From English language Kathmandu newspapers and other media, May-July 2003                      VII-3



Uneasy Truce.  There are increasing violations of the cease-fire between the government and the Maoist insurgents, yet the truce still remains generally in force.  The country awaits a third round of talks between the two sides but as we go to press this has not yet been scheduled.  In the meanwhile, there is evidence that both sides are trying to build up strength for a resumption of hostilities.  There have been isolated instances of continued Maoist extortion, recruitment of minors and even violence.  Less publicity has been given to the government=s efforts to strengthen its forces in key areas.  American help has also been welcomed.  (see below).  One possibly ominous sign is the Maoist announcement that it had closed its contact office and that its negotiating leaders have gone underground.  The closure follows the arrest (and later release) of its officer-in-charge, Bharat Dhungana, and what the Maoists claim is round-the-clock surveillance of their office and activities.  Government spokesmen now refer to Dhungana=s arrest, which they say was prompted by a charge of extortion, as Aunfortunate@ and promise to investigate the possibility of Aill treatment.@  Dhangana has claimed that he was Ablindfolded, handcuffed and tortured for two hours.  I was questioned inhumanely, unnecessarily and in a non-political manner.@  Kamal Thapa, one of the government=s negotiators, has now given full assurance of the safety of the Maoist negotiating team and urged it to sit for talks as early as possible, promising that  Athe present misunderstandings should come to an end with the resumption of talks.@   (, Kathmandu Post,  et al., June, July)



New Prime Minister.  Nepal has a new prime minister, the fourth in the last two years .  This one, like the last, did not reach this position through a vote but by the King=s appointment.  Lokendra Bahadur Chand, who had had the job after King Gyanendra fired the last elected PM, Sher Bahadur Deuba, in October 2002, handed in his resignation at the end of May.  He had served about 8 months. @The non-cooperational attitude of the parties forced me to resign,@ he said, referring to mounting protests by Nepal=s political parties who have been demanding an elected government.  Following his resignation, the King gathered together the leaders of the major parties, four of whom proposed Madhav Kumar Nepal, a former prime minister and general secretary of the CPN-UML as the group=s choice for prime minister.  The King, however, reached into the past to give the post to Surya Bahadur Thapa, who, after an active political life in the 1950s and >60s, was twice named prime minister (1964-1966, and 1979-1983) under the Panchayat, of which he was a strong supporter. He has been active in the politics of the Rastriya Prajantantra Party (RPP) and was founder of the faction that bears his name.  The new PM has announced that Aour main objective is to establish a democratically elected government,@ but adds that a peaceful resolution to the Maoist problem is a pre-condition for any action on this front. ATo hold the elections,@ he says, Apeace has to be restored inevitably in the country.  For peace, it is imperative to resolve the Maoist problem.  And for a permanent solution to the Maoist problem, national consensus is essential.@  (, Kathmandu Post, May 30, 31; June 4-8).


Political Parties Continue Protest.  Nepal=s major political parties are continuing their protest against the King=s seisure of government last October and what they view as its present undemocratic government.  Normally at odds with one another, five of them have joined in voicing their strong opposition to the King=s firing of Prime Minister Deuba and  replacing him with his own choice of prime minister (now two).  The five parties (Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist, People=s Front Nepal, Nepal Workers and Peasants= Party, and Nepal Sabhawana Party) have recently concluded a five-phase protest program and are now planning a new one.  The resignation of Lokendra Bahadur Chand, who had resolutely opposed the coalition=s demand for re-instating the parliament  (which had been dissolved by Deuba), was seen as a concession by the King.  At an all-party meeting at the Palace,  the latter invited the dissidents to name their choice for prime minister; they picked Madhav Kumar Nepal, present leader of the United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) party.  But, as noted elsewhere, the King then made his own choice of Surya Bahadur Thapa.  The parties have responded with a call for a new constitution that generally takes power from the King and strengthens the parliament.  Party leaders have agreed on a platform that includes abolishing the King=s Council (his main advisory body); placing the function of the Royal Palace under a Ministry of Royal Palace; removing the army from royal control and making it answerable instead to parliament; publicizing the holdings of the royal family; and taking away the King=s discretionary power to enact laws.  Other proposals were of a more cosmetic nature such as restricting the royal title to the King, Queen and Crown Prince; and changing the national anthem to delete its reference to the monarchy.  Demands for re-instatement of the dissolved parliament or the calling of a constituent assembly were conspicuous by their absence from the proposal.  The new demands seem designed not so much to move toward consensus as to keep the political pot boiling.  AIt seems that political leaders who have a long experience of political struggle are choosing a confrontational course, inviting a more chaotic situation and paving the way for another rigid force to emerge in Nepalese politics,@ commented one political analyst.  (Kathmandu Post, Spotlight, June 18-July 15)


