From English language Kathmandu newspapers and other media,-December 2002-February 2003                  VII-1




Cease-fire Announced.   “We have received a notice yesterday from the government side notifying us that they have withdrawn the terrorist tag and price on our heads,” declared Comrade Prachanda (real name Pushpa Kamal Dahal),  leader of the insurgents,  in a faxed message on January 29.  “We are considering this move a positive step and have decided on a cease-fire, and have agreed to take part in peace talks.”  Shortly after this announcement, the government confirmed that it had accepted the Maoist terms for opening talks.  These  included dropping the “terrorist” tag, withdrawing its offer of bounty for bringing in Maoists dead or alive, and rescinding its call to Interpol to arrest top leaders if they should be found outside the country.   Thus a seven-year conflict that has taken more than 7,000 lives, seriously damaged Nepal’s economy and infrastructure, and caused many thousands to leave their homes, has been brought at least to a temporary halt.  Minister of Physical Planning and Works Narayan Singh Pun, a former lieutenant colonel in the army, has been appointed to represent the government in forthcoming talks.  Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, the Maoists’ No. 2 leader,  will head a five-member team that includes Ram Bahadur Thapa, who is generally considered to be more extremist than other Maoist leaders and is thought to have adopted a unilateral position in sabotaging earlier peace talks.  Pun has been involved in preliminary negotiations which, according to one vigorously denied rumor, included ferrying Dr. Bhattarai and Thapa to the Narayanhiti Royal Palace in Kathmandu for five hours of talks with King Gyanendra.  What is not rumor is that the cabinet stayed up until the wee hours discussing the Maoist offer and met again in the early morning before announcing its acceptance.  Orders to lay down arms have been issued on both sides and the Maoists have called off a planned two-day strike in mid-February. There are still many serious differences to be worked out if there is to be any permanent peace.  Leaders of the political parties have not expressed enthusiasm about the breakthrough, perhaps because they were not involved in negotiating it.  Yet Comrade Prachanda has made it plain he expects them to take part in resolving Nepal’s present crisis.  “The party’s stance for a round table conference of all the parties and intellectual personalities, an interim government, and constituent assembly election is aimed at resisting all sorts of regressive moves..,” he says.  The move for a cease-fire, he adds, was made “without any prejudice.  We want seriousness of all the political parties and intellectuals on the gravity of the problem.”  (all news media, January 29 ff)


Inspector General of Police Shot.  Krishna Mohan Shrestha was Nepal’s paramilitary Armed Police Force’s first Inspector General of Police.  When he was shot on the street on January 26, it was assumed it was the work of Maoists.  If so, he would be the highest ranking official to have been killed by them.  The shooting took place on Ring Road outside of Lalitpur when Shrestha, his wife (a teacher at Lincoln School) and a bodyguard were out for their morning walk.  All three were killed.  Police followed a trail of blood to a nearby house, where they arrested Krishna Mohan Sainju as an accomplice to the murder.  Sainju told the police that  it was his role to signal the arrival of the Inspector General (IGP) to five armed assailants.  In the course of the firing, Sainju received a bullet in his leg.  Police believe him to be the local commander of the Bhaktapur ring of Maoist terrorists.  Following the murders, Prime Minister Chand summoned an emergency cabinet meeting.  Security measures in the capital were intensified with checkpoints being set up at entry points to Kathmandu from Lalitpur.  Witnesses observed as many as seven police buses being loaded with suspects be taken in for interrogation.   The 15,000-member Armed Police Force was created about a year and a half ago to combat the insurgents.  That the assassination of Shrestha took place while talks were underway for declaring  a cease-fire, and had pundits wondering if it might be designed to strengthen the Maoist hand in negotiations, an attempt by rogue hard-line elements of the party to sabotage the talks, or simply a hit team that did not get its orders on time.   (Kathmandu Post,,  Nepali Times, January 26-27)


Until Now, the Only War in Town.  If the cease-fire brings peace to Nepal, it will end what a German research group has labeled as the only current war in Asia.  Of the 42 wars or violent conflicts in the world counted by the Institute for International Conflict Research at Heidelberg University, most were in Africa.  The Institute admitted that there were 12 other “serious conflicts” in Asia; yet none except Nepal’s Maoist insurgency met their definition of “war.”  (Kathmandu Post, December 13)


Children are Victims in Insurgency.  Many of the casualties of “The People’s War” have been children.  One-hundred-sixty-eight of them have been killed in the six-year conflict and 95 severely injured, according to a human rights group, Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Center (CWIN).  Some 2,000 have lost their parents and 4,000 have been uprooted with their families.  More than 10,000 have been denied access to education because of the insurgency and 1,089 have simply disappeared.   The Center is also worried by reports that many children have been recruited into the Maoist’s army, but it is also concerned that at least 100 have been arrested by the army.  Of the hundreds who have fled their homes fearing for their safety, many have “involved themselves in dangerous work for a living.”  The Center is probably including those who have allowed themselves to be commercially exploited for sexual purposes in dance halls and restaurants in the city and on the street “ by local and foreign pedophiles.”  It has recorded 137 cases of trafficking in minors.  A joint survey conducted by CWIN with Norway’s Save The Children reveals that 20 percent of children in Kathmandu have been subjected to sexual abuse.  Even if it is responsible for leaving children psychologically scarred (encouraging violent tendencies or causing them to be “locked up in fear and depression”), “The People’s War” cannot, of course,  be blamed for  all of the children’s problems.  CWIN reports that a number of factors  can be responsible for 46 youthful suicides during the year, including poverty, family tension, frustration in love affairs and failure in exams.  Sixteen percent of Kathmandu’s street children are addicted to drugs.  Fifty-six percent are smokers; 26 percent take snuff; whereas 54 percent inject drugs into their bodies.  More than 50% of Kathmandu street children have been found to be addicted to glue sniffing.  (The New York Times, January 16; Kathmandu Post, February 3)


Driven From Their Homes by Threat of Retaliation.  Besides those who have left the country because of the effect of “The Peoples’ War” on their own lives, there are those who have left their homes but stayed in Nepal.  An estimated 1,700 people from 14 districts in the Maoist dominated mid-western districts of Nepal have left their homes after local security posts were closed and police personnel transferred to district headquarters.  Most of these have reason to fear the Maoists: they are active in political parties opposed to the rebels or are known as “informers” to the government.  The regional office has promised a “displacement allowance” for such people.   Yet officials concede that they are having difficulty in verifying which persons are authentic  victims of the insurgency.  (Kathmandu Post, January 11)



