The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Toothpaste brushes aside teargas in Nepal

Kathmandu, April 23: Journalists can be divided into two categories ' those who know the uses of fluoride toothpaste and those who don’t.

Being teargassed is a bad enough. But to have to shove toothpaste in one’s nose and rub it under the eyes should have been worse ' except that it wasn’t. Fluoride toothpaste acts as an antidote to teargas.

On Ring Road near Koteswor, the protesters were using provocative slogans ' “Le le janta khukari le. Gyanendra le chhapkai de (Pick up the khukri and finish off Gyanendra)” and “Aryaghate ke bhancha' Gyane, Paras le bhancha (What is the call of the crematorium' Bring Gyanendra and Paras here).”

They carried an effigy of King Gyanendra, complete with a mock plume of bird of paradise feathers in the royal crown. Suddenly, they started to stone the armed police.

A policeman fired a couple of tear-gas shells at them. Unfortunately, the wind changed direction. The policemen instead of the protesters got affected. So did the journalists standing behind them.

“Who asked you to use tear-gas when we don’t even have water handy'” his colleagues shouted at him rubbing their eyes. Water was quickly carted to them from a nearby police vehicle.

The journalists ran towards their cars holding handkerchiefs to their face. “Wash your face and cover your nose with wet hankies,” someone shouted.

An Associated Press photographer quickly took out a tube of toothpaste saying, “Rub it under your eyes and put it in your nose'” Was he out of his mind' “Just do it,” he insisted. And it worked.

It was time to move on. A crowd of about 3,000 protesters had gathered at Patan’s Durbar Square.

“What is the white stuff on your face'” a curious police inspector asked. “Toothpaste”.

After listening to our explanation, he turned to his men and said: “We must remember this for future.” But does any toothpaste work, he asked' “No, only fluoride,” one informed him authoritatively.

Then in an amazing gesture, he put out his hand and said: “Thank you very much. You are doing a good job.” He then offered water to a woman journalist and told her with a big smile on his face: “Madam, you are a good guy.”

The good inspector then gave us directions to where the protesters were headed ' towards the International Swimming Pool near Satdobato.

There they were stopped by armed police from marching on to join other protesters. A few army men were standing with their SLRs and M-16s about 10-yards behind the police. Anything could have happened.

“You are terribly under-dressed for the occasion,” commented an American journalist with a flak jacket and a helmet. Compared to him one felt positively naked in a T-shirt and trousers.

Then suddenly, army reinforcement arrived atop a Mine Protected Vehicle (possibly supplied by India). The crowd decided to retreat.

At Kalanki, there was a mild lathi-charge. Parts of Ring Road near the Kalanki Chowk were full of bricks thrown by the crowds. A group of protesters coming towards Koteswor was fired upon injuring three.

At Basundhara, the Ring Road going to Gongabu had been renamed. A huge board proclaimed it as “Nepal Ganatantra Path”. It also said: “Mandalei pravesh nishedh (Royalists vigilantes not allowed)”.

Over the signboard, a huge rat had been strung up. “That is Paras,” pointed out one of the protesters referring to the crown prince, demonstrating that bad taste often goes with intense anger.

However, the protesters, having won their battle against the monarchy and the political parties, were less in number today than yesterday.

The sector-wise management of the city by the security forces prevented protesters moving in from different directions from merging together. They also prevented them from entering the city.

“What did you do today'” asked Shekar Koirala of the Nepali Congress on telephone. When told about the teargassing and toothpaste, he exclaimed: “But toothpaste is no good. You should haven eaten a raw onion and rubbed it over your eye-lids.” Thankfully, he did not recommend shoving it up one’s nose.

Email This Page