From English-language Kathmandu newspapers and other media, October 2000-January 2001 VI-5

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Alleged Insult Throws City Into Chaos. "I solemnly declare and firmly reiterate that I have never spoken even a word against Nepal or its people," declared the Indian movie star, Hrithik Roshan. But a large number of excitable Nepalese believe otherwise. They claim he announced, in a TV interview on December 14, that the people he hated most in the world were Nepalis. The protest that followed shut down Kathmandu for three days and resulted in the deaths of four people and injuries to more than 100. The violence apparently had its start on the morning of December 26 when police tried to stop a group of students on their way to present a petition to the Indian Embassy. From there, the tumult spread throughout the city. Rioters rampaged out of control, burning tires, erecting barriers on the streets, storming shops, movie theaters and the State Bank of India. Some buildings and automobiles with Indian license plates were burned. The police responded with tear gas and live bullets, and are blamed for the four deaths, one of them a 12-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet while she was playing in a neighbor's house in Thamel. As the violence lessened on December 28, leftist student groups declared a strike that completely shut down Kathmandu. The streets were largely empty and tourists were reported to be walking to their hotels from the airport. In addition to Kathmandu, there were reports of rioting in other parts of the country. Although not only the actor but the TV station that reportedly carried the interview have denied the slur, the government has banned the screening of all ded that there was not enough fuel for this. On relinquishing the aircraft, they vowed that "the airline will not be spared if it violates the agreement." (Kathmandu Post, December 5)


Stranded in Saudi Arabia. More than 9,000 Nepalese citizens are working in Saudi Arabia, the greater part of them in tough manual jobs under hazardous conditions. Most of them have been lured there by Nepalese manpower agencies who do not have to deliver on their promise good jobs with handsome salaries. The worker is often forced to serve out a contract of at least two years before he can return to his own country. There are now at least 27 Nepali youths in Saudi Arabia who might envy them. These have been delivered by Gulf Manpower Overseas, a Kathmandu-based manpower supplier, and abandoned. It turns out that the jobs that were promised do not exist and they are now stranded in a shelter run by an organization called Nepali Immigrants' Association in Saudi Arabia. Nepal's embassy has apparently offered no help. "The Nepalese Embassy in Saudi Arabia is not sensitive towards the hardships faced by the Nepalis there," says a recently-returned worker. (, October 29)

24 Nepalis Held in Malaysia. At least 24 Nepalis are believed to have been been arrested in Malaysia for working illegally in factories. It is assumed that they were smuggled in from Thailand by Burmese recruiting agents, who charge them US $300 each for the service. According to the Associated Press, more than 140 Nepalis have been detained there in the last year for working without legal documents. (Kathmandu Post, December 13)

Still in Jail. We have reported earlier on Govinda Prasad Mainali, a Nepalese citizen who was tried in Japan on the charge of murdering a Japanese woman but acquitted in April by the Tokyo District Court. Yet he remained in jail after prosecutors managed to bring about a post-trial change in the ruling. He is not only still there but has been condemned to life imprisonment. On hearing the news, Mainali screamed in Japanese, "I did not do it! Oh God, please help me!" His lawyers plan an appeal to the Supreme Court. (Nepali Times, Dec. 29)

Tibetan Monk Killed by Nepal Police. A Tibetan monk was shot dead by Nepalese police in early November and two other refugees seriously injured. They were part of a group of 22 who had been arrested and held in Jiri, the first point from which one can reach Kathmandu by road at on one of the most popular refugee routes from Tibet. Normally, such refugees would be turned over to immigration authorities in Kathmandu who would then make arrangements for their safe passage to India. That may have been the plan with these people, but while they were in detention, the refugees were beaten by police - some of them severely - which led them to assume that they would be sent back to Chinese-occupied Tibet. When they tried to leave the police station to make their own way to Kathmandu, police charged them with lathis (long sticks) and pelted them with stones. They were soon rounded up by armed policemen who told them they were being taken to Kathmandu. When instead they were taken to Charikot, the refugees once again panicked and started running away. The police responded with rifle fire, wounding a woman and two monks, one of whom died shortly afterwards. Some of the survivors managed to escape and later arrived at the reception center in Kathmandu. "We thought the police were going to send us back to China," explained one of the youthful refugees (their ages ranged from 17 to 21). They had heard that the normal procedure was to hold refugees only one day in Jiri, so assumed the worst when they were still at the police station after the second day. "We didn't understand what they were saying. We just said, 'please, please, Dalai Lama!'. We all ran everywhere. It was so frightening!" (, Nov. 2)