The First 100 Days.  A poll conducted by Nepali Times just before the announcement of a cease-fire, found 55.3% of Nepalis rating the performance of the Chand government as “bad,” as opposed to 23% who thought it was either “good” or “excellent.”  It may be that many people were expecting something more dramatic after the King ousted the elected government and replaced it with one that supposedly would  spend less of its time on the all-engrossing political struggles that have distracted a succession of elected governments  from the problems of the country.   In its first 100 days, completed not long before the cease-fire announcement, the new government had accomplished little more than its predecessors.  Yet its most vociferous detractors seem to be the leaders of the political parties who, through no choice of their own, have been made irrelevant to the course of events.   The two major political parties, who have rarely been able to cooperate  in anything else, have found common ground in their opposition to an un-elected government.  Nepali Congress (NC) President Girija Prasad Koirala has agreed with United Marxist-Leninist (UML) General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal to launch a joint movement “on a massive scale” to pressure the King to reverse his decisionto take over the government.  Although they are of like mind in that they want to “safeguard the achievements of the 1990 people’s movement,” they have not made clear what course they would like the King to follow.  The NC has officially stated it would like him to revive the dissolved House of Representatives, whereas the UML wants an all-party government (which should, in their opinion, be led by their own party leader).  If there are to be reforms in the Constitution, says Koirala, they should come from the parliament.  “Those advocating a constituent assembly [a group made up of all parties to decide on a new constitution and new government, as advocated by the Maoists] should clear their bottom line on whether they respect constitutional monarchy, multiparty system, people’s sovereignty and the parliamentary system.”  (Kathmandu Post, January 15)


A Meeting That No-one Attended.  An all-party meeting to discuss permanent peace with the Maoists was called by Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand for February 16 but no-one came.  The major political parties, after a meeting of their own, decided to boycott it.  “Since the government is illegitimate and unconstitutional and has failed to make the dialogue with the Maoists transparent,” said the leader of the Nepal Sadbhavana Party, “we have decided to boycott the meeting.”  The prime minister’s own party, Rastriya Prajantantra Party, originally voted to attend but then changed its mind.  The Koirala faction of the Nepali Congress party did not even attend the all-party meeting since it had  been called by Koirala’s main NC rival, former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. Yet it made it clear it did not want to participate in Chand’s meeting.  Koirala has predicted that the cease-fire will be short-lived because “no homework has been done for confidence building measures” for the talks with the Maoists.  “Rather than holding talks with the King’s representatives, “ says the leader of the Nepali Congress party and former prime minister, “they should talk with the people.”  (Kathmandu Post, February 14, 15)


Koirala Promises to Reveal TRUE Story of Palace Killing. Who was really responsible for the killing of the royal family in June of 2001?  Former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala knows and has apparently known all along, but has kept the information to himself out of fear that releasing it might trigger a fresh round of unrest.  Now,  however,  he promises that very soon he will  “expose the brain and the actors of the ‘grand design’ . . . I deliberately choose to keep shut,” he told a group of Nepali Congress workers, “but I will expose everything at an opportune time.”  (Kathmandu Post, January  2)



Change in Phone Numbers.  If you will be telephoning Nepal after March 15 you may have to add a new prefix to the number you are dialing.  Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA), the country's regulatory body for telecom services, is altering existing telephone numbers throughout the country.  Those in the Kathmandu district will be prefixed with 4, Lalitpur with 5 and Bhaktapur with 6.  Numbers outside the Valley might have any one of the allocated digits.  The change is being made to allow expansion of exchanges whose numbers are exhausted.  The NTA has arranged for recordings to help callers who dial old numbers. (Kathmandu Post, February 14)


Cold Spell Cripples Terai.  An unusual spell of extreme cold weather settled over northern India and Nepal in January, lingering for more than three weeks and causing the deaths of nearly 50 people, mostly old people and children.  Central and eastern districts in the Terai were particularly hard hit.  Schools were closed down for extended periods, shops were open only in the middle of the day, and some local governments arranged for large bonfires to be built to help keep villagers warm.  Farmers were particular sufferers with extensive damage to crops and the death of some cattle.  (Kathmandu Post, Rising Nepal, January 10, 14)


Corruption in Nepal: a Survey.  Transparency International, an international organization with  a branch in Nepal,  has conducted a two-year, five-pronged study of corruption in 3,600 households in 10 cities and 51 Village Development Committees,  and has learned that politicians are considered to be more corrupt than anyone else in public life  - twice as corrupt as their counterparts in business and finance.  They are followed by others in government - people in the bureaucratic and judicial sectors, with professionals and those involved in the social sector farther down the list.  As far as kinds of corruption, monetary corruption was deemed the worst, with misuse of public property second and negligence of duty third.  Those who were aware of corruption and were victims of it were asked if they had tried to do anything about it.  Most had not because they felt it was useless.  Those who did tended to take their problem directly to the person concerned, but a  little more than half said this did them no good.  More than a third of clients of the Land Revenue Office said they had to pay bribes.  Others were forced to pay bribes to the Electricity and Telecommunications offices and to the police.  Only a few had to give extra money to local government and hospitals for their service.  When asked if the bribes were demanded or whether they were offered merely as encouragement for performing a service, almost 80 percent said that they were compelled to fork over the money.  By and large it went directly to the person in charge of performing the service, not to an intermediary.  Nearly all agreed that the bribe did accomplish its purpose.  When asked if they were optimistic that corruption will be controlled, only 15.6 percent said “yes.”  (Nepali Times, January 10; Tansparency International press release, January 15)


First in Bio-diversity Conservation.  There is at least one field in which Nepal can count itself as Number One.  The International Hereditary Resource Organization has pronounced Nepal’s work in bio-diversity conservation as the best in the world.  It reached this conclusion after a six-year  study of nine countries around the world.  The work involves the conservation of paddy, millet, barley and cucumber.  (The People’s Review, January 30)



US Aid Reduced.  The United States will not, after all, be giving Nepal the $20 million it promised last year for  help in its “war against terrorism.”  The amount approved by Congress for the fiscal year is $12 million.  “The total was decreased because of a number of factors,” explained a State Department official.  These included “overall budget stringencies and a shifting of priorities in the war on terrorism,” as well as  a tailoring of the amount to fit “what [the Nepalis] need and what they can afford.”  This would be individual weapons and communications equipment suitable for guerrilla conflict, not fighter jets.  “Twelve million can’t buy a hell of a lot of F-16s [fighter jets], but they don’t need F-16s,” the official said.  “It is much more basic than that.”  It is likely that a team from the US Pacific Command that had toured western Nepal last year had a large input in deciding what the needs were.   Nepalese defense officials had hoped for funds sufficient for the purchase of night-vision goggles, helicopters, rocket launchers and automatic weapons.  The Maoists have made it plain that they are vehemently opposed to any aid given to the Nepalese government for the purpose of combatting their insurgency.  To indicate their displeasure, they twice attacked and damaged Coca-Cola factories in Nepal in protest.  (Kathmandu Post, January 3)


