"Socialism, Marxism, Maoism - Prashandra". The year is 2001 and I see the words written on the wall opposite the university in Kathmandu. To me walking by on the street without knowing anything about the situation in the country it seems a bit strange in one way but on the other hand it must be a Nepali version of one of the worlds most common university graffiti's. Where ever there has been a people that can't get food, a place to live, education... Where ever there has been students seeing that... Sooner or later there will be an uprising.
Won't it? For the better, or as it looks like in the kingdom of Nepal before it even started, for the worse.
So in one way it is the same old story. Most of the party members come from the top of society, not even the middled class can keep up with their living standards. So, hey, here it comes: the article in Kathmandu Post about party members sending their sons and daughters to universities abroad and the adjoining cartoon:
"Daddy - why don't you join the party? I'd like to go to London to?"
What makes it all seem a bit strange is the closeness to Tibet. Everywhere in Thamel, the tourist district, you can see posters and sticker going "Free Tibet". The country has quite a large population of refugees from Tibet where Chinese communism has put thousands of years of culture in danger - not to mention peoples lives. But learning from history has always been too late, hasn't it? So I see the ancient temples on Durbar Square painted white one afternoon, I see Nepalis with guns shivering in the cold and misty morning by the buss station when I come back down from the Himalayas, the sherpas wife wondering if I've seen her husband and son on the trail - they went down to Syabru two days ago and two men got shot on the road the week before... water reservoirs and bridges blown to pieces, the flashlight in my eyes and their eyes when the bus is stopped close to Chitwan. And I wonder...
The streets in Thamel are getting emptier. The tourists won't come - except for Israelis. Could it be them that are bit to used to have gun pipes pointing you in the eyes everywhere?
Over the usual set breakfast I look through a copy of The Rising Nepal. The talks between the communist party led by Prashandra and the government has stranded for the forth or fifth time, a big public meeting is banned the day before it was scheduled to take place in the central park. The government rewrote a law, so what? The communist party will take no responsibility for the actions of Maoist rebels... Have you heard the story before?
Now it is 2005 and the political situation in Nepal has just become worse. 10 000 has been killed up to now. But from here Kathmandu is so far away in space and time that I can't imagine it. The photo exhibition by Philip Blenkinsop at the Museum of Antiques is just taken down. He has followed the Maoist guerilla for a year. His pictures yell out a catastrophy in a quiet way. Pain, hope, sorrow - it's all there. One thing to keep in mind when you look at the photos is some words from Blenkinsops own mouth from the video that was shown together with the pictures. The photographer's own tendency to - just a little, little bit - romanticising the thought of "the peoples revolution".
And again here they are, his "objects", almost as characters taken out of a revolutionary gallery:
The Professional Soldier: "At present I am here. But we have a plan to fight for any poor and underprivileged country in the world/.../We have control of 80 percent of the country now and are in a position to launch attacks on major towns."
The Mother: "My eldest daughter Kamala was taken by security forces when she was 15 y o /.../Security forces came in, so many that I can't remember their number/.../I could see my daughter being carried over a man's shoulder.../
The Young Comrade: "I joined the women's wing of CPN Maoist three years ago/.../The senior comrade visited our village and convinced us of the persecution and suffering of the poor".
Are the bell's ringing in your mind too? The same dreams, the same revolutions and the same tragedies. Mankind keeps repeating it's mistakes, over and over again.
In Nepal there are no winners as Philip Blenkinsop himself puts it. And "the same old story" never ends.
/ Maria Fornstedt