Dancing in dissent

Around two-thirty in the afternoon at Jitpur, a little off the T-junction on the Kathmandu-Kakani highway, a young woman in fariya-cholo was dancing to a catchy tune on the unpaved road: ladda laddai mero yo jyan gaegaijala, mero pyaro laltika pyaro jaljala. (Let me die fighting for you, my dear red revolution).

From a marquee behind her, a square, red drape read: “Let’s boycott the unpatriotic, anti-people and reactionary so-called second election of the Constituent Assembly. Kathmandu, Election Constituency number 7.” Hisila Yami won the 2008 CA election from this constituency.

But the senior politicians Samana Pariwar—a cultural troupe affiliated to Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M)—directed its satire, and sometimes unveiled contempt, at were Prachanda and Yami’s husband, Baburam Bhattarai. The two also made it, after Sikkim’s Lendup Dorjee, into a closing dohori sung by the members of the troupe: Desh dubyo Prachanda/Baburam parale, dukha paye janata saarale. (Prachanda, Baburam in the next stanza, led the country into the gutter, and people now suffer). Young men couldn’t stop dancing.

Usually, however, the message hovered away from petty politicians and focused on country, against Sikkimisation, on nationality, equality and classless society, on, as one of the MCs said, matters of liberation. Four young men in combat uniform tried to display it through a fusion of classical and modern dance and their abundant revolutionary ardour. Aau Yuwa ho aau sathi ho, hamro bhagya, hamro bhabisya tyehi bhetinchha, tyehi bhetinchha jaba samanatako gham jhulkinchha (Come youth, come friends, our fate, our future rises only with the dawn of equality).

Although old and middle-aged men were also in the hundred-plus crowd of spectators, the artists were appealing mostly the youth to fight to call this country their own because this proposed election was not for Dalits, women or porters. Khil Raj Regmi was an India-loving, Dalit-loathing pundit. Prachanda, his socialism and terrorism, and his production brigade were all sham. And if these two thought they could fool Nepalis with the promise of a constitution through the second CA, the real Maoists, the true ones, were willing to take up arms once again.

“Do you think the election will take place in Mangshir (November)” asked a man dressed up as a journalist.

“Mangshir is for nuptials, not elections,” replied Aroha Nepali, a talented young man playing Regmi.

“People say you don’t allow Dalits in your residence. Is that true?”

“All men are equal, but dung beetles should remain in dung.”

The subsequent act, in which Nepali played a drunken production brigade commander in Hetauda waiting for ‘the production’ to start, was equally punchy until the rain halted it. The commander comes out of a shop, holding a bottle of Tuborg and sings the popular drunkard’s song: Bottleko panile aankha sankai nanile (This bottle’s water…glares little mistress). A journalist then asks him about ‘the production’. The commander says it’s sensitive. “Sensitive?” asks the journalist, to which the commander replies, “Private”. Instead of wheat, or vegetables, the commander has recently produced a son—a formula lifted from Prachanda’s son Prakash, skilled at producing wives every six months. And about socialist revolution. “What is mean by socialism? Terrorism? Imperialism? Here is water aaing, yaar.”

After the “natural problem” obstructed the performances, the programme turned to the message on the red banner, denouncing vigorously the upcoming election. Maila Lama, the charismatic chairperson of the Samana Pariwar, rose from a chair borrowed from a tea stall nearby and stood on the deck of a shop acting as the platform for distinguished guests. The party, he said, was not against election, but if the leaders could not draft a constitution in four years, how could they now?

Maila Lama, now a resident of Sitapaila, was 23, a college kid, when Prachanda sold him the dream of a beautiful, classless society. During the war, he impaired his vision and lost his hearing and a finger to a bomb attack in Kavre. Since then, he has released three music albums, some co-written with leader Biplav: Naya Sankalpa, Yatri Jindagiko and Matribhumi, the last one launched before the CPN-M split from its parent party. Ninety percent of the members from the cultural troupe then shifted its allegiance to Mohan Baidya, following Lama’s lead. During the last CA election, he contested from Kathmandu, constituency number 9, but lost to a rival from the Nepali Congress. From the deck he shouted in the mike, “Prachanda does not have a plan. We, the Maoists, do. In 20 years, we will make Nepal like Europe.”

Ek Raj Bhandari, CPN-M central committee member and the leader of the election boycott campaign, kept the mud slinging at Prachanda and the November 19 election: The unified Maoists party was not Prachanda’s to divide. CPN-M is not obliged to abide by the 12-point agreement. It was signed as merely a means to a new people’s government. This boycott campaign is just a jiwanjal right now, not the 1,000 mg strong antibiotic it can be. If they want to go for an election without consensus, let them. Crush our rebellion and write the constitution. Lock the doors and promulgate it. We will burn it. Lal Salaam.

The talented performances and fiery speeches entertained the audience, including a few policemen; many were unconvinced. Fifty-seven-year-old farmer, Akka Bahadur Tiwari, who voted Nepali Congress during the last CA, said he would boycott the election this time. But not because the leaders will fail to write an inclusive constitution, but because the road, which acted as the stage for the programme, was carved thirty-four years ago during the Panchayat and no subsequent democratic leaders have bothered to blacktop it. Once Rs 4 million and later Rs 1.5 million were rumoured to be allocated for the road, but the money simply vanished. And the bus fare for the three-kilometre long road, for the Tinpiple-Jitpur Fedi-Nepaltar-Bypass route, is simply outrageous at Rs 20.

Another farmer, Maila Tamang, will also boycott the election because back in 1979, a bag of fertiliser cost Rs 250, now it’s Rs 2,600. Besides, while his four brothers have already received their voter registration cards, Tamang’s is missing.

On August 17, Samana Pariwar organised a programme at Jitpur, Kathmandu, bordering Nuwakot. The troupe has been organising five to six such programmes everyday throughout the nation for almost a month after the CPN-M party launched the election boycott campaign. In the next few weeks, the troupe plans to organise much bigger programmes.

Published: 31-08-2013, The Kathmandu Post

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