US “Global Gag Rule” Hurts Aid Organizations. It has been estimated that six Nepali women die each day in Nepal because of unsafe abortions.  Although last August, Nepal’s parliament passed a bill conditionally legalizing abortion under strict consensual and health guidelines, there are still hundreds of women in jail serving sentences for abortion.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as The Family Planning Association of Nepal have been able to help with the problem but recently have had to seriously curtail their efforts after US President George W. Bush reinstated the “Global Gag Rule” that prevents NGOs from receiving US funds for providing abortion-related services, including counselling and referrals.  “This is not about supporting abortion - it’s about population, development and motherhood,” says Wasim Zaman, the Kathmandu-based South Asia Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  “They [the US] should be taking the lead, not slowing down.”  That  organization and others have suffered funding cuts up to 23 percent and have had to lay off large numbers of experienced employees.  “We respect the US right to decide its own policies,” says former Health Minister Sharat Singh Bhandari, “but we urge it to take a wider perspective in issues that might have global impact and implications.”  (Nepali Times,  January 31)


Gurkhas (and Communists) March for Peace.  Around 2,000 ex-British Gurkhas took to the streets to protest America’s threat to invade Iraq.  Such an invasion would likely involve the active participation of the Gurkhas.  All who are now on leave in Nepal have been called back by the British government, which is providing troops to support the action.  “Whenever and wherever a war breaks out, it is the British Gurkhas who are made to face the first bullets, not the British soldiers,” said a Gurkha.  There are currently around 3,500 of these Nepalese soldiers serving in the British army, considerably fewer than the 10,000 serving before 1998.  Currently, there are cases pending in British courts in which Gurkha soldiers have sued for pay, pension money and war compensation equal to that of other British soldiers.  If the government loses, it may put an end to Gurkha recruitment, according to British authorities.  The February 15 marchers demanded that the UN and international law be respected.  Although Temba Tsheri Sherpa, the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest, is not a Gurkha, he joined the demonstration, carrying a banner that said, “Let’s Live in Peace.”  Another group that took to the streets on February 18 to protest a possible US invasion of Iraq was organized by all ten of the Communist parties in Nepal.   (Kathmandu Post, February 14, 15)


Some Progress in Refugee Situation. The long-standing argument about what to do with the 100,000 Bhutanese refugees who have been living in camps in southeastern Nepal for the past 12 years is inching towards at least a partial solution. After intensive talks between the foreign ministers of Nepal and Bhutan, the former country has tentatively accepted Bhutan’s proposal that the refugees be asked whether they want to live in Nepal or Bhutan and those who choose Bhutan be taken back.  According to one official, “both Bhutan and Nepal agreed to show flexibility and an accommodative spirit under which Bhutan would take back those who were forcibly evicted and, significantly, those who willingly left the country.  Nepal, on the other hand, has agreed not to force those refugees who do not want to go back.”  Those who do want to return to Bhutan may find that their homesteads have been taken over by other Bhutanese. Bhutanese donors are said to be considering some kind of rehabilitation support for these.  Activist refugees have denounced the agreement.  “As citizens of Bhutan, we have the right to return to our country,” says one of their leaders.  “They can’t just take some of us back and leave the others behind.”  Refugees from six camps have joined 4,000 at Khudunabari Camp in a relay hunger strike that has been going on for more than a month.  (Kathmandu Post, Nepali Times, February 7)





Foreign Employment Up.  According to government figures, 50,134 Nepalis left the country in search of work in the first six months of the current fiscal year, more than twice as many as during the same period last year.  Most go to the Gulf countries (12,954 to Qatar; 8,612 to Saudi Arabia) or Malaysia (22,659).  The numbers are expected to increase with South Korea’s offer of jobs for 4,200 Nepalis and the Gulf countries’ recent revocation of a ban on Nepali women workers.  Nepal’s government encourages this migration and in fact has even included a Rs 100,000 (US $1,280) item in its budget for collateral-free loans for foreign job-seekers.  Remittances form a major chunk of the national income (see below).  Besides, giving employment to those who can find no work at home helps reduce social problems.  (Kathmandu Post, January 22)


Conflict Causes Large-Scale Emigration.  One thing that the cease-fire may discourage is a large-scale departure of Nepalese people from their home country.  Although it is nothing new for Nepalis to leave Nepal in search of work (many leave after harvest time to find seasonal work in India, and many others leave for good simply because the living is better - there may be more Nepalis living outside of their country than in it) , “The Peoples’ War” is probably responsible for something that could be described as  a large exodus.  No-one knows the exact number of people who have been leaving, but at one checkpoint on the border beyond Nepalgunj, border police officials counted more than 8,000 people departing  in one week in December.  “We left because it was getting more and more dangerous,” said one of them.  “The soldiers come and want to know about Maoists, and the Maoists come and punish us for talking to soldiers.”  People who leave their villages need letters from authorities to prove to police on both sides of the border that they are not Maoists, but because most local village offices and police posts no longer exist, they have go to their district’s headquarters where usually they have to pay a bribe to lower level officials.  “Incidents like this,” says one observer, “make many villagers glad to be leaving a land where there is no justice any more and where they are exploited both by the government and the rebels.”  Nepalis do not need a visa to cross the border into India, yet it is possible with an increasingly tight job market in India, they may not be welcome for long.  It is also hard to assess what the departure of some 16,000 Nepalis, mostly able-bodied men, will mean to Nepal and its economy in the long run.  (Nepali Times, December 13)


Recommends Better System for Getting Money into Nepal.  Sending money to Nepal through its banking system is an “unnecesarily lengthy and complicated” process, claims Nepal’s Ambassador to Qatar.  Because of this, most of the 70,000 Nepalis working in that country route their money through India, Hong Kong, Singapore or other countries, where money handlers change take charge of getting it to Nepal in rupees (and make a profit on the exchange).  Thus both the individual recipient - who receives less money than was deposited - and the Nepalese economy - which depends on money sent from Nepalis abroad as its greatest source of convertible currency - suffer.  The ambassador’s charges are backed up by studies conducted by Nepal’s central state bank, Nepal Rastra Bank.  These show that, although an estimated Rs 72 billion is sent intoNepal each year, the official remittance intake is around Rs 12 billion - or only 20 percent of the total.  He is recommending a restructuring of that part of the banking system that handles remittances and a mechanism to insure their quick delivery.  (Kathmandu Post, February 15)


