck on PM’s resignation, army integration

Sunday,
02 May 2010 00:23

A meeting of the three largest parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA)
Unified CPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN (UML) held on the eve of
indefinite general strike starting Sunday called by UCPN (Maoist), at Hotel
Radisson, Lazimpat ended inconclusively, Saturday night.

The meeting failed to progress due to differences of priorities between the
ruling parties and the main opposition.

The agitating UCPN (Maoist) put forward dissolution of the present
government as the first condition for consensus, while the other two parties
stressed on finalising agreements on the other issues like constitution
drafting, peace process, army integration and arms management, first.

Maoist vice chairman Baburam Bhattarai said categorically, after the
meeting, there can be no consensus until this government remains.

The meeting was a continuation of a similar meeting in the morning. The
leaders had claimed after the morning’s meeting, they were close to a
consensus and that only two out of six agendas on discussion remained to be
resolved.

However, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal’s address to the nation Saturday
evening deteriorated the environment of consensus. At a 15-minute televised
address to the nation, PM Nepal, not only refused to resign, but also used a
chiding tone against the Maoists, further aggravating the already miffed
opposition.

The Prime Minister and the ruling parties have asked for an assurance of
convincing commitment to the peace process-withdrawal of the announced
general strike included-as a condition for dissolving the government.

The parties have charted six different points of contentions, that need to
be resolved through consensus, including formation of a national unity
government, compliance with Comprehensive Peace Agreements (CPA), arms
management and army integration, returning seized property to rightful
owners, transformation or dissolution of Maoist youth wing Young Communist
League (YCL) and commitment to peace process.

Sources say, although, there had been satisfactory progress in the
discussions on other agendas, the talks got stuck on the issues of PM’s
resignation and the timeline for army integration and arms management.

NC general secretary Bimalendra Nidhi, present at the meeting, told
reporters, consensus could not be reached as they (the Maoists) wanted the
government to step down first.

The parties have decided continue with the dialogue for a solution to
present crisis.

We will continue efforts to solve the problem through talks along with the
agitation on the street, said Bhattarai.

****

Nepal Maoists call general strike

Al Jazeera and agencies, Al Jazeera, 1 May 2010

Nepal's Maoists have announced a general strike beginning on Sunday after the country's prime minister refused to heed calls for him to step down.

At least 150,000 people had gathered in Kathmandu, the capital, on Saturday to show their support for the Maoists' demand.

Prachanda
Prachanda

"We're compelled to call for an indefinite strike from tomorrow because of the government's lack of concern about taking the peace and constitution-making processes forward," Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Maoist leader, told the crowd.

Dahal, also known by his nom de guerre Prachanda, promised that the nationwide shutdown would be "peaceful" and the "door for dialogue" remained open.

Dahal briefly led a coalition government after winning polls in 2008, but resigned from government last year when he was prevented from dismissing the army chief.

The Maoists still hold the largest number of seats in parliament.

Political impasse

Madhav Kumar Nepal, the country's prime minister, said that bringing the nation to a halt would do nothing to strengthen democracy and appealed to the Maoists, formally called the Communist Party of Nepal, to call off the strike.

"Shutting down the nation is not the way to find a solution to this impasse," he said in a live television address.

"All-party consensus is the only alternative that will pave the way forward."

About 15,000 riot police were deployed across Kathmandu for Saturday's protest, but the event passed without violence.

Demonstrators waved red flags and chanted "dissolve this puppet government and set up a national government".

Shops and businesses were closed and residents were stockpiling food in fear that supplies might run short in the event of a national shutdown.

As demonstrators were massing for the rally, the Maoists were meeting representatives of other major parties to try to break the political deadlock.

Karin Landgren, the chief of United Nations peace mission in Nepal, said she had met Maoists leaders to appeal for peaceful resolution.

"I am deeply concerned that despite these peaceful intentions, potential spoilers of the peace process could provoke a clash," Landgren said on Friday.

The Maoists fought government troops until 2006 when they gave up their decade-old uprising and joined a peace process.

From: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2010/05/20105114172642722...

****

http://www.nepalnews.com/main/index.php/news-archive/2-political/5773-ma...

UCPN (M)'s May Day demos conclude peacefully, Dahal describes protests as
'final push'Saturday, 01 May 2010 14:56

In a show of strength, the Unified CPN (Maoist) organised a mammoth mass
meeting at Khula Manch, Kathmandu, following rallies from different parties
of Kathmandu Valley Saturday. The party also organised rallies in major
cities across the country.

Despite widespread fears of violence, the Maoist demonstrations and mass
meeting ended peacefully. Khula Manch and nearby streets were all packed by
Maoist supporters. Marketplaces remained closed in Kathmandu while vehicles
remained off the road due to the Maoist demonstrations.

Addressing the mass meeting, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal said the May
Day demonstrations and the general strike stating from Sunday were meant to
ensure peace and constitution and that the demand for a national unity
government is not a primary one.

He said the upcoming protests would be peaceful, but warned the government
"not to make a mistake of suppressing them". Dahal also said that the
government's plan to mobilise the security forces to clamp down on the
protests would not succeed, adding that the Nepal Army had accepted the
change and that it would not follow every order of the current coalition
government.

The Maoist strongman argued that the ruling parties took his party's
flexible approach as its weakness and were not ready for consensus duringthe
series of negotiations, but this time the party was going to make a final
push. "We are not going to give in this time," he said.

Alleging the government of being controlled from "foreign masters", Dahal
said Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal started talking about mobilising the
security forces against the Maoist protests immediately after returning from
Thimpu, Bhutan. PM Nepal had met Indian PM Man Mohan Singh on the sidelines
of SAARC summit in Thimpu and got assurance of continued support to the
current government.

Dahal further said his party wanted good relations with India, adding that
Indian leaders would be making grave mistakes if they try to act against the
wish of Nepali people.

Other senior Maoist leaders including Mohan Baidya, Dr Baburam Bhattarai,
Narayan Kaji Shrestha and heads of various organisations affiliated with the
party were present at the mass meeting.

****

http://www.nepalnews.com/main/index.php/news-archive/2-political/5774-pm...

PM Nepal addresses the nation; says govt 'cannot step down in this critical
situation'Saturday, 01 May 2010 18:28

Addressing the nation Saturday evening, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal
described the UCPN (Maoist)'s street protests as 'meaningless' and accused
the opposition party of trying to create anarchy.

He said the government "cannot step down in the present critical situation".

Prime Minister Nepal also called on the Maoists to call off the protests,
saying the current deadlock should be resolved through a consensus among the
parties.

In his 15-minute long address, PM Nepal hinted that he would step down only
if the agitating Maoists agreed to meet certain conditions put forth by
other parties such as guarantee that the former rebel party turned itself
into a "civilian party".

While he admitted "some of the weaknesses" of the government, PM Nepal
claimed the government had made important achievements during this tenure
such as discharge of the disqualified Maoist combatants and the launching of
development programmes.

He spent most of his time criticising the Maoists. He said the country would
have progressed much and peace process would have concluded by this time had
the Maoists cooperated with the government.

Prime Minister Nepal addressed the nation in a live broadcast from his
Baluwatar residence. Most of the ministers were present at Baluwatar as he
addressed the nation.

His address came just as a major mass meeting organised by the Maoists at
Kathmandu's Khula Manch ended and the top leaders of the three parties
prepared to resume talks.

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