Late at night, after a long day of May First.
I just left the Radisson Hotel where negotiations had been going on. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, a top leader of the Maoists and their negotiating team, came out the doors to say that the three negotiating parties have not reached an agreement. The general strike is on.
Other in attendance at the negotiations included Congress and UML. The hated, isolated current prime minister MK Nepal will not resign.
Bhattarai was sharp and direct. Since they will not make way for a national unity government, the agitations will increase tomorrow with a national general strike to topple the unpopular and unelected government.
The May First rally today was well over 500,000. It was so large that it overflowed the Martyrs’ Field and stretched for at least a mile to the north and south. The crowd was so large that it was between 500,000 and a million. The spirit was jubilant, serious, sober. The people are ready.
There was a dramatic enactment on stage with dancers showing a conflict between the crowds and murderous forces of repression wielding knives to cut the crowd. In the skit, people fell as martyrs, were carried away and were then replace by victorious surges.
Dancers in Army and Armed Police uniforms retreated, and then had a performer playing an Army officer gave up the national flag to dancers in Peoples Liberation Army uniforms, which they held in tandem.
An amazing feeling swept through the crowd — who understood the message.
I won’t get photos out tonight. But soon, folks, soon. And I will send more reporting.
I have never seen anything like this. This is what a revolutionary situation looks like. The Maoists are not going to back down. The government is stubborn and encouraged by India. And the people are simply charged.
The claim of reactionaries is that the people are being forced (or “coerced”) into attending. It is obviously nonsense, and not just to me.
I spoke with another journalist, who works for a mainstream paper, who described how she had canvassed the crowd talking to one person after another — looking for people who had been pressured into attending. The protesters were eager to explain why they had come. These crowds were determined. And they are prepared for the coming days. This is a truly remarkable.
I want to note the discipline of the protest. Concentric rings, coherent contingents, marching in files. The Young Communist League is out in force and must number around 20,000 in uniform, with tens of thousands more able to work as marshals and so on.
That’s all I can write now. The Internet is getting cut off. Warm regards to all the brothers and sisters. May First!
JED BRANDT is an American reporter writing from Nepal. His reports and photographs appear on jedbrandt.net. He is a participant of the Kasama Project.