Shutting Down Kathmandu

On Saturday, while Tri and I were at home, we heard news that there was a bandha in Kathmandu. Bandha literally means “closed.” The streets had been shut down so that no cars, motorcycles, buses, or vehicles of any kind could drive on them. Thankfully the bandha didn’t affect us much because we had planned to stay at home most of the day anyway.

But it did affect our neighbors’ family. Their daughter lives in another part of the city with her husband and daughter, and they decided that despite the bandha, they were going to come over and visit. They took their car out and drove down the streets. When they reached one of the major junctions on the way to their parents’ house, people started coming at their car, hitting it with rocks. The woman’s husband is some kind of reporter, so he had a press pass. Once he showed it, they stopped hitting the car and let them go by. Their daughter was telling me that there were even police there, but they didn’t lift a finger to stop the attack.

Bandhas are not enforced by the government as a whole but are usually started by a group of people or a political party that wants to take a stand on something. Last week, there was a bandha in the district in which I work because someone had been tied up and murdered in a jewelry shop. I’m not sure who organized that bandha, but it was held to protest the murder of this innocent man. And in that example, you can see where calling for a bandha doesn’t really solve any problems. Obviously people were angered and frustrated by this murder, but making everyone suffer by shutting down schools, offices, and shops isn’t going to help.

On Saturday my family explained to me exactly why they had shut down the city. Apparently a politician in Chitwan (a city in Southern Nepal) affiliated with the Nepali Congress political party was thrown in jail on charges of murder. Some people involved with the Unified Marxist-Leninist Party beat him up while he was in jail. The politician was in critical condition and although he was brought to a hospital, he died shortly after being transferred. The Nepali Congress party called the bandha on Saturday as a way of protesting his death.

Only Monday, they called another one, and this one did affect me and Tri because we had to stay home from work. The leaders in the Nepal Congress say that they want the charges against that politician to be dropped, and they want the man to be declared a martyr.

The protesters calling for the bandha on Monday were really serious about it. One guy from Tri’s office tried to come into work by car early in the morning, around 6am. Protesters smashed his car and beat him up. He had to get three stitches.

Bandhas seem to come in waves. For a few months, they’ll happen pretty frequently and then stop for a while. Before I came to Nepal in July, I heard that people were starting to disobey the bandhas because they were so sick of them, and I hope the people of Kathmandu who don’t want to put up with this kind of thing can continue to feel empowered to fight against them.

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9 thoughts on “Shutting Down Kathmandu

  1. When we were in Nepal in summer 2009 our friend came to visit from Ireland before heading to India for research. Most of the week he was in KTM there were bandhas so we walked around a bit, but all the shops were closed, and it was hard to show him much of anything.

    As a tourist it is kind of annoying, but I can’t imagine living through bandhas all the time. I just don’t see how organizers can imagine shutting down the city, or sometimes the country, will help move the country forward?

    • It does get kind of frustrating. But luckily they haven’t been happening too often. And I don’t always complain about them…sometimes its nice to have a surprise day off from work 🙂

  2. On this saturday, my boyfrien and me we had try to got a taxi, because my flight bach to Germany was on this day. We had a lot of difficults. We founded some one how drove us to the airport, but we needed many times. 2 hours we were on the way ( normaly is 25 minutes from our flat to the airport. The driver was drove no main streets.

    How is the situation with the electricity this days? My boyfriend said me this days the electricity is so sparcely. Just 70 hours per week!

    • The electricity situation stinks…5 hours of load shedding in the morning and 5 hours at night. But I’m trying to look at the upsides, like more quiet time for writing and reading without the distraction of the internet 🙂

  3. We have these in India too — usually it’s a union protesting some kind of change. Taxi drivers against weird fee rules for example. but, yes, very annoying.

  4. Sometimes in India the entire city shuts down and they don’t even allow government buses to ply. It causes a lot of pain to people who need to commute. Even shop keepers are forced to shut their shops or face the fury of a mob – all driven by political vendettas.

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