Yesterday I got to see for the first time in my life what real democracy looks like. I was taken by Com. Ramnath, a member of the Maoist-run Tourism Workers’ Union, to a public meeting held in a 5-star hotel, “Yak and Yeti”. The hotel is run by workers in the Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union and they arranged the meeting. It was held in the main hall of the hotel, 12 huge crystal chandeliers hung above us and portraits of kings and glorious aristocratic pageantry adorned the walls. However, what was going on was far from a monarchistic rule, it was proletarian democracy. 1500+ people from all walks of life – workers, business men, politicians, intellectuals, doctors, lawyers etc – filled the room. There wasn’t even space to move. People sat on the floor, stood in the aisles, and tried to listen from outside the doors to the hall.
At the front of the room sat Comrade Prachanda, Comrade Baburam Bhattarai, Comrade Gaurav (if I am correct), Comrade Hisila Yami and many others who I couldn’t identify. But besides a few brief statements that Comrade Baburam Bhattarai made at the opening of the meeting and by Comrade Prachanda at the end, the leaders of the UCPN(Maoist) sat there and listened. They listened for more than 5 hours to people express their opinions and sentiments about what was going in Nepal at the moment. Just in case you think that all I am describing is some Bush-era townhall in which questions were pre-screened, think again. People were allowed to speak for as long as they liked, often speaking and yelling for 5 minutes at a time. They criticized and praised the Maoist leadership. Told them to tear down the government and told them to compromise already. They read poems and told jokes. The crowd broke out into cheers and clapped vigorously for those speakers whose ideas they agreed with (largely those speakers supporting the Maoists).
Can you imagine this in Canada or the USA or anywhere else for that matter? In most cases security would drag you out for asking anything longer than a 30 second question or for the first critical statement. Not here. They didn’t even do security-checks. You want to see what democracy looks like? Come to Nepal.