The Tipping Point
Can't get within a mile of Ratna Park but will try again. It's reaching a critical mass out in the streets. There's been a steady stream of humanity moving towards Ratna Park for the Big Rally. It just started (officially) but blogdai hasn't been able to get close. Even though Prachanda is a no show, there is tension in the air and the whole town is a tinder-box ready to ignite.
Those same bereft stone-throwing little boys we saw in the demonstrations last month are at it again; only this time they're wearing their Maoists finery. Nothing but peaceful co-existence for now, with maoists and security forces sometimes sharing crowd control duties. THERE ARE AT LEAST 500,000 PEOPLE MOVING TOWARDS THE CENTER OF TOWN RIGHT NOW. blogdai has watched this steady progression for the last 5 hours. Groups of young boys are getting increasingly bold now. Every chowk, every intersection and every major thoroughfare is full of them: directing traffic like they own the place. Maoist flags fly all around the ring road which has now universally been reduced to a big bus parking lot (above)---the result of the Maoists commandeering all transport heading into Kathmandu and forbidding any to leave.
A bad day to be in a car. Many new, mostly rural faces are on the streets touching and gesturing towards anything that hints of city-borne wealth. Groups of banner-waving Maoist factions from across the country clog traffic in waves. blogdai estimates there are hundreds of these "mini-mobs" (below) marching and chanting slogans at any given time.
What will happen at the rally? Many citizens are fearful that speakers will incite the crowd and turn them loose on houses and businesses in the capital.
The RNA has established an armed and ready "safe zone" encompassing durbar Marg and the Palace. They're on stand-by. Many feel that if the Maoists try to take over, the army will be turned loose. blogdai says: take aim and shoot straight, RNA.
Overall, the irrepressable Nepali spirit is still hopeful for a positive outcome. We'll see in an hour or so if Prachanda has manipulated this optimism to meet his own ends.