Wednesday, July 1, 2009

What Is A "Bandh" (bunda)?

In the past, I have spoken about "bandhs" here in Nepal; however, as I was thinking about it today, I got to thinking that you may not completely understand what that really means.

Basically, a bandh is a protest. It is when a group of people, who are dissatisfied with something, come together (and many times will hire other people to come and rally with them) to protest. There are many types of bandhs that occur here. I will share 5 types of them with you. By the way, a friend of mine here was reading an article that said in the past 6 months, there have been 500 bandhs in this country!

The first type would be a simple protest on a street. This is when the police will barricade a portion of the road so that these people can "vent" their frustrations. This could be by burning tires, screaming and yelling, and throwing bricks or rocks at anyone on a bike or in a car who dares cross over that barricade. This usually will last anywhere from an hour to half a day. With this type of bandh, you can walk by and not get into trouble...usually.

The second type of closure would be a particular section of town. An announcement will go out that "tomorrow" there will be a bandh for the city of Patan (a suburb of Kathmandu that we live in). That means that all businesses will be shut down and closed up until whoever called it says it is over. This will also stop all traffic throughout that section of town. The people who are responsible for this, and their hired "helpers", will then proceed to walk through this portion of town and holler and yell, brandishing sticks and stones. Woe to anyone who has an open shop door or to the person who tries to sneak by them on a motorbike. There have been shops set on fire, looted, and ransacked during these bandhs. It is the same with cars that are parked on the side of the road.

The third type is a city-wide bandh. We have had 2 of these since we've been here. The whole of Kathmandu is completely shut down. It is actually a great time to go bike riding or to take a walk because there is absolutely no traffic ANYWHERE.

The fourth kind of bandh is when a particular group of people are upset with the government and their policies, etc. So they will go to Parliament and to other government offices and barricade the entrances. They will even padlock the doors so that no political figure can get in (or out).

The fifth kind is a district bandh. This is VERY common down in southern Nepal. A whole district will be shut down and the only way in or out is to fly. However, once you arrive in a striking district, you can almost count on having to walk from the airport to wherever you need to go. Most businesses will be shut down. These have gone on for days and even weeks at a time.

This is a very sad reality that the people of Nepal live with daily. Their faith in the justice system is completely diminished and so resort to this kind of violence. A whole generation has grown up with this, and sadly, it is the only way they know to get their way.

Please continue to pray for the people of Nepal. They are in desperate need of hope and grace!

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