This post from May 2012 helps explain the current struggle of women against exclusion in new Nepalese constitution

Nepal housing protest

Behind this photo of impoverished residents fighting government eviction in Katmandu, Nepal is a story of racism, betrayal, & the bankruptcy & treachery of Maoism in Nepal. When the Maoists declared a “People’s War” against feudalism in 1996, Nepal was run by a deranged monarch. They promised to trounce monarchy, set up a republic, & end gender & caste discrimination against Dalits who comprise over 20% of the population but 80% of the most impoverished Nepalese.

Caste discrimination (“untouchability”) relegated Dalits to scavenging, handling dead animals or human waste (often with bare hands), exclusion from temples & other public places, denial of land ownership. As a result of landlessness, Dalits were employed as farm labor, trapped in an agricultural system of debt bondage, & subject to all forms of extreme violence.

In response to the 10-year long, destructive, Maoist-led war in the countryside, the decrepit monarch (backed by arms from the US & India) declared martial law & instituted a military reign of terror which took the heaviest toll on Dalits. Descriptions of the violence they endured from both sides in the conflict are wrenching, with sexual violence against Dalit women used as a weapon of war, & the exodus of thousands of Dalits to the cities as squatter colonies. The Maoists eventually usurped the king & took over the government. Content with unseating the king from his throne, they did nothing to alter social relations or keep their promises to the Dalits but in fact, bowed fealty to a new master–the IMF & neoliberalism–moving from armed rebels with a mouth full of promises to thugs for neoliberalism.

In this photo, 1,500 Dalits are being forcibly evicted from the Bagmati riverbank by riot cops & bull dozers in the first phase of a government-ordered scheme to make room for major infrastructure projects, including a luxury park. The government intends to eventually evict 40 such settlements, with an estimated 20,000 people.

As you can see from this photo, the residents are not standing by idly as their homes are bulldozed–but rocks are no match for riot cops & bull dozers. The Dalit struggle against racism is strongly inspired & influenced by the US Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The anthemic words of a Black freedom fighter in the Attica Prison revolt could just as well be spoken by the Dalits of Nepal: (We are human beings.) “We are not beasts and do not intend to be beaten or driven as such….What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those who are oppressed.”

(Photo by Narendra Shrestha/EPA)

Nepalese women protest against exclusion in new constitution

Nepalese women protesting August 8 2015

Nepalese women have been organizing & protesting for several months with conferences, whistle rallies, human chains, street debates, & now a sleep protest demanding that women’s rights be incorporated fully into the new constitution. The new constitution was a provision in the 2006 peace accord that ended the civil war in Nepal & was intended to transition Nepal from monarchy to a republic.

Chief among the objections of women activists to the proposed charter is abridgment of reproductive rights, denial of property & inheritance rights to women, & the reversal of a 2006 law that says children are eligible for citizenship as long as one parent is Nepalese. The new charter bars single parents from passing on their citizenship to their children & requires both parents be Nepalese. This would leave a million people stateless, disproportionately affecting women who are the vast majority of single parents in Nepal. Dalit women have been organizing also to incorporate their particular demands to end caste oppression & to assure their inclusion in Nepalese social & political life.

The Constituent Assembly formed to come up with a new charter failed the 2012 deadline because there was so much contention over the process of writing up a new charter–not just contention over inclusion of women, castes, & Indigenous peoples in the process, but over using the new charter to eliminate all the structural inequalities for women, & the 103 caste & ethnic groups in Nepal.

In principle, the charter process was supposed to be inclusive of all these groups but wouldn’t you know the process got preempted by “senior party leaders” who made final decisions outside the formal process. Plenary debates didn’t take place, public consultations & hearings never happened, & the democratic process was flouted. If women’s rights are denied in the new charter, you can be damn sure caste & ethnic rights also are.

Nepal might have bounced its monarch but its capitalist class is still fully in charge & invested up to its eyeballs in the neoliberal economy. All the contention around the new charter is really a brokering of irreconcilable conflicting class interests. The rights of women, castes, & ethnic groups are at odds with neoliberal sweatshop economics. That’s what all the maneuvering is about. There have already been sharp conflicts between the regime & primarily Dalit residents of slums in Kathmandu–when to further gentrification & development of upscale shopping malls, resorts, casinos, the regime moved in bulldozers to level the housing.
The charter disputes over the federal structure of Nepal at closer examination will likely be over how the oligarchs think they can best manage a neoliberal economy.

Photo is women activists protesting in Kathmandu; many of the riot cops are also female. Policing oppression may be the only place women are given some rights.

Our fullest respect & solidarity with the women, Dalit, & Indigenous activists fighting to make Nepal a democratic country.

(Photo by Narendra Shrestha/EPA)

Solidarity between working people & undocumented immigrants

San Isidro, TX undocumented & border patrol (John Moore:Getty Images) August 7 2015

Lest we think undocumented immigration across the US-Mexico border has abated, this is the border patrol arresting immigrants near San Isidro, Texas, about 60 miles north of the border. Traveling through farm fields (in scorching heat), the immigrants were trying to bypass border patrol stations situated on the north-bound highways.

Central American immigrants traveling through Mexico are subject to extreme violence by criminal gangs & paramilitary death squads; many end up mutilated & in unmarked mass graves. The state of Veracruz, which is run by a murderous governor, is a major transit point for immigrants riding atop the “Train of Death” north to the border. As the train slows there, ordinary working people from the nearby towns rush to the trains with food & other supplies to hand off to the immigrants. There are also shelters for immigrants along the route where they can be treated for injuries, be fed, be treated as human beings. If they manage to cross the border & are released by border patrol, volunteers through a local Catholic church provide them with food, baths, clothing, & human solidarity.

Now we are reading reports that in Greece & in Macedonia thousands of volunteers are creating networks to provide food, medicine, camping utensils, toys to refugees. According to the volunteers in Greece, none of the aid is coming from NGOs, local or national government.

The Republican candidates focused on immigration, hoping to appeal to the most xenophobic, racist elements in US society–those who form vigilante squads at the border to drive back immigrants. What the despicables don’t realize is that many people around the world, including in the US, recognize a fellow human being when they see one, identify with the struggles of poverty & dispossession, & stand with immigrants–whether they have papers or not. Their humanity is all that matters.

Immigration is a mass phenomenon & has become a permanent feature of neoliberal capitalism where war, sweatshop economics, land expropriations of farmers, & austerity policies are bleeding millions of people dry. It’s a hallmark of the barbaric phase of capitalism; where we stand on immigration isn’t just a hallmark of our humanity but is a harbinger of whether we will be able to thwart the assaults of neoliberalism or will all go down together.

Immigration is a human right. Open the damn borders.

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)