Slowing the Refugee Flow. An estimated two to three thousand Tibetans cross the border into Nepal each year. Most of them are on their way to India, either on pilgrimage, to attend school or to start a new life. Normally, after arresting them near the border, Nepalese authorities (acting in conjunction with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees - UNHCR) help them on their way. But ever since the 17th Karmapa escaped from China through Nepal earlier this year, the Chinese have been applying pressure to the Nepalese government to make it more difficult for Tibetans to escape their control. According to unofficial reports, some 60 Tibetan refugees have been returned during the last two months of this year to Chinese-occupied Tibet. Tibetans who are sent back to Tibet are not received warmly. Some who have managed to escape their occupied country a second time describe being held in prison and beaten. There has also been pressure on Nepal's Tibetan exile community to limit cultural events, particularly those that might have an association with the Dalai Lama. Visits of UNHCR officials to border police stations have been suspended by the Nepalese government. The international agency had earlier made regular tours to guarantee that local police understood they were required to grant safe passage to the refugees to Kathmandu. Nepal's government now points out that there was never a formal agreement for allowing these visits and that, besides, it never signed the 1951 Geneva Convention which guarantees the protection and rights of refugees. (,, December 20)

A Ropeway Across the Border. Chinese authorities have agreed to a proposal to construct a one-and-a-half-kilometer-long ropeway from Tatopani in Nepal to Khasa Bazaar (known as Zhangmu to the Chinese) in Tibet. The structure is meant to discourage unauthorized and illegal trade across the border and will be financed by the Chinese. (Kathmandu Post, Dec. 4)

A Possible New Road to Tibet. There is at present only one motorable road that can take you from Nepal to Tibet (and back again) and that is the Arniko highway that connects the two countries by way of the "Friendship Bridge" at Kodari (on the Nepal side) and Khasa, or Zhangmu (on the Tibet side). Now plans are underway to build a road north of Kathmandu that will provide a new link between the two countries near Rasuwagadi (on the Nepal side) and Kyrong (on the Tibet side). All that is needed to make this possible is completion of a 19-kilometer (about 12-mile) stretch alongside the Bhote Kosi River, near Langtang Himal, from Syabrubensi to the Nepalese border town of Rasuwagadi. The Chinese have offered to pay for this (as they did for the only other road linking the two countries)and are now in the process of awarding mapping contracts to a Finnish concern. For many years, this has been an important route for foot and animal traffic. A connecting road from the district headquarters of neighboring Nuwakot district is also under consideration. The proposed new highway to Tibet not only will ease pressure on the Kodari route but will help boost trade between Nepal and China. It will provide the shortest route to Tibet and will also make it easier for Nepal to provide food supplies to its remote districts of Dolpa, Humla, Mugu and Mustang. A road from Tibet into Mustang is already under construction. Another, in Sankhuswasava district in eastern Nepal, is being considered. (Kathmandu Post, November 23)


Another Ambassador Recalled. Damodar Gautam, Nepal's Ambassador to the United States, has been abruptly recalled after completing only two years of his four-year term. No reason has been given. Gautam is the seventh ambassador to be recalled from the US without completing his assignment and the fifth within the last decade. One returned early because his wife was not happy living in the US; another was brought home after being caught stealing a book from a shop; at least two lost their jobs after a change of government back home. Gautam's predecessor, an appointee of Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, was unceremoniously dumped by present Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, reportedly because he had not given proper attention to the latter on the prime minister's visit to New York to address the annual session of the UN General Assembly. Gautam, a retired civil servant, was a Koirala appointee. (, November 24)

13,000 Applicants for US Visa Last Year. To many of the 6,500 people whose applications for US visas were turned down, the process may have seemed arbitrary, whimsical, and perhaps unfair. Yet Paul M. Cantrell, the US Consul in Kathmandu, claims that there is good reason for all rejections. Most of the refused applicants, he says, lack what he calls a "strong situation" to bring them back to their own country. "We have found a considerable amount of fraud involved," Cantrell says, "so we have to be very careful while issuing the visas." He thinks that people who complain when they can't get a visa simply do not understand the US immigration laws. The Embassy, which finds it "tricky and difficult" to deal with the 13,000 visa applications it receives in a year, is generally believed to have made it increasingly hard to receive one. Compared to other embassies in South Asia, the annual increase of non-immigration visa applicants is very small. (Kathmandu Post, December 21; Spotlight, Dec. 29)