Protest Echoed in New York.  Pro-democracy agitation in Nepal had an echo in New York City in late July when scores of New York-based Nepalis gathered outside of the UN building to protest the King=s assumption of power and demand the restoration of democracy.  AFor the last nine months,@ stated one of them in an open letter to the King, Awe have been deprived of a people=s representative government.  The two governments you have appointed since then pass neither the constitutional nor the political litmus test.@  Others who demonstrated here for democracy 12 years ago blamed the politicians as much as the King for Nepal=s present troubles.  AWhat our leaders need is morality,@ said one of them, Aand everything else will fall into place.  This is not a democracy we fought for back in 1990 - to let a few politicians become millionaires.@  (Kathmandu Post, July 22)



Rising Crime Rate.  Nepal has  experienced a rise in armed robberies in the months following the cease-fire, conducted for the most part by gangs of professional thieves that hide behind the reputation of the Maoists in order to discourage investigation (victims worry about reprisal if they report the robbery to the police).  According to eyewitnesses, the gangs pose as security personnel before entering a house.  Once inside, they declare themselves to be Maoists, take whatever they want (sometimes after physically and verbally abusing the inhabitants) and leave.  These incidents are becoming common in towns that border India but Kathmandu Valley >s crime rate, with at least one theft or burglary a day, has also risen dramatically.   In the last six months, more than 250 cases of looting were recorded in the city.  Rising unemployment is thought to be a factor in the rising crime rate, as well as political turmoil and large-scale migration from rural areas to the cities.  (Nepali Times, May 2; Kathmandu Post, June25, 27)


Nepal Scores Low in Motherhood Quality.  The Beatles may think that AAll You Need is Love,@ but the organization Save the Children adds a number of other criteria to what it considers Aquality motherhood.@  It looks at such factors as safe deliveries, health parameters of pregnant women, percentage of women using modern contraceptives, adult female literacy   and participation of women in national government.  According to its standards, Nepal ranks 100 in the world, behind such countries as Pakistan and Bangladesh but ahead of several African countries.  In its AState of the World=s Mother 2003" report, India ranks 89th and China 38th.  Highest on the list are Sweden, Norway and Denmark.  The US ranks 11th.  (Kathmandu Post, June 10)



Belgian Minister in Trouble for Nepal Arms Deal.  A small opposition party in Belgium wants to put that country=s foreign minister, Louis Michel, in jail for life for having approved an arms sale to Nepal=s government.  To accomplish this, the New Flemish Alliance would make use of a controversial law passed in 1993 that calls anyone in the world to account for crimes against humanity.  Michel=s crime, in the opinion of the Alliance, is aiding and abetting a government that is known for human rights abuses.  Belgium=s decision last year to authorize the arms sale to the Nepalese army sparked a government crisis and led to the resignation of one leading minister.  Earlier attempts to bring such world figures to justice  as George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld have been dropped after international criticism and the US threat to freeze its funding for a new NATO army headquarters in Brussels (and in fact to stop coming to meetings there).  As for Mr. Michel, who generally supports the law, he feels the charge against him is Acompletely crazy and irrational.@  (Associated Press, July 2)


Tibetan Deportation Flap.  As reported in our last issue, 18 Tibetans, including some unaccompanied children, who had crossed into Nepal over 19,000-foot Nangpa La in Solukhumbu district, were arrested and jailed in April.  Later they were sent back to Tibet where where it was anticipated they would be punished for their attempt to flee their Chinese-dominated homeland.  The deportation seemed to represent a reversal of a long-standing arrangement between Nepal and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to allow Tibetans entry into the country on their way to India, where the Dalai Lama resides, and international reaction was strongly critical.  Besides the UNHCR, Germany and the UK , the US voiced condemnation..  AThe action not only violates international norms and practices regarding humane treatment of asylum seekers, but also tarnishes the Government of Nepal=s long-standing and well-deserved reputation for tolerance and hospitality,@ announced the US Embassy in Kathmandu.  Senator Diane Feinstein, who had introduced a bill in the US senate seeking better trade terms for Nepal=s garment industry, decided to withdraw it because Aunder these circumstances, I do not believe I can in good conscience proceed to move the Nepalese garment legislation in the US Senate.@  Several major international human rights organizations followed the lead of a California-based group called Ethical Traveler in calling for a tourist boycott of the already tourist-starved country.  Many in Nepal viewed the protests, and especially the boycott,  as out of proportion with the offense. AIf the objective is to ensure Tibetan rights, why not take on the real bully by calling for a broad-based, US-led international boycott of Chinese trade?@ demanded one.  Nepal=s government, which has to tread a thin line between the world=s greatest superpower (which is now supplying it with military hardware) and its powerful neighbor to the north, is trying to dampen the controversy.  AWe have decided it was a mistake,@ says a senior cabinet minister, Aand are trying to convince the Americans it will not happen again.@  (, Kathmandu Post, Nepali Times, June, July)


