I experienced my first Bandh in Nepal today. It was a minor one, with only 4 hours of traffic affected, from 6-10 am. This wasn’t a big problem for me as that basically meant working late. However, once the Bandh was over, getting a bus or tuktuk to work proved to be extremely difficult. First, every bus, tuktuk and taxi was taken for at least an hour after the Bandh was over, as people were rushing to get to work. When I finally managed to get on a tuktuk an hour and a half later, it took so long to get through the traffic, that what is usually and 20-35 minute ride turned into an hour and a half long journey. I got to work after lunch time.
Lucky for me, work was very understanding and before the day was up I was warned that there will be anothe Bandh tomorrow and that it may be a Nepal-wide full-day Bnadh, which means working from home.
They way it works, I’m told, is that a political party or big union who wants their demands heard, calls a Bandh and decides what the affected region and length will be. Then, if any cars or bikes or buses or rickshaws are on the road during that time, the protesting mob (often the Maoists) will smash the windows or even set fire to the cars. There are so many more protestors than police that they riot police are genarally just spectators.
I saw no violence and even many cars were on the street disobeying the Bandh. Apparently there are different times of year with more or less severe Bandhs and right now is not very serious. Once monsoon season is over and farmers aren’t so busy, that’s when the Bandhs get really interesting, big and sometimes, bad. Apparently we can expect that starting in September. By then I’ll be a 5 minute walk from work, though.
As there wasn’t much to see during the Bandh today except maybe a few more pedestrians on the road, I didn’t take any pictures, but Google provides some pretty scary ones from Bandhs past: