Update #3 August 25th – I wrote a longer piece on a different blog in USA, you are invited to read that one. please share.
Update #2 latest report says 17 police and three protesters killed in Kailali. Army deployed to the region.
August 23rd update: the news from Nepal is not good. In Kailali (an area of Terai) the police arrived to break up a protest and the protesters used weapons to kill police members ( differing reports – possibly five, possibly seven. One is too many). This has escalated as the days have gone on. Let’s all send good karma to Nepal and hope they can find ways to de-escalate. The best way is to engage in the political process, which includes listening to the demands and adjusting. There is no shame in compromise and dialogue!
My novel, The Sacrament of the Goddess, is the only novel that features an “andolan” as a main event; how it got started and how it affected the people swept up in it. The way that Nepalis conduct their lives as members of one group or another, is a fascinating subject and you can’t figure out Nepali life unless you have a handle on this idea. This appears at every level, not just the political. For example, in Kathmandu a pedestrian was killed crossing the street near Tri-Chandra College and the other students thrashed the driver and set his micro-bus on fire.
Life mimics art?
As of August 16th, 2015, Nepal is having political instability. There are pro-monarchy demonstrations calling for restoration of a Hindu state in the capital; a curfew in the west as people in Jumla demonstrate against the proposed boundaries of the six-province model; demonstrations in the east as Madhesh activists protest a draft constitution that does not recognize the people of the Terai; an outcry on the internet about #citizenshipthroughmothers; and now, a nationwide bandh of Maoists, which led to a counterprotest – people are tired of bandhs. Oh, and did I omit the injured protesters in Surkhet, fired upon by police? the families wish them to be declared “martyrs” and are seeking compensation.
All this because the Constituent Assembly finally took action and put something on paper. For much of the time the political reporting was limited to gossip about the top leaders of Nepal but little else. Now, there is something on paper and people can react to that.
The odd part is that it was spurred on by the earthquake. Everyone could see the need to actually do something, to get a functioning government, so that Nepal could recover. Before long, everyone will long for the “good old days” when the Constituent Assembly did nothing.
This is not good for tourism
To recover from the earthquake, Nepal needs to show the international community that travel is safe and a vacation in Nepal can be “fun.” None of these events can be construed as “fun,” this is not attracting tourists to Nepal. As a foreigner, I am usually circumspect as to comments about the host country I love. But – could anything be more obvious? The vast majority of the country is unhappy with the way things are going.
I wrote the novel to explore the way that collective culture shows itself in Nepal. Specifically, there is a long-running problem in the health sector. If a patient dies, the survivors act out their grief through collective anger, and often the doctor gets thrashed, or the hospital gets vandalized by a mob of one size or another. This too, is not good for tourism.
There are ways out of this spiral.
Violence is not the answer
Despite the Hindu nationalists, Nepal is also a Buddhist country – birthplace of Buddha. This too is a paradox. How can Buddhists be so angry? In the meantime, the novel has been praised for it’s depiction of Nepali culture and the way that hospitals operate in this Himalayan country. Time to look at the message regarding ways to re-channel the energy being wasted on protests, into something productive…… You can buy the novel in Kathmandu