AS WE GO TO PRESS.... The Associated Press, quoting Radio Free Asia, reports that eight of the 18 deported Tibetans have been freed from their month-long imprisonment at Shigatse Detention Center.  Nine others will be released soon.  One, the guide and organizer of the escape, still faces criminal charges.  China=s Foreign Ministry (which earlier had promised punishment for the whole group, had no comment. (, July 27).  Meanwhile, in the US, Senator Diane Feinstein has assured a visiting Nepalese delegation that she is now convinced that the deportation of the Tibetans was Aa stray incident,@ and once again will try to move her bill in the Senate to help Nepal=s garment industry.  (Kathmandu Post, July 27)


No Birthday Party for Dalai Lama.  In another indication that Nepal=s present government is responsive to pressure from China (see above), it issued orders that the Dalai Lama=s birthday, July 6, should not be publicly celebrated in Nepal.  AWe regret to inform all our valued guests,@ announced a spokeman for the Tibet Refugee Community in Nepal, Athat the Tibetan Cultural Program and Dinner Receptionplanned for the day on July 6, 2003 celebrating the 68th birthday of His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Laureate, had to be cancelled.@  The reason?  AUnavoidable circumstances.@  (, July 6)



US Requests Nepal Send Troops to Iraq.  The United States has asked Nepal to send a battalion of its troops to help maintain the peace in Iraq, according to Kamal Thapa, Minister of Information and Communications.   AWe have received an official letter to cooperate in the task,@ said the Minister, Aand the government is discussing the matter.@  Nepal is only one of a number of nations that the US has turned to in an effort to broaden the character of its peace-keeping forces in Iraq.   (Dow Jones Newswires,  July 4; Daily Times [Pakistan], July 7; Spotlight, July 10)


US Grant to Fight Corruption.  It is widely believed that much of the success of the Maoist insurgency can be explained by the failure of Nepal=s government to address the needs of its own people, especially in rural areas.   International aid agencies who try to help have complained that their efforts are often thwarted by corruption and a shaky administrative structure.  A recent grant by the United States International Agency for International Development (USAID) of US $7.5 million over a three-year period is intended to address these problems.  It is designed to build Amore transparent, accountable and effective governance@ and bolster institutions, including the Finance Ministry and the anti-corruption Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority.  Officials hope that it can be used to improve Nepal=s court system and increase access to justice to the poor.  (Kathmandu Post, ABC Radio Australia News, July 4)


No Love Between the US and the Maoists.  The United States supports the peace process in Nepal but has made it clear it does not want the Maoists to prevail. If, in the words of Deputy Assistan Secretary of State Donald Camp, they were to succeed in replacing Athe constitutional monarchy with an absolute communist regime,@ this Acould destabilize the wider region, and Nepal could quite easily turn into a failed state, a potential haven for terrorists like those we have transformed in Afghanistan.@  The American government has placed the Maoists of Nepal on its world list of terrorist groups and has promised the Nepal government US $70 million for development and $14 million for military aid.  All of this has upset the Maoists.  At a meeting of its central committee in May, Chief Comrade Prachandra presented an analysis of the growing influence of American imperialism and suggested ways of evicting the US from the country.  Later, at a rally in the capital, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, one of the negotiators in talks with the government, accused the US of Aplaying its cards from behind the scenes@ and attempting to sabotage the peace talks. As the US says it  Awill continue to help Nepal defend itself and will support the government in its efforts to retain control of the country,@ the insurgents are launching a people=s campaign to force AAmerican imperialists out of Nepal.@  That has not included any stated intent to harm Americans in Nepal (see below).  (Yahoo News, July 15)


