In the aftermath of the Maoist-called ´indefinite´ strike which ended up lasting for the entirety of six days, many contentious issues with regards to the roots of the party´s supports were raised. While the party leadership, namely the Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal claimed that the urban population of Kathmandu was branding the supporters a variety of things, and while the media itself indeed played a role in this portrayal; the supporters in the streets did not comprise of solely uneducated and rural masses that flooded into Kathmandu for the strike.
A major support base for the Maoists during the rallies, and still standing in their support are a large number of students whether they be from Tribhuvan University (TU), its affiliated campuses or even some from private colleges. Students have been a backbone of Maoist´s support for quite some time.
When speaking to a group of young and intelligent female students at TU, it became apparent that these young voices had not an inkling of doubt or speculation in their beliefs and their faith in the Maoist party and its leadership. They had a justified view of Nepal´s past, the injustices faced by its people, and solid reasons for being a part of the ´revolutionary´ party of Nepal.
Pratibha Jha, a 23-year-old Master´s level student at TU was probably amongst the most vocal and spoke of the “necessary change” that Nepal now needs. In accordance with the party´s chairman´s address on Wednesday, she also spoke of the “battle between those who want change and those who wish to protect the status quo.”
And of this truth, all the girls were convinced. Bibhuti Bhattarai, a 24-year-old student from Syangja alliterated the notion that the Maoist party was the “only party who has convinced the youth with the truth” and for her that truth stems from the knowledge of Leninism and Marxism.
However, their beliefs are not based on practical teachings of Marx or Lenin. They claimed to be “analyzing what is going on” and that political support isn´t based on politicians or their speeches, but who they see as the party capable of “moving forward”.
“Inherent to the nature of being young, the youth will always want to move forward and create change,” added Bibhuti.
Also inherent to the nature of being young, and as students, is that they will support whatever political presence best fulfils their daily demands and practical needs. On this front, they claim the Maoists have really brought change to their university life. The party´s presence on campus has been represented by TU´s Free Student Union, whose general secretary was also present in this quaint gathering. “As a union, we have made the hostel facilities fairer to all and in accordance to the needs of the student,” said Manushi Yami Bhattarai, General Secretary of the union.
“Before, to get a place in the hostel, political influence played a huge role, but now it is fair and balanced and students with all political inclinations are given the same importance,” said Education student Pratibha.
But for the time being, these girls are interested in the immediate stalemate that has come to define the current political situation in Nepal. They saw the strike as an absolute last resort. They were bewildered by the negative sentiments put forth by many of the media houses in Nepal. “Obviously the masses are uneducated. What do you expect in a country like Nepal? In fact, they are the ones that should be spoken to. They represent the state of this nation,” said Manushi very early on in the conversation.
And the others shared this sentiment wholly. “While the supporters may be uneducated, understanding doesn´t only come in the form of degrees and literacy,” argued Ishu Bhatta, another Master´s level student at TU. They further went on to discuss that the support base of all parties outside of the urban areas were bound to be of a different class and lacking degrees of a high standard. “How well-educated are the other parties anyhow? Our leaders too, are educated,” added Durga Dhami, a 25-year-old student from Kailali.
The intellects of these ladies were impressive. They had precise examples to provide reasons why the Maoists were claiming that Nepal needs to retain national sovereignty, the agendas for the need for peace, integration and a constitution. Bibhuti took examples of how Nepal´s neighbors were exploiting her river resources in far-flung villages to the direct detriment of Nepalis.
However, a major counteraction to Maoist agenda for most that don´t support the party has been to ask what the party actually accomplished while being in the government. And to this, the girls had a list a mile long to speak of. Namely, the debt cancellation the party took the initiative, which amounted to “30 crores” without interest in the nine months when they were heading the government and the self-employment program initiated by the budget under the then Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai. Since the latter never took off after the party resigned in May 2009, these youngsters are fuming with frustration.
Ultimately, while many of the supporters that were seen at the rallies in the duration of the six-day-long strike had indeed come to Kathmandu from far-flung villages, they weren´t completely representatives of the population. And even these remote villagers weren´t necessarily as unaware as they are often thought of.
There were and still are those that are active, young and intelligent, claiming that their party and its leaders are the kinds who “have sacrificed their homes and families for the country, while the other leaders sacrifice the country for their homes and families.” However, it is necessary to remark that with the retraction of the strike, the Maoists will certainly have to rethink their plan of action to keep their supporters convinced, educated or illiterate, and villagers or urbanites alike.
- Bidushi Dhungel, MyRepublica