The Money That Never Got There.  Raju Pakhrin looks like a man you can trust. Otherwise he would not have been able to collect some Rs 5.5 million (around US $70,500) from fellow Nepalis working in Saudi Arabia on the promise that he would deliver it to their families in Nepal.  Instead he has disappeared, taking the money with him.  Perhaps he will re-appear in six months, as he did earlier this year after collecting Rs 3 million (around US $38,500) from 50 Nepali workers, and explain, as he did then, that the money had vanished because of the deception of “some agents.”  But maybe this time his involuntary benefactors may be less likely to believe him and entrust him with more of their money.  It now appears that he has practiced the same scam in Bangkok, where some time earlier he cheated 40 people out of Rs 2.5 million (around US $32,000). “These Nepalese left their country because of financial weakness and are suffering the scorching heat of this desert to accumulate a little money,” says one of the Saudi workers, “but somehow they never seem to be free of the clutches of cheaters and imposters here either.”  (Kathmandu Post, December 24)


Japanese High Court Convicts Nepali.  Readers may remember Govinda Prasad Mainali, the Nepali national who was accused in Japan of robbing and murdering a Japanese woman, acquitted by the Tokyo District Court, but then re-arrested.  Now, convicted again of committing the crime by the Japanese High Court, he is back in jail.  It is not only his brother (who was allowed to seem him no more than 15 minutes - during which time he  found him “irritated and upset”) who worries about the verdict.  There are apparently many Japanese who are concerned that justice has not been done.  In a five-column article, The Japan Times presents a picture that is generally sympathetic to Mainali, noting that the only evidence against him is circumstantial, and quoting his brother:  “How could he commit such a serious crime, risking his own life for a few hundred dollars?”  (he did not need the money, said his brother; he had already earned Rs 3 million while in Japan (about US $40,000).  Although sympathetic, the newspaper expressed no surprise at the High Court’s decision. Only one person brought before it in one year;s  1,436 cases was acquitted.  (Rising Nepal,  February 13)



Children are Victims in Insurgency.  Many of the casualties of “The People’s War” have been children.  One hundred sixty-eight of them have been killed in the six-year conflict and 95 severely injured, according to a human rights group, Child Workers in Nepal Concerned Center (CWIN).  Some 2,000 have lost their parents and 4,000 have been uprooted with their families.  More than 10,000 have been denied access to education because of the insurgency,  and 1,089 have simply disappeared.   The Center is also worried by reports that many children have been recruited into the Maoist’s army, but it is also concerned that at least 100 have been arrested by the army.  Of the hundreds who have fled their homes fearing for their safety, many have “involved themselves in dangerous work for a living.”  The Center is probably including those who have allowed themselves to be commercially exploited for sexual purposes in dance halls and restaurants in the city and on the street “ by local and foreign pedophiles.”  It has recorded 137 cases of trafficking in minors.  A joint survey conducted by CWIN with Norway’s Save The Children reveals that 20 percent of the children in Kathmandu have been subjected to sexual abuse.  Even if “The Peoples’ War” is responsible for leaving children psychologically scarred (encouraging violent tendencies or causing them to be “locked up in fear and depression”), it cannot, of course, be blamed for all of the children’s problems.  CWIN reports that a number of reasons might explain 46 youthful suicides during the year, including poverty, family tension, frustration in love affairs and failure in exams.  Sixteen percent of Kathmandu’s street children are addicted to drugs.  Fifty-six percent are smokers; 26 percent take snuff; whereas 54 percent inject drugs into their bodies.  More than 50% of Kathmandu street children have been found to be addicted to glue sniffing.  (The New York Times, January 16; Kathmandu Post, February 3)


Children Rescued from Factory Slavery.  It may not be every kid who has the good fortune to find a wallet with Rs 10,000 in it  (the equivalent of around US $128) but that is what happened to 14-year-old Bijay Giri as he was on his way to school in the southeastern district of Jhapa.  He had never seen that much money in his life and decided to use it to go to the big city.  Unfortunately when he arrived in Kathmandu, he found that the money had disappeared.  Alone and penniless, he did not know what to do.  When a friendly young man appeared and offered him a job along with food and shelter, he  followed him to the Jaya Banglamukhi Wool Factory in Boudha.  He had no idea of  what he was getting into.  “We were constantly beaten and never allowed to go outside the factory,”  one of his youthful fellow workers at the factory explained after being rescued with Bijay and 12 other children by Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN) in early January.  “We had to work more than 18 hours a day and often we were not fed enough.”  They were locked up at night to prevent their escape.  Yet nine of them once broke out and got as far as Bhaktapur.  They were caught there, severely beaten, and locked in a room for 16 hours.  What brought CWIN into the picture is not known, but the organization not only was able to rescue the kids but has filed charges against the wool factory.  Four of the children have filed a complaint against the man who enticed them into its employment for “indulging in the flesh trade.”  He seems to have disappeared.  (Kathmandu Post, January 31)


The Nepalese Taliban at Work.  Although it has been declared illegal, the caste system is still a strong force in Nepalese society.  There are about a dozen boys in Sanhaitha (in Sirhaha in south central Nepal) who can tell you about that.  They have been banned from taking part in any of the tribal affairs of their village after they were found to have had a meal at the house of an untouchable in their village.  (Kathmandu Post, November 22)



Foreigners Take Lead in Cleaning Tundikhel.  No-one other than its  users has the responsibility for cleaning upTundikhel, the large park and parade ground in the center of Kathmandu, and generally speaking, the users don’t care.  But one day when staff members of an international youth-focused development organization, Students Partnership Worldwide (SPW) were returning from the rural communities where they had been conducting educational and environmental programs, they had the idea of applying the same litter-campaigns that they used in the villages to the city.  They got together with other organizations, talked the municipality into providing trucks for carrying away the litter, and showed up with 85 volunteers, who combed the area and rid it of its garbage.  They hoped their effort would set an example.  “It is better to become an example than to go around citing one,” said an SPW officer.  “If foreigners can clean Tundikhel,” demanded a Nepali member of the group, “why can’t we?”  (Kathmandu Post, February 2) 


Night Life in Kathmandu Gets Livelier.  Not long ago, bars, restaurants and snooker houses were rare in Nepal but in a short time, they have become a popular feature in the lifestyle of the young, particularly those who come from the wealthier families.  Satellite television is said to be responsible, along with other developments in information technology.  Bars that initially opened to entertain tourists now cater mainly to Nepalese.  Although most visitors are described as “unemployed youths with a strong financial background,” the clubs and bars cater to a wide class of patrons.  “It’s fun to come to discos on weekends and holidays with friends,” says a 9th grader, reflecting a desire of many just to have a chance to keep abreast of global culture.  Traditionalists note the contrast between these urban pleasures and life for young people outside of the city, and worry about the invasion of western culture.  “If not controlled in time,” grumbles one of them, “a time will come when the upcoming generation will accept western culture as their own, oblivious to the rich heritage bequeathed by their ancestors.  (Spotlight,  January 10)


