Friday, September 16, 2005

September 16 Protest Rally

Video clip by Sonam Sherpa uploaded at Google Video and awaiting release.
129 Photos.
31 Photos by Sonam Sherpa. "And, hey, why not you, you were one of the most interesting "characters" if I may say so, in the CROWD."

I got off at the Grand Central and stepped out.

"Which way is east, you know?"

"That way."

It was so obvious as I approached the UN building. There was an obvious police presence, a thick fog of police officers, vehicles and cordons.

"Big guy, no pictures."

"No pictures? Okay." I put my camera away and kept walking north to the rally venue.

I first noticed the Burma protest group, rather small. A poster of Aang Sang Su Kyi was up in the air.

The local Nepali political amateurs who have been critical of me for having had a meeting with Sharad Chandra Shaha a few days back need to realize a king who is thinking municipal polls is better for the movement than a king who might have been thinking martial law. (Sharad Chandra Shaha Is A Dazzling Person) Having a tribal aversion for the monarchists might be great for internal group cohesion, but it can also be groupthink that limits our abilities to think objectively as we step up the movement. There is bravado that says down with the king, down with the Maoists, down with the parties: you want to go to space, but you don't want to get aboard the space shuttle. And there is sophistication that realizes the seven parties lead the movement and will form the interim government when the time comes, although they do need to be nudged towards internal reforms. And the Maoists will have to be engaged in a sustained peace dialogue. And if the Americans go meet the king, do you think it is because they love him? Hardly. It is because, like him or not, he is a political reality for now. He has to be faced, although he does have to be faced from a position of strength. Even if the monarchy is to end, engaging him might be the best way to do so, to ensure a soft landing. One's commitment to democracy has to be uncompromising, but a tribal aversion to even talking, I don't get it. Amateurs refuse to see the political contours.

I was a few minutes early. I knew people will stream in. The program was four hours. It started earlier, and lasted way beyond four in an informal way. The day petered out.

Anil Shahi impersonated the king, crown on head, a royal frown down his cheeks. Over the next hour or two, there were many creative ideas that got played out. One involved chains, another was a dethroned king reciting a poem. It could have been a song.

There were speakers, and dignitaries who did not speak.

There was enthusiastic sloganeering. A mini procession. Much fun.

Sarahana Shrestha was there. With her gang of what I nicknamed the Nepali Black Panthers, all these young men and women in black T-shirts. I referred to it as a Samudaya infiltration of the rally. They sure had their unique presence. They stood out. They would descend on you with their cameras and placards, and then as swiftly move on to their next target.

There was a camera crew of two working on some kind of a documentary, a Julie and a guy. I also got to speak into the camera. I elaborated on the theme of Nepal as the Ukraine for 2005. I hope we get to access the finished movie.

Two DFNYC, Democracy For New York City, people showed up. My local city comrades. It is the largest Howard Dean inspired group in the country. Dean chairs the Democratic Party, and he ran for president in 2004. Merle, Sarah. Tracey sent out an email to the organization's mailing list in the wee hours of morning. Like at one.

Penname Nepe of Sajha fame was there. It was such a delight to be able to finally meet him. He is the most articulate republican at that site.

Purandar Ghimire. (Messenger Chat With Purandar Ghimire) "I met a few people who have not heard of you."

"Oh, there are plenty of those."

Barbara Adams, the American journalist who has spent decades in Nepal, and who once a Girija Koirala government refused to allow to get off the plane in Kathmandu, showed up.

"Are you Barbara Adams?"

We were sandwiched between a Burma rally and a Lebanon rally.

There was a march to the Nepal diplomatic mission. A stage-in.

Then a hang out with my high school classmates from the DC-Baltimore area, three of them, Kiran, Manoj, Bishnu. A few others joined in later on, especially a TV journalist from Delhi, half Madhesi: "It is a pain being a Madhesi."

Madhesi issue talk comes up. Inescapably. My presence can do that to a Bahun gathering.

It is like people are living in a two-dimensional world so much they claim never to have experienced any racism their entire time in the US, and the evening ends with an obvious experience in indignity by one member of the party. And it is like prejudice and racism are three-dimensional issues. They just don't get it. The conversation goes round and round in circles. Bahun and madisey are not mirror words, pakhey and madisey are.

The conversation has to be continued. Respectful dialogue is one good way to make progress. But there is no substitute to Madhesi organizing.

Beer. Buffalo wings. A walk to Times Square, and off on down to Penn Station. The Chinatown bus takes you off to DC. Bye.

Cat naps on the train ride back to my humble abode.

It was refreshing shouting slogans. Shouting them hoarse. So this is what people do back there in Kathmandu?

My speech in audio.

In The News

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