House Construction Encroaches on Monument. The Ashoka stupa, which, according to tradition, was built by the Indian Emperor Ashoka around 300 B.C., is one of Kathmandu's oldest monuments. It is a conspicous feature of the landscape at the intersection that leads into the main part of Lalitpur. In spite of local protest, a concrete house is now being constructed only one meter away from the stupa. "We protested against this construction a month ago at LMC office [city hall]," complains a 76-year-old neighbor, "but we don't know what is going on between the owner of that land and the municipality." An official at the Department of Archaeology reported that his department had repeatedly denied permission for the new house but that after he himself had once more turned the project down, the owner approached another officer and had the proposal approved "under strange circumstances." (Kathmandu Post, December 6)

Hunters Upset Valley Farmers. It is not only Tribhuvan International Airport where birds are creating problems. During the autumn migration season, they attract large numbers of hunters to the Manohara River basin just east of it. This distresses the locals, particularly the farmers who at this time of year have to be out in their paddy fields and potato farms night and day to harvest their crops. The hunters, they say, "literally go on a rampage and destroy our crops... The bullets even whiz past our ears at times." In addition, hunters are often drunk and engage in acts of hooliganism. "They are disturbing the private lives of both the birds and us, the farmers." Although there have been times when the farmers have "become offensive at the hunters," this has had no effect on them. The Chief of the Natural History Museum worries, as do other biologists, that hunters may be driving some bird species to the brink of extinction. Yet there are no laws or regulations to protect them. "Police are there to stop the Maoists," comments one farmer, "but there is no-one to stop these hunters." (Kathmandu Post, Oct. 18)

How Things Were Three Million Years Ago. Nearly everybody knows what created Kathmandu Valley. The Tibetan deity Manjusree (although some say it was the Hindu god Lord Vishnu) took his sword and sliced a trench at Chobar Gorge, allowing the waters that once covered the valley to escape. Scientists agree that Kathmandu Valley was indeed once a lake but whoever might have taken a sword to it made not one, but at least three drainage outlets. A Japanese team has been studying the early history of the place and has found fish and other lacustrine fossils in its underlying sedimentary rocks. They think it possible that there were three or more lakes and that more than three million years have passed since the waters departed. They also have some thoughts about the future. They have discovered that Valley soil is soft and unconsolidated up to 20 meters (65 feet), and warn that this can cause serious damage in the next earthquake to buildings whose foundations are not firmly rooted. (Kathmandu Post, November 11)

Elephant Misbehavior. Although humans are generally forbidden to defecate in the streets of Kathmandu, there is more tolerance for animals. Yet the line has to be drawn somewhere, and police decided it was with elephants. An alert constable discovered a considerable pile of dung at the foot of the statue of Prithvi Narayan Shah at Singha Durbar intersection one day in late November and concluded it could only have been produced by an animal the size of an elephant. That inspired police to take their search to the national zoo, where, sure enough, an elephant named Gajendra was known to have recently passed the spot just as he was feeling the urge to let go. The animal was booked, but there is no word as to what price he had to pay for his misbehavior. (Nepali Times, December 1)


A Bad Day in Butwal. At the end of the day December 22, three people in the border city of Butwal were dead and much of the community was in tumult. The first victim was a nine-year-old boy who was run over by a jeep on the east-west highway. A number of people were upset about this and constructed a barricade across the highway. While this was in progress, another person - this one a student - was hit by a bus in a different part of the city. According to friends and relatives, the driver "killed him intentionally," hitting him first with the front of the bus and then backing over him. In a rage, the student's friends and relatives sought out the owner of the bus and "brutally killed" him. They then vandalised more than 50 vehicles in a space of half an hour and "resorted to vandalism" when police tried to retrieve the body of the bus accident victim. A large number of riot police were called in from a neighboring community to help bring the situation under control. Vehicle entrepreneurs, meeting together, decided to suspend all transport services across the Lumbini zone for three days. They want compensation for their damaged vehicles and a security guarantee. (Kathmandu Post, December 23)

Fake Maoists Loot Villagers. "Two people dropped in my house and warned me not to move from our bed," said a citizen of Bandipokhara VDC, near Tansen in Palpa district. "They snatched my mother's gold ring even after she gave them Rs 1,700." She was only one of several people in the area who were robbed by people who represented themselves as Maoists. Although in each case, the robbers left their victims with printed receipts from the "Nepal Communist Party (Maoists)," most people believe they had no political affiliation. The Chief District Officer admitted he was facing difficulty in taking action against the thieves "as no victims were willing to inform about their appearance." (Kathmandu Post, October 15)

Protest Shooting of Student. Human rights activists have demanded an investigation into the death of Gauri Sapkota, 24, a law student in the south central district of Chitwan, who was killed when police opened fire on a meeting of the All Nepal Women's Association (ANWA), a sister organization to the underground Maoists. Participants also accuse police of injuring "many others." They have requested that the National Human Rights Commission investigate the incident. Police, in the meanwhile, fired one round of bullets into the air to disburse an agitated crowd that came to its office after the killing, chanting anti-government and pro-Maoist slogans, hurling stones and demanding proper compensation to the family of the deceased as well as treatment for the injured. (Kathmandu Post, December 11)

Villagers Capture Gang Member. A gang of five people had been terrorizing citizens of Dhangadhi municipality in southwestern Nepal for some time, but eventually they pushed it too far. In two nights, they had stolen four tolas (46,660 grams) of gold from one house, Rs 60,000 (close to US $800) from another, as well as 12 chickens, two radios, one he-goat and a bag of wheat from a succession of others. At this point, the villagers reacted. They searched out and discovered one member of the gang and turned him over to the police. They are on the lookout for the four others, who escaped. (Kathmandu Post, October 16)

Let Them Drink Yogurt! Bhaljula is a small village situated on top of a mountain in a remote part of the central hill district of Rukum. The people who live there and in neighboring villages are suffering from a lack of water. Old and young "wake up at cock's crow" in order to make the hour-long descent to the nearest stream to fetch the water they will need for that day. "Quench your thirst with curd and milk!" they tell each other. Most of them would like to move somewhere else but, because of the known water problem, have trouble selling their houses. The majority are Magars who make their living raising livestock. According to locals, the animals also are fed yogurt instead of water. (Kathmandu Post, October 19)

Taking Your Bride to Elementary School. If you are around eight or ten years old and live in Kagati Gaun, a village only a few miles outside of Kathmandu in Nuwakot district, you are eligible for marriage. Child marriage may have been officially abolished in Nepal nearly 40 years ago but this Balami community of some 5,000 people not only condones but encourages it. A group marriage that will involve more than 35 children is planned for the auspicious day of Shri Panchami celebrating Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge. "I was surprised to see the practice initially," admits the principal of the local school, "but it does not surprise me any more." Many of his 600 students are married couples, aged 8 to 10 and younger. He remembers at least one bride still being breast-fed by her visiting mother while at school. Drop-out rate is high. "They don't feel the need to study since they get married at such an early age," explains the principal. The local village head does not anticipate any change in the near future. "The community does not want to abandon its trditional practices and adopt something new," he says. (Kathmandu Post, November 28)


Khimti-I Hydro Project Launched. One natural resource that Nepal has in abundance is running water. The melting snows of the high Himalaya provide a steady flow of it and make its rivers prime candidates for hydro-electric projects. On November 27, King Birendra formally inaugurated Khimti-I hydro-electric project, Nepal's first private sector plant, while monks chanted holy texts from the Veda. The facility, which is located on the Khimti River east of Kathmandu, has a generating capacity of 60 MW and is expected to generate 350 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Developed by a Norwegian company, the $140 million project is not only Nepal's first private sector plant since the government took steps to privatize energy but the first of its kind to be supported by the Norwegian government. Not everyone is entirely happy about it. Villagers in Dolakha and Ramechhap districts that are located in and around the project site complain that most of the power is going elsewhere and that no-one has paid proper attention to getting electricity into their houses. Others are concerned about the per-unit price of Khimti's electricity, which is among the costliest in the region, thanks largely to inflation, leakage, and the difficulties of construction in a remote and fragile environment. (Kathmandu Post, November 28)

Officials Smell a Rat in Power Station Fire. Much of Siraha and Udaipur districts in southeastern Nepal were plunged into darkness when the power sub-station of Nepal Electrical Authority at Lahan caught fire. Officials blame the fire on a rat that had entered the facility and somehow disrupted its machinery. Damage was estimated at around 1.2 million rupees (more than US $16,000). (Spotlight, November 10)


Angry Citizens Torch Truck, Tie Up Traffic. Prithvi Highway, the main highway between Pokhara and Kathmandu, was blocked for much of the day near Pokhara on December 16 by a crowd that had been angered by what they viewed as the "intentional killing" of a cyclist by a truck driver. The driver ran over Raj Kumar Lama, the father of five, once, they claimed, and then backed up and ran over him again. The "unruly crowd" set the vehicle on fire and would not let the fire brigade near it until it had burned to cinders. Police fired eight rounds into the air and released the contents of seven tear gas cells before the riot was quelled in late afternoon. The blockade was said to have stranded thousands in the city throughout the day. (Kathmandu Post, December 17)

Prince Survives Major Car Crash. Most people know that if you are going to run into anything, it should not be a police car. But the rules may be different if you are a prince. His Royal Highness Prince Nirajan, the youngest son of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, was at the wheel when his car ran into a police van on Maharajgunj at 11:20 pm on December 20. He was rushed to the hospital where he was kept under treatment for four hours. Also rescued from the wreckage were his bodyguard and two others. The car itself was removed by a crane. (Kathmandu Post, Dec. 21)


Another Controversial RNAC Leasing Deal. "Now RNAC, termed a weakling by many, will be able to successfully compete in the international sector," exulted the Executive Chairman of the national airline after a wide-body B-767 jet leased from Lauda air arrived at Tribhuvan International Airport ready to be pressed into service on behalf of the airline. There were others who were not as enthusiastic. Nepal's parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had earlier asked both the government and RNAC to freeze the deal on the grounds that its board's action had been "irresponsible and against the law." A majority of RNAC employees and some of the corporation's executives had also opposed the arrangement. Because the leased aircraft comes with its own crew, RNAC employees who might otherwise be operating or servicing it are left idle. They also feel that the lease represents an unnecessary expenditure that will steer the airline towards bankgruptcy. The Accounts Committee was concerned that the airline had bypassed the tender process and gone directly into negotiations with the provider, that it had forwarded more than US $1 million without guarantee to Lauda, and that there is no agreement with the real owner of the aircraft, a Hong Kong-based company, which has leased the plane to Lauda. In spite of a directives from the PAC and the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) oredering a halt to the sale, Nepal's Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation gave the government's go-ahead for the deal. Called before the PAC, he was unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for his action. The watchdog committee then turned to the prime minister. In his appearance before that body, Krishna Prasad Koirala made it clear that he thought a parliamentary committee had no business intervening in the work of the executive, and - besides - the government airline is an autonomous body and has the right to make its own decisions in its own way as long as they are legal, which, in this case, he believes they are. RNAC, which sold its own B-727s in 1993, has been leasing aircraft ever since, always with controversy. It is believed that RNAC executives had actually opposed the Lauda lease in the beginning but, as the PAC chairman put it,


A Zoo on the Runway. First it was birds, then it was cows, then it was dogs, and then - incredibly - monkeys who were delaying aircraft that were trying to take off or land at Tribhuvan International Airport in late September and early October. At least five collisions with birds were reported, including one that was (perhaps erroneously) blamed for destroying one engine of an RNAC plane forcing it out of action for ten days. The airport's proximity to the city's waste disposal site on the Bagmati River may have something to do with making it an attractive gathering place for birds and animals, yet the problem seems to be more general than that. "Kathmandu is like an open garbage disposal site that is sure to attract the birds," says one environmentalist. The airport is fenced but there are many gaps through which the larger mammals can enter, and no fence can keep out the earthworms that collect there in large numbers during certain seasons, drawing flocks of hungry birds. This year a prolonged monsoon raised the water table in the hills, forcing the worms to emerge "by the trillion" and cascade down the slopes to level, drier land. The hot sun cooked many of them on airport runways, where they became a special delicacy for raptors. Although the problem of birds and animals on the runway seems now to have lessened, airport management has not won praise for its efforts in handling it. "You can't make a quick buck chasing dogs off the apron," said one critic. "So how do you expect the airport to get its act together?" (Nepali Times, October 20 and other media)

Lukla Crash Landing Halts Air Traffic. All air traffic was stopped on November 2 at Lukla's 9,200-foot-high airstrip in Solukhumbu when a Gorkha Airways Dornier 224 made a crash landing on the runway. None of the four passengers and three crew members were injured. There were conflicting reports on what happened. The plane was either landing or taking off. It either overshot the runway and nearly plunged into a river or hit a mound on its right side and ground to a halt - or perhaps both. Because the pilot reported that the right landing gear was defective, authorities decided to ground all Dornier aircraft for inspection. In the meanwhile, the plane's wreckage kept aircraft from landing or taking off at an airport that serves as Nepal's principal gateway for trekkers in the Everest area. (, Nov.2)


Caught With his Pants Down? Police had been tipped off that Ram Rokka, 25, of Bhotebahai in Kathmandu was in illegal possession of drugs. When they came to his house to arrest him, they discovered he was also in illegal possession of US $7,421. The money, they said, was "hidden in his private parts." He was taken to the Revenue Investigation Department, Lalitpur, for further investigation. (Kathmandu Post, November 16)