The Leopards of Kirtipur.  A leopard that injured five people, including three women, in Kathmandu was darted near Kirtipur in the western suburbs of the capital, and after a night at the zoo, released “in the wild,” as was, apparently, another leopard that had “unleashed a reign of terror in Kirtipur and Lalitpur.”   Zoo officials offered no explanation for why they freed the animals instead of keeping them in the zoo.  When a third leopard appeared in Kirtipur, “attacking residents and killilng domestic animals,” the local people took matters in their own hands and killed it without informing the authorities.   (, January 26, February 17)



Driven From her Village on Illegitimate Birth Charge.  Kanchhi Biswokarma of Ranichuri village in the east central part of Nepal has been forced by her neighbors to leave town.  Her crime was  that she engaged in “illicit relations” with a Maoist and ended up with a child.  Kanchhi is a dalit, a member of an oppressed class, whose husband was shot dead in what is described as a “security action” some five years ago.  It was not a Maoist who is the father of her son, she claims, but a fellow villager, Prem Kumar Magar, who had pretended to assist her after her husband’s death but instead  had sexually exploited her.  This had gone on for a long time. Prem Kumar seems now to have disappeared and his relatives are insisting that it was not he but a Maoist who is reponsible for the child.  They have been backed up in this by the local administration and local political parties.   “Everybody has favored the accused because I am a dalit,” claims Widow Biswokarma, who has registered a complaint at the police station demanding the right to certify the paternal relation of her son, a necessary step before the boy can be baptised.  She is also looking for help from human rights organizations.  (Kathmandu Post, January 21)


Squatters’Homes Demolished by “Upper-Caste” Villagers.  At a time when householders were away at a nearby health center where they had taken their children for polio shots, their neighbors attacked and destroyed their houses.  The victims were Chamars, described as “a supposedly low-caste community that works with skin and hides,” and the land that they had built their houses on in a village in the southeastern district of Siraha was owned by the state but had been traditionally used by higher-caste local residents for grazing cattle.  These had earlier asked authorities to remove the people they viewed as squatters on their communal land but the Chamars said they would not budge unless an  arrangement was made for alternate living space.  Besides destroying ten houses, the 40 or 50 attackers were accused of carrying away ten chickens, a sack of rice and a sack of rice-grain.  One woman who had tried to intervene was severely beaten.  The Chamars have lodged a complaint with police but in the meanwhile have no place to stay.  During Siraha’s current cold spell they have been surviving by huddling around fires and sleeping on hay that they have begged from sympathetic villagers.  (Kathmandu Post, January 7)


Wild Boars Do the Herding.  Nobody in the village of Lamitar (in south central Nepal) tends sheep any more.  They have turned this task over to wild boars.  They catch them young in a nearby jungle and train them to herd both cattle and sheep.  “Even a human herder is not as skillfull as these wild beasts,” says a 50-year-old resident.  Every one of the 193 homes in this village has from two to five wild boars.  Those who do not become herders end up in the market, where  they can be sold as a meat delicacy at a large profit.  The use of wild boars has helped the community in more ways than one.  Because there is no longer a need for the children to go out with the cattle and sheep, they can go to school.  “How could we have sent our children to school,” asks a resident, “without the help of the boars?”  (Kathmandu Post, February 4)



Princess Marries Commoner.  If an observer had suddenly popped into the Royal Palace the evening of January 22 (an impossibility these days with post palace massacre security), he might discover His Majesty busy washing the feet of his only daughter and the man she was about to marry, while the Queen poured the water over them.  It was not some quirky foot fetish nor an obsession with royal cleanliness.  The foot washing, which takes place to the accompaniment of Vedic chanting, is an important part of the ritual by which a king gives away his daughter. In this case, Princess Prearana was about to take the hand of Raj Bahadur Singh, a computer science graduate from the University of California.  Although the groom is a commoner, the marriage had been arranged by the parents of the Princess.  Commentators note that Nepali royals have often married wealthy locals, or into India’s princely families.  King Gyanendra raised his new son-in-law’s position to that of a royal family member by conferring upon him the title of “Kumar.”   (Reuters, January 17;, January 22, et al.)



Ex-RNAC Chief Accused in Biggest Corruption Case.  Ramagya Prasad Chaturvedi, a former Chairman of Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation, started his career with just five bighas of land.  He now owns properties worth Rs 77.1 million (close to US $1 million).  When asked by the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIIA) where it came from, he could account only for Rs 8.1 (about US $104,000).   His wife has disappeared after testifying before the Commission.  His two children did not even show up to explain their case before the CIAA.  The latter body makes it plain that it has named them and their mother as defendants only for the purpose of confiscating property in their names.  Its case against Chaturvedi “for amassing wealth beyond his means” is so far the biggest corruption related case (in terms of the amount of property) in the investigating body’s history.  (Rising Nepal, February 13)


Busy Bandits.  In the space of one hour (2-3 am), a group of 70 to 80 bandits managed to make off with valuables from some 20 houses, including that of the Village Development Chairman, in three villages near the Indian border of India in the southeastern district of Siraha.  Only 15 days earlier, 18 houses in the same area had been looted.  Authorities have announced that, at the request of locals, they have transferred the assistant sub-inspector for police to another post.  (Kathmandu Post, January 31)


Next Time She Will Ask for Their Birth Certificates.  Dhan Kumari Limbu was delighted when two nephews whom she had not seen since they were infants showed up in her village in Sunsari district in southeastern Nepal and became regular visitors at her house for about a month.  One day they told her about a problem: they had Indian currency worth Rs 1.2 million (about US $14,100) that they needed to exchange for Nepalese rupees.  Dhan was happy to help her relatives and brought out the money that her husband had sent her from his job in Brunei.  The nephews opened their briefcase to show her the Indian money.  She says that it had a strong smell of medicine and that it made her sort of dizzy.  She remembers going with the nephews to the bus stop to bid them farewell as they left for an unknown destination and then coming home to collapse.  At 2 that afternoon, she came to herself and took a look in the briefcase.  There was no money - only some papers, a syringe and a pouch smelling of the medicine that had made her dizzy.  She reported the matter to the police but the phony nephews were already long gone.   “I had really believed they were my nephews from the paternal side, “ she wailed to a reporter, “but they have deceived me in such a way!  What will I do now?”  (Kathmandu Post, January 15)


Caught Smuggling Rhino Horns.  How do you look casual in an airport when you are carrying seven rhino horns?  This man, identified only as a Nepali national, apparently did not manage to fool anybody.  He was arrested in Japan’s Narita Airport in early January for smuggling contraband goods.  One-horned rhinos are an endangered species and their population in Nepal has been rapidly dwindling, especially in recent months.   (Kathmandu Post, January 9)



16 Dead in Bus Accident.  This driver apparently had trouble seeing the road in heavy fog on the road between Deupur and Banepa, just east of Kathmandu valley, and missed a turn.  The bus plunged 200 meters (more than 650 feet) into a ditch, killing 16 people including five children.  Sixty others were injured.  (Spotlight, January 21)



