Interview with an Eyewitness in Kathmandu

Revolution interviewed Stephen Mikesell who witnessed the protests in Kathmandu. Mikesell is an anthropologist and expert on Nepal. From the interview:

Stephen Mikesell: Yesterday, perhaps a million people came out from all over and descended on Kathmandu up to Ring Road, blocking the way, all around, inside the city. It looked like it was going to culminate to something big but then there was a large thunderstorm that seemed to head off a major confrontation as the groups were entering the various arteries of the city. Today there were smaller demonstrations around Kathmandu and there were also demonstrations all around the country. The King’s ministers are all packing up today, leaving their government residences, so basically the government is crumbling apart. About 6 p.m. I walked out to the Ring Road surrounding the city and found large groups of people around fires burning in either direction as far as I could see.

Revolution: What is the mood of the people at these demonstrations?

Mikesell: It is enthusiastic but at the same time tense and somber. There is determination and the crowds are tense. But people are also dancing and singing and going all around the police. There is a mix of different reactions, very complex. Generally the crowd is very young – teens and early twenties. There are all ages, of course. But mostly it is those ages and then there are a lot of other people on the sides. A lot of demonstrators, peasants, who came in from the countryside. There were lakhs and lakhs of people who came in from areas outside the city [a lakh is 100,000].

Revolution: There are reports that many people in Nepal resent outside forces like the U.S. and India intervening, and they say that the foreign governments greeting the King’s announcement just shows this kind of intervention. Have you got a sense of this out in the street?

Mikesell: That’s exactly the feeling. There is a general feeling that way, people feel that the foreign governments acted too quickly, that they have a superficial understanding of the situation and that they have a fear that the Maoists will emerge very strongly out of all this. They (foreign governments) see the settlement as being between the King and various parties and want some sort of situation that puts the Maoists outside of this. That’s why the foreign countries came very quickly to support the King. But generally, nobody in the country supports the King’s statement, except a few royalists. Everybody I talk to says this is the end of the King. And then after that I don’t know what will happen…

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