Come Back When We Get the Jail Built. When Maoists attacked Dunai in late September, they destroyed the local jail and forced the administration to release its 19 prisoners. These have been urged to return as soon as a new prison is constructed, yet, as of now, funds have not been allotted to carry out reconstruction. The jail administration has also had to apply to the district court for prisoner records since all documents were burnt to ashes in the Maoist raid. (Spotlight, December 22)

Shot by a Mistake. The gang that couldn't shoot straight showed up in Pattharkot in southeastern Nepal in early January. Gang members fired off some shots while looting two homes in that village but the only person they hit was a fellow gang member. His family has cremated him in the kitchen garden. (Kathmandu Post, January 3)


Exasperated Cops Terrify Village. Many of us have had this frustrating experience: you go to make a telephone call and find that the phone does not work. In this case, the would-be callers were policemen in Rudrapur Gahdi, a small village in Nawalparasi, and the phone problem was that it had been destroyed by Maoist rebels. At this point, the rest of us perhaps would have uttered mighty oaths and even kicked at what remained of the facility, but these policemen were armed and expressed their anger by firing eleven rounds of ammunition into the air "without any definite reason." Terrified locals complained that the cops also threatened to kill them on the grounds that they were in league with the rebels. In the wake of the incident, a police team was dispatched from Bhairahawa by helicopter to "appraise the situation," but was turned back by bad weather. (Kathmandu Post, October 12)

Alleged Police Looters Arrested. Four police officers based in Lamosanghu in east central Nepal decided that three people who were on their way to Tatopani near the Tibetan border were gamblers and needed to be reminded of the evil of their ways. The cops, who were described by eyewitnesses as drunk, beat up the suspects and confiscated some Rs 600,000 (more than US $8,100). The District Police Office at Sindhupalchowk had a different view. They arrested the police, sent the suspected gamblers to the hospital for treatment for police-inflicted wounds and seized 48 thousand of the confiscated rupees, presumably for return to its owners. (Kathmandu Post, November 1)

Police Arrested for Role in Gambling Raid. Four Kathmandu policemen were arrested and subjected to departmental action after they raided a gambling den in Chautara without a permit during the Tihar festival. Details of the raid were not given, other than that two persons had been injured in clashes between the gamblers and the police. The latter took away Rs 49,000 (US $663) as well as "sea shells" from the gamblers. (, November 1)

If You're from Jajarkot, Don't Tell Police. Due Lal Oli was coming home from his job in India when he got off the bus in the far west city of Mahendranagar. About six policemen followed him to a hotel where they demanded to know where he was from. On hearing that he is from Jajarkot, they beat him until he was unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he was in the police station. His captors gave him back his empty bag and put him on "a yellow-colored bus bound for Kohalpur," but kept his watch and Rs 38,000 (more than US $500). Three others who had been with him were also beaten up, Oli said. (Kathmandu Post, Jan. 3)


Back to Your Own Country. For a whole month, a wild elephant that entered Chitwan National Park from India had been terrorizing local people and tourists in the Chitwan areas of Sauraha and Padampur. He had destroyed dozens of houses, sheds and paddy crops, attacked two domestic elephants and created alarm among the people of the area, as well as tourists and hotel entrepreneurs. The animal was finally driven back to India with the help of 30 better-behaved elephants. (Kathmandu Post, November 11)

Police Save Snake. Under National Park and Wildlife Act 2019, anyone killing a python faces five to ten years in jail as well as a fine of Rs 40,000 (approximately US $540). The villagers of Bandipur in southern Nepal have a less protective view of the reptile and were about to kill a 15-foot specimen that had appeared in their village. Police came to its rescue. The snake has been handed over to Chitwan National Park, which says it will give it to the Central Zoo in Lalitpur. (, October 30)

Let Love Take its Course, Says Sanctuary Chief. This elephant has not been identified by name in the news reports, but it is clear he is in love. So much so, in fact, that authorities at Sukla Phanta Wildlife Sanctuary are reluctant to move him from their stable near Sinhapur post to the jungle. They have concluded that he "is not in the mood." They worry about a repeat of what happened last time. That was when they tried to move a love-struck bull elephant back to the jungle prematurely. It "became unruly" and they were forced to shoot it. It is now the opinion of Megh Bahadur Thapa, chief of the sanctuary, that love, at least among elephants, is a transient thing. He has advised his staff to be patient. This thing will pass, he has told them. The elephant will forget her and go back to the jungle willingly if they wait long enough. (Kathmandu Post, December 10)