No-one Knows What Kinds of Things Are Going On Inside Barun-Makalu Park.  “We don’t know what’s happening inside the park,” admitted the man who is supposedly in charge of the Barun-Makalu National Park and Conservation Area, Warden Nilambar Mishna. About a year ago, Maoist rebels destroyed its headquarters in Sedua in Sankhuwasava district, as well as area offices in Hatiya and Tanpu (in the same district) and Bung in Solukhumbu, seized most of its equipment and evicted all park personnel from the reserve.  “We are guarding this office here,” says Warden Mishna, indicating an ill-furnished building that now houses the park’s 60-member staff, “while criminal elements are increasing their illegal activities in the park.  . . . What I can tell you for sure is that there is a lot going on there, such as logging and poaching and even trading.”   The Park borders Tibet to the north with its possible avenues to China’s lucrative markets for such goods as musk pod, bear bile, snow leopard hides, and other wildlife products used as medicine and aphrodisiacs.  The Park is rich in a diversity of flora and fauna that includes 56 endangered plant species and such rare and endangered animals as red pandas, musk deer, wild boars and snow leopards.  There are some 32,000 people living in 12 villages in the Conservation Area buffer zone.  The key goal of the Park’s management plan was to alleviate poverty by involving them in participatory conservation and guardianship of the Park’s resources.  “We have not been able to establish any communication whatsoever with the people,” admitted one member of its staff.  Meetings have been made impossible.  “Local villagers are unhappy.  They refuse to speak out.”  The government has been of no help.  It has cut the annual funds for the Park by two thirds.  (Kathmandu Post, January 31)


Oldest Elephant Dies.  Mahendragaga (“Grandpa Mahendra”), the oldest domesticated elephant in Nepal, passed away quietlty at the age of 81 at Royal Chitwan National Park on January 14.  He apparently got his name from the fact that he was the elephant that the late King Mahendra used to ride on visits to the park.  (, January 15)


Woman Axes Leopard to Death.  You don’t fool around with Maya Baida, as one leopard learned too late.  When it attacked Maya and her 60-year-old mother in their home in Makwanpur south of Kathmandu, Maya fought back with an axe.  Unlike the leopard, the ladies survived the encounter but were taken to Kathmandu for treatment of their injuries that turned out not to be life-threatening.  (, January 13)


Building - and Distributing - a Better Mouse Trap.  These were not elephants that were ravaging the countryside but mice.  But thanks to government action, the mice are on the run.  Twenty farmers were given mouse traps after the rodents had “ravaged crops in Byas municipality and sundry other localities.”  The mouse traps have done their work.  Farmers in the area report a marked decline in the mouse population.  (Kathmandu Post, November 22)



A Bezruchka Report on Current Travel.  Readers - especially those thinking about making a visit to  Nepal - might be interested in a first-hand account of a recent visit to that country by Stephen Bezruchka, author of Trekking in Nepal: A Travelers’ Guide.  In his two weeks in the country, he made a trip to Turturi, north of Dumre, walked to Ampipal in Gorkha district, visited Pokhara and Baglung, flew to Biratnagar and made several trips to  Banepa.  “I had some security trepidations before going,” he admits, “but aside from army presence and check areas along the highways, as well as checks in Kathmandu at night, little appeared to have changed since my last trip two years ago.  Again, superficially, the fear I expected to see in Nepal wasn’t evident.  People went about their lives much as they had before.  I had expected to find many activities curtailed, but at least in the places I went, this didn’t appear to be so.”  He was not aware of encountering Maoists even when travelling in some areas where they are known to be strong.  Although the army was more visible, it offered him no challenge.  “It is hard to know where the army’s influence ends and the Maoist begins,” he says.  “In walking to Ampipal in Gorkha district, one leaves the army presence in the river bottom and one can assume their influence is gone, yet Mao presence isn’t apparent.  However, people are missing and there are stories about suspected Maoists being killed by the police.  The soldiers are mere kids with WW II rifles, carried casually, sometimes with the barrel tips touching the ground.  Some wear armor-plate vests and armor halos encircling the head, or helmets.  There is no sense of disciplined presence.  Sitting behind bunkers or walking along the roads, they seem like sitting ducks.  They don’t tend to bother foreigners - just wave them by.  Airport security is just as perfunctory for foreigners...”  (e-mail communication, February 12)


Bleak Days in Thamel.  “Thamel today bears a very different look from what it used to be three years back,” notes one journalist.  “The usual hustle and bustle of the travel and trade agents, the crowd of tourists, the shouting hawkers - are all gone.”  With the disappearance of the tourists, some hotels and restaurants have gone out of business.  Others have closed temporarily, sending their workers home with the promise that if things get better, they can return to their jobs.  Because workers have been forced to move elsewhere, many flats and rooms are empty.  With fewer tourists, competition has become more intense.  The smaller hotels accuse the larger ones of price-cutting.  Some “star” hotels are said to be renting rooms for Rs 200 (around US $2.50).  Others are promising one free night for every two-night stay.  Now everyone is waiting to see if things will pick up in the spring tourist season.  “As there is no room for slahsing costs any more,” says one hotelier, “it looks like the next season will decide the future of a number of hotels.”  (Kathmandu Post, January 13)



To the Editors of the Guinness Book of Records: Hold the Presses!  Fifty years after the first ascent of Mt. Everest, there are still records to be made, and a number of climbers are lined up ready to make them.  One of these is Velentin Bojoukov, known in his native Russia as “The Leopard of Snow,” who, at 69, wants to be the oldest climber to reach the summit.  He has been climbing for 50 years and visited Nepal nine times but has never gone higher than 7,500  meters (24,600 feet).  Two Sherpas, Pemba Dorje and Lakpa, are in competition to make the fastest climb of Everest.  Appa Sherpa has already been to the summit more times than anyone else (12) but hopes to rack up his 13th with an American expedition this season.  One record has already been broken.  With 14 expeditions already finalized by the government and three awaiting approval, there will be more attempts on Mt. Everest than ever before.  At this point, 1,226 people have successfully climbed the mountain - some more than once (there have been a total of 1,502 ascents).  One-hundred-seventy-two people have died on it, 50 of them Sherpas and seven others Nepali nationals.  (Kathmandu Post, February 14)


