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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