The Real Mera Peak. If you are one of thousands of people who think you have climbed Mera Peak, we have bad news. You climbed the wrong mountain. This fact was discovered by a bunch of spoilsport climbers, mostly from Finland, who looked at a new topographic map that was published by the Nepalese government in 1997 and realized that the mountain it showed as Mera Peak was not the one everyone has been climbing. The real Mera Peak was listed, with its correct altitude (6654 meters, or 21,830 feet), in the Ministry of Tourism's 1978 list of trekking peaks, and was correctly located in the 1985 American Alpine Journal. Yet it was a different mountain, some five miles away, that came to be known as Mera and found its way onto maps and into trekking guides. Those with altimeters who may have noted that its actual elevation was some 200 meters (around 584 feet) lower than it was supposed to be assumed that this was probably due to an error by the Nepal Mountaineering Association. The real Mera Peak, visible from the false one on the north side of Mera La presents formidable climbing difficulties. At last report, it had never been climbed, although there have been several attempts. There is no reason to suppose that climbers will stop going to the false Mera, which, with more than a thousand visitors a year, is Nepal's second most popular trekking peak after Island Peak (Imja Tse). (, December 1)

Ban on Climbing Machhapuchhare May be Lifted. Machhapuchhare ("The Fish's Tail"), in the central Himalaya, may not be one of the highest mountains in Nepal (it is 6,696 meters, or almost 22,000 feet) but it is one of the most beautiful. It is also sacred, and has never been climbed to its summit. This may change soon, however. The government has been considering opening more peaks for climbing and Machhapuchhare is on the list. Whatever gods have defended it earlier now have presumably lost interest or moved away. Yet there are still those who do not want to see the mountain defiled by climbers, including a group of teachers, politicians, and travel entrepreneurs, who met in Pokhara in protest. The only recorded attempt was by a British team in 1957. Climbing difficulties and bad weather stopped them around 150 meters (about 165 feet) from the summit. But locals, who suffered an unexpected drought at the time, read a different message: namely, that the gods were angry. As a result of local concern, the mountain has been off-limits to climbers ever since. (, Dec. 27)

A Ski School for Khumbu? Davorin Karnicar, who, on October 7, became the first man to ski from the top of Everest, thinks there ought to be a ski school for children in the Khumbu region. The Slovenian climber and ski instructor has observed that people in the area are "not familiar with the concept of skiing" and hopes to be able to do something to change this. He feels that Nepal has a large potential for ski tourism, especially the Annapurna area. On his return from his successful Everest descent, he declared that he would like to lend his name, money and fame to support a Khumbu ski school. Perhaps of higher priority at the moment is his personal ambition "to try and ski all the tallest mountains in all the seven continents." (Kathmandu Post, October 17)


Tourism Down. It is believed that a six-month cancellation of Indian Airlines flights between India and Nepal was responsible for a drop of more than 12 percent in the number of tourists arriving in Nepal this year as opposed to last. The Indian carrier stopped service between its own country and Nepal after one of its planes departing from Tribhuvan International Airport was hijacked by suspected Kashmiri militants last Christmas eve. Although arrivals from other countries dropped only 1.6 percent, those from India were 32 percent lower than last year. The Indians had blamed lax security at the Kathmandu airport for the seizure of its aircraft. It was only after Nepali authorities gave the Indians permission to conduct secondary baggage and ladder point checks in June that the airline resumed flights between the two countries. Additional reasons that have been suggested for the drop in tourism include Nepal's weak infrastructure, increasing pollution and inadequate provisions for air safety. Some talk about the high cost of air fares to Nepal; the evident deterioration of service provided by RNAC, and weak marketing strategies promoting Nepal as a tourist destination. (Kathmandu Post, Oct. 16)


Two Health Battles Won. Not all news out of Nepal is bad. Iodine deficiency has been virtually eliminated in the country, thanks to a nationwide campaign to warn of its dangers and to promote the use of iodized salt. Vitamin A deficiency also has also almost disappeared among pre-school children in Nepal. More than 4 million children have received Vitamin A capsules twice a year. This good news comes from a survey conducted randomly in various parts of Nepal. Iodine deficiency retards children's cognitive development; lack of Vitamin A decreases the ability to fight illness. The survey shows that visible goiter, a product of iodine deficiency, has more or less disappeared among school-aged children. Night blindness was detected in less than one percent of the population. (Kathmandu Post,, Dec. 5)


Kathmandu Campuses Closed by Protesting Students. Most college and higher secondary school campuses were closed in early December by students loyal to underground Maoists. They were protesting earlier arrests and police intervention during student demonstrations demanding subsidized kerosene. The Maoist students have other demands. They object to the singing of the national anthem at schools and the teaching of Sanskrit and have threatened a nationwide week-long strike in protest. (, December 5)