Mountaineers Call for Recognition from Government. “Has anybody bothered to know why Tenzing Norgay became an Indian national?” demanded Da Gombu Sherpa, President of the Nepal Mountaineering Instructors Association, at a meeting of climbers and tourism entrepreneurs in January.  “If the government had bestowed the honor and social security he deserved after climbing Everest, possibly he would have stayed in Nepal.”  Da Gombu and others at the meeting urged the  government to give recognition to its Everest climbers and to provide them and their families with economic relief.  “All the foreign climbers who have climbed Everest have succeeded because of us,” pointed out Appa Sherpa, who has reached the summit of the world’s highest mountain a record 12 times (see above).  Because mountaineering forms the backbone  of Nepal’s tourism industry, he called for the government to accord due priority to preserving mountains and promoting mountain tourism.  One step that could be taken would be to assign experienced Sherpa climbers to foreign expeditions as liaison officers.  “Why can’t the government recruit trained and experienced Sherpas as liaison officers,” asked Da Gombu, “and forget sending dishonest civil servants?”  Under the present system, few of the non-Sherpas assigned (and paid) as  liaison officers to each mountaineering expedition get as far as base camp and those who do tend to spend no more than a day there.  There were also suggestions that mountain guides should receive the kind of training that can equip them for guiding on mountains outside of Nepal, as some of them are now doing in Pakistan and Tibet.  “We welcome your suggestions,” said the government’s representative at the meet, “so let’s sit together and discuss about it.”  (Kathmandu Post, January 14)


Was Tenzing a National Hero?  Tenzing Norgay Sherpa may be the best known of all Nepalis in the world and a man who, by making the first ascent of Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, has brought more acclaim to Nepal than any other.  Yet the government of Nepal is reluctant to grant him the status of national hero, even in a year when the whole world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his historic climb.  “There is a problem,” says an official in Nepal’s Tourism Ministry.  “Declaring him a national hero is difficult.”  The problem, apparently, is that, although born of Nepalese parents and brought up in the mountains of Nepal, he moved to Darjeeling as a teen-ager along with many other Nepalis to take advantage of its better opportunities for joining climbing expeditions, and, after the Everest climb, returned to live there, accepting Indian citizenship along with his Nepali citizenship.  There have been many attempts through the years to convince the government to recognize him with its Rashtriya Vibhutis award, given posthumously to Nepal’s most distinguished citizens. The pressure in this anniversary year is particularly strong.  “Tenzing reached the top of Mt. Everest as a Nepali and even hoisted a Nepali flag there,” notes the General Secretary of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), which has taken a leading part in demanding that he be recognized. (It seems not to have bothered anyone that the Lord Buddha, whose Rashtriya Vibhutis award was uncontested,  was born in Nepal but spent most of his life in India.)  The NMA has joined other mountaineering organizations in recommending a number of other distinguished mountaineers as national heroes, including Phu Dorjee Sherpa, Sundare Sherpa, Babu Chhiri Sherpa, Appa Sherpa, Ang Rita Sherpa, Kaji Sherpa, Sambhu Tamang, Lhakpa Sherpa, Pema Doma Sherpa, and Temba Tsiri Sherpa (see below, “Youngest Climber...”).  The honor  has already been conferred on the first Nepali woman to climb Everest, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa - although some argue that she did not actually reach the summit before her death on the mountain.  Tenzing Norgay’s son Jamling understands that there is a difference between official and real recognition.  “Whether the government declares Tenzing a national hero or not,” he says, “every Nepali accepts him as a national hero and it certainly comes from the heart.”  (The Sunday Post, January 5; The Observer, January 19)


A Cyber Cafe at Everest Base Camp.  Everest base camp is to be outfitted with an internet cafe.  That is the plan of Tsering Gyaltsen Sherpa of Namche Bazar,the mountain's nearest large village, who, with several high-tech helpers based in America, is working to set it up in time for the March climbing season.  At that time, some 1,000 climbers are expected to arrive in hopes of climbing Mt. Everest during the 50th anniversary year of its first ascent by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. It seems appropriate not only that it be a Sherpa who is responsible for the cyber project but that it be Tsering Gyaltsen, who is the grandson of the only living Sherpa to have accompanied the original expedition, Gaga ("Grandfather") Gyaltsen.  Jim Foster, who works for Cisco Systems in the USA, has donated three radios that can relay wireless network data from base camp which is situated on a moving glacier to a satellite dish planted on solid ground some 1,500 feet above it.  From there, it will be beamed to an orbiting satellite and thence to an internet service provider in Israel.  Expedition members, who normally occupy base camp for at least four weeks, will probably be grateful for an opportunity to talk to the world outside, and Tsering Gyaltsen and his friends are hoping for a modest profit - but not for themselves.   Whatever money is earned will go to the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee, a non-profit group dedicated to cleaning Everest of litter.  In off months, the radios will be taken to Namche Bazar, some three to six day's march away, where they will be hooked up to the existing satellite dish which Tsering Gyaltsen uses for his internet service there.  They then will be linked to the local school to expand educational facilities and help raise the educational level in the area.  "My friends who are well-educated," he says of villagers who have left to get an education and never returned, "are doctors or engineers but they don't want to come back here.  Yet these are the people we need here."  (The New York Times, January 23)


Youngest Climber Wants to Use Reward to Help Village Kids.  Since the government has decreed that no-one under the age of 16 is now allowed to climb Mt. Everest, Temba Tsiri Sherpa will carry the lifetime distinction of being the youngest to have reached its summit.  His ascent in 2001 at that age has been recognized in the Guinness Book of Records, which has also given him a cash reward.  He wants to use some of this to open up a school in Tashinam, the village where he was born, “since my birthplace has played a pivotal part in my success.”  The institute that he wants to establish for this purpose, Dolakha Mountaineer Association, will be dedicated to helping the whole high-mountain area of  Rolwaling in which his village is situated, educationally and economically and through the development of tourism.  The proposed chairman of the institute, Temba Tsiri, will not be able to take office until after he finishes his high school final exams and passes his School Leaving Certificate exam.  (Kathmandu Post, January 21)



Students Call Off Strike, Threaten Another.  Maoist students, who had threatened an indefinite shutdown of schools if certain demands were not met, called off their strike after the cease-fire was announced.  In the meanwhile, one of their demands - that private schools lower their fees - is being met.  The Public and Boarding Schools’ Organization of Nepal (PABSON) is now putting pressure on the 8,500 schools that form its membership to reduce tuition fees up to 25 percent.  Meanwhile, Maoist students at Tribhuvan University locked up the office of the Vice Chancellor and the Election Officer in an effort to force the university to make public the whereabouts of missing colleagues.  They have other demands.  They want free medical treatment for wounded students, enrollment of students who could not be admitted during the 10-month state of emergency declared by the government last year, and non-interference by security forces on campus.  They warn that if these demands are not met, they will stage a strike and disrupt classes.  (Kathmandu Post, January 14;, February 5, 16)


Students “Manhandled” by Army on Way to Rally.  Around a hundred students who were on their way from Dhangadhi to attend a Nepali Congress (NC) mass meeting in Mahendranagar in southwestern Nepal were stopped at an army  post for a security check.  The students were in a hurry and worried that the check would not allow them to get to the meeting on time.  As they tell the story, it was when they urged the soldiers to speed up the process that the latter began to beat them up.  Around two dozen students were “manhandled” after being made to stand in line.  The army also tore up the party flag.  NC President Girija Prasad Koirala protested the incident and demanded a probe.  The head of the NC student union saw it as evidence that “the palace is gradually tilting toward active monarchy.”  (, February 6)




Nepali Movies Not Making the Grade.  “It is high time we discussed the possible measures to improve the quality of Nepali movies,” announced Ashok Sharma, General Secretary of the Nepali Film Producers Association.  There is more than one theory for why things have not been going well for the film industry in Nepal.  Some say it is because the industry does not put enough money into making films of quality.  Others point to what they call “gross technical ignorance.”  Director Dayaram Dhahal thinks the problem is that Nepali movie-makers copy too much from Hindi movies.  “Every country has its own social, cultural, and political make-up,” he says.  “A movie should always relate to the uniqueness of the country where it is made.”  (Kathmandu Post, December 26)


A Toni Hagen Film.  It may be a while before it reaches your neighborhood movie theater, but Toni Hagen, who as a geologist traveled the full length of Nepal in the 1950s,  has released a film, Ring of the Buddha, which, when it was premiered in Germany received glowing reviews from both critics and the audience.  Few foreigners had been allowed in Nepal when Hagen made his survey,  and the book that followed, Nepal, did much to attract attention and tourists to the country.  The documentary begins in 1999 with the 82-year-old explorer returning to Nepal with Chogye Trichen Rinpoche.   Past and present are woven together in a script covering five decades of change in Nepal.  Hagen is currently recovering from a bad case of flu in a hospital in St. Moritz.  (Nepali Times, February 14)



Christians Plan Missionary Campaign.  There are little more than 600,000 Christians in Nepal, less than one percent of its population, yet according to a Christian publication, Christianity Today, Nepal has one of the fastest-growing Christian populations among Asia’s 51 countries.  A recent meeting of more than three dozen senior Christian missionaries at “a quiet resort just outside of the capital city” was devoted to forming “overarching strategies for the Himalayan region [Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan]” to  encourage this growth. These included targeting “people not yet reached”; establishing a presence in the “neediest geographic areas”; and encouraging and promoting an indigenous Nepali missions movement.  The areas of Nepal that were deemed to need most attention were its northern Tibetan Buddhist districts, the far west, and some districts in the Terai.  As part of this campaign, the missionaries hope to “place personnel in national organizations or in government-sponsored positions.”  They aim to establish churches on several different levels, from primary to discipleship, and give the missionary movement a “bi-vocational” character by combining its “church planting vocation” with projects that give it a “credible presence in the country,” such as hospitals.  They recommend that their members seek non-tourist visas for entry into the country since “we believe it is easier to live and work in the Himalayan region as a resident expatriate.”  Student visas that later could be converted might be considered as an opening option.  Nepal, the world’s only official Hindu nation, allows freedom of worship but forbids proselytizing. The International Hindu Federation strongly condemned the Christian missionary plan after news of it was released, stating that any activity aimed against the national religion is a serious crime.  The Christian effort may have been inspired by Pope Paul II’s call for greater evangelization in Asia and a need for “aggressive conversion” there.  (Kathmandu Post, January 10, 14; February 10)


Lord Pashupatinath Goes On Line.  You no longer have to go to Kathmandu to worship Lord Pashupatinath.  You can offer puja on-line at a website recently established by Pashupati Area Development (  It will cost you from Rs 1100 to Rs 1.1 million (around US $14 to $14,000) to get connected, and if you want to get the prasad (offerings) back, you have to pay a courier charge of Rs 200 (about US $2.50) if you are in India, and US $50 if you are anywhere else.  (The People’s Review, February 13)


Sacrifiing to the Wrong Goddess.  For many years, locals have been sacrificing  goats, buffaloes and chickens before a statue of the goddess Durga in Dev Daha Bhawanipur in Rupandehi district in south central Nepal.  Recent excavations have revealed that the image is not that of Durga at all, but of Maya Devi, the mother of Lord Buddha.  Buddhists, who are opposed to the taking of life, have tried to stop people from sacrificing animals there, and although the practice has decreased, it has not totally stopped.  With its newly discovered identity, the statue has become the second most important place of Buddhist pilgrimage in Nepal, after Lumbini.  “We tried to stop animal sacrifice at Dev Daha,” complained a leader of the local government, “but our efforts have gone in vain.  We sought help from the District Administration Office and the Department of Archaeology but to no avail.  Now we have formed a struggle committee to fight the evil practice.”  (Kathmandu Post, January 20)



Australian Women to Copy Nepalis’ Nude Dance.  Some may worry about the impact of foreign culture on Nepalese society.  But in this case, it is Nepal that is exporting of a cultural practice to a more developed nation.  An Australian publication called The Age reports that some 170 women from the northwestern state of Victoria are planning to duplicate a nude rain dance peformed by the women in the drought-stricken areas of southeastern Nepal last August.  These had put down their ploughs at midnight, doffed their clothes, and danced for Indra, the rain god while chanting hymns.  The men had been locked inside.  “If naked women can bring rain to Nepal,” ask the organizer of the Australia event, “then why not to Australia?”   Their dance “will be totally nude, hence no cameras, no men and media,” and it will be performed in a “ritualistic and sacred style” for which an expert has been hired - not from Nepal but from Adelaide - for advice.  The last year has brought only a third of the area’s usual rainfall.  Among other sufferers are those who raise crocodiles for meat and skin.  The drought has affected the crocodiles’ sex life.  They cannot produce sperm without rain.  (Kathmandu Post, January 14)




Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration  You do not have to go all the way to Nepal  to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first climb of Mt. Everest. The American Himalayan Foundation is bringing Sir Edmund Hillary, surviving member of the two-man team that first stepped on the summit in 1953, to San Francisco along with some 50 other mountaineering greats for a giant party on June 10, 2003 to commemorate the historic event. They would be pleased to have you join the group. Your $200 contribution will help the organization carry on with its many projects in Nepal and other Himalayan countries that are aimed at bettering the lives of people there.  If you DO want to be in Nepal in May when others will be celebrating the first climb, the American Himalayan Foundation can help you with that.  In partnership with Mountain Travel Sobek, they are offering two “special adventures,” one lasting 17 days and the other 24 days, that bring you close to the foot of the world’s highest mountain and give you the chance to celebrate with Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of Tenzing Norgay, among other stalwarts. The real enthusiast is encouraged to take part in one of the adventures AND go to the banquet.  For details, please contact the American Himalayan Foundation at 909 Montgomery St., Suite 400, San Francisco, CA 94133 (415/434-9960; www.himalayan


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