Principal "Disgraced" by Students. Students disgraced the principal of Champidevi Higher Secondary School in Lalitpur December 4 by blackening his face with soot. His offense was the alleged abuse of a student. (, December 5)


Swing at Center of Controversy. Swings are a traditional part of the Dasain festival. Swinging might seem an innocent enough activity, but in the village of Oraste in Syangja district in central Nepal it was the cause of an altercation that eventually involved more than a thousand people and left large numbers of them with injuries. It seems that some youths of Oraste who "were under the spell of alcohol" objected to the singing and dancing of other celebrants, some of whom were playing cassettes, near the place "where people were enjoying the swing on the day of Vijaya Dashami." It is not clear how it came about but the people of Saldada then overpowered two Oraste villagers, tied them up and held them all night "in a room." Released the next morning, they went home to tell their story. "A large number of youths from Oraste, Khadi and Ghopte came to attack the people of Saldada the next evening with sticks, khkuri, axe and scythe." Seven to eight hundred Saldada villagers defended themselves against four to five hundred attackers. When it was all over, some 80 people were left with injuries, three of them serious. With the help of police and local officials, the matter "was discussed." The people of Oraste admitted they may have overreacted and agreed to pay 47,000 rupees (around US $650) to the most seriously injured victim. A later rumor that another victim had died in the hospital had youths from both sides of the argument fleeing their villages. Yet now the "dispute has been settled with the arbitration of the police." (Kathmandu Post, October 15)

Four Arrested for Proselytizing Christianity. In late October, police arrested four people in Rajbiraj for "trying to convert the people to the Christian faith." Three of them were Nepalese citizens. One was a Norwegian. They had been in the area four or five days and were accused of trying to convert people to their religion "with temptations of employment and money." Nepal, which is the world's only official Hindu kingdom, allows all religions to practice their faith but forbids proselytization. Hindu organizations have expressed concern about what they view as increasingt activities of Christian preachers in Nepal. (Kathmandu Post, November 1)

A Noisy Funeral. When Amar Bahadur Biswokarma, a Christian, died, his body was brought to Baglung in central Nepal for appropriate Christian burial rites. The Christian church there is a private house. Mourners "prayed, wept, cried and sang religious hymns amidst loud noise," but were soon interrupted by the police. Anti-Christian neighbors had complained about the noise. The house owner was arrested but later released after promising he would not repeat "these activities" in the future. The body was taken to Pokhara for burial. (Kathmandu Post, October 12)

A Shaking Temple. "I have observed from all four sides of the temple," stated Rudra Adhikari, an engineer, "and I find it shaking." He was talking about the Temple of Dachhinkali at Lokanthali, Bhaktapur, which observers have lately noted has been trembling on its foundations. The building was established in 1903 as a home that is shared by a goddess and a serpent god named Naag Devata. It is apparently the latter who is responsible for the shaking. "Sacrificial drops of blood on the Naag Devata during the Navaratri has made him angry," states one of the temple's leading devotees who herself started trembling when she entered its precincts. The shaking will not stop, she predicted, until two missing lion statues outside its gate are replaced. There are some with a more skeptical attitude. "Those people who come here after hearing the rumor of the shaking temple will certainly find it shaking because their psychology has already been conditioned," said an observer. Others are calling for a disinterested investigation by Nepal's scientific community and the Department of Archaeology. (Kathmandu Post, October 15)


Maoist Warrior Meets Unexpected End. Lal Bahadur Thapa of Dandagaon VDC in the western hill district of Jajarkot played a part, under the name of Comrade L. B., in a devastating Maoist attack on Panchkatiya some months ago and was very nearly killed in the conflict. He was shot during a fierce exchange of bullets with police but survived and returned to his farm. There he met his end, not by police bullets but by hornet stings. It was when he climbed a tree to burn a hornet nest to fetch its larvae and pupae (which in his part of the world are considered a delicacy when roasted) that the insects attacked and killed him. A grieving neighbor who had accompanied him on his mission said he had warned him against burning the nest. "Eventually," he reported sadly, "the hornets stung him to death in front of our eyes." (Kathmandu Post, October 22)

Climber Suffers Yard Injury. Last year, 31-year-old Tomaz Humar accomplished what most people up until then had considered impossible: a solo ascent of the south face of Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters; 26,795 feet). This year he fell into a hole in his back yard, breaking both legs and incurring heavy internal hemorrhaging. The three-meter-deep hole was there because his house was under construction. Doctors say it may be another 10 months before he recovers. (Himalayan Net #76, November 20)

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