US Embassy Blames Tourist Decline on Turmoil and Maoists.  In its published comments on the effect of Acontinued politics, turmoil and violent street demonstrations@ on the number of American tourists arriving in Nepal, the US Embassy may have have discouraged arrivals even further.  The Embassy appeared to give chief blame to the Maoists for a drop from 40,000 Americans visiting Nepal in 2000 to 16,000 in 2002.  It asserts that Atrekkers being assaulted, robbed at gunpoint, bombings, murders, forced bandhs (closures), and indiscriminate armed attacks through the country@ have Adamaged severely Nepal=s reputation as a safe tourist destination.@  Some in Nepal think this as an overly-alarmist view.  Although there have been isolated (and often ambiguous) incidents of trekkers being accosted or robbed by insurgents, Maoist leaders have insisted that they have no wish to harm tourists and have generally left them alone, even in the areas where insurgents dominate.  As for their attitude toward America=s government, which they see as trying to  block the peace, that is something else (see above).  (, July 10)


4,259 DV Lottery Winners.  The so-called ADiversity Visa@ (DV) lottery is an American attempt to provide a better balance of nationalities coming into the US by means of a lottery that favors citizens of countries with relatively low rates of immigation. This year, the US Embassy in Kathmandu has announced that 4,259 citizens have been selected as candidates for DV-2004.  Their candidacy  does not guarantee them a visa nor even an interview since more than twice as many names are drawn as there are available visas and lottery winners still have to meet such standards as a high school degree or two year=s skilled work experience.  Nepal ranks ninth worldwide in the number of persons chosen as DV candidates, and second in Asia.  Instructions for applying for the next lottery, DV-2005, will be published inAugust of this year.  (Kathmandu Post, July 26)




Heading for Greener Pastures.  Although the number of tourists entering Nepal may have dwindled, Kathmandu=s airport stays busy with Nepalis leaving Nepal to seek jobs in other lands.   One airport official, who processes nearly 400 of these so-called ABipalis@ a day, says that some are so eager to board their plane that they leave their bags behind in the x-ray machine or passports and other valuable documents on the counter.  Airport personnel, who have the reputation for shaking down incoming Nepalese travellers, know there is nothing to extract from the Bipalis and let them pass with only routine questions.  Nepal=s major source of foreign exchange is the money sent home by expatriots; the Bipalis can thus be considered the country=s major export.  (Nepali Times, May 16)


Bhutanese Refugees Unhappy with Report.  Some 100,000 ethnic Nepalis who were either forced to leave Bhutan or decided to leave because they felt their lives there were being made intolerable have been living in UNHRC-sponsored refugee camps in southeastern Nepal while the two governments have stuggled to find a formula that will allow them to  return or give them status in Nepal.  After 14 rounds of talks, the two countries came up with a solution.  The refugees were divided into groups: Bhutanese nationals who had been forcibly evicted; Bhutanese nationals who had willingly emigrated; non-Bhutanese; and criminals.  A joint verification team (JVT) has been interviewing residents of the camps to assign them to their proper category, and, according to a soon-to-be-signed agreement, the first batch of refugees will be returning to their home country this September.  This might seem to be a cause for celebration, yet it has produced such anger among the refugees that some of them have publicly burned the report.  What they are upset about is the team=s determination that most of the refugees fall into the category of willing emigrants.  Although the Bhutanese have said that they will deal with such people leniently, the refugees  know that Bhutan has a law that prohibits re-entry to anyone who has emigrated voluntarily, and anyway feel that their past experience with Bhutan has left them with no reason to trust its government.  In addition, many of them claim that their status as willing emigrants was forced on them.  They say they were made to sign forms saying they were leaving of their own free will before being loaded into trucks and taken across India to Nepal in 1991-92.  As for those who opt to stay in Nepal as citizens, they too may have difficulties.  AWe assure you,@ says a Nepalese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aour naturalization process is not easy.  You shouldn=t believe that so many refugees will become Nepali citizens.@   More talks are scheduled for August of this year.  (Kathmandu Post, July 21;, Nepali Times, June 27)


Held for Ransom in Kuwait.  Chhatra Kumar Rai of Mechi was eager to hear from his 21-year-old daughter Shamista who had gone to Kuwait last year to seek employment, yet the daily phone calls he received in late May have caused him nothing but anxiety and distress.  Each call lasted only 30 seconds and in each his daughter repeated the same words: ADaddy, I have been taken hostage by a man who has threatened to kill me unless I manage to give them ransom money.@ The kidnappers wanted the equivalent of 60,000 rupees (around US $800), but Chhatra Kumar is a poor man.  He cannot even afford to fly to Kathmandu from his home in the far east of Nepal to enlist the help of authorities there in bringing back his daughter.  It had been understood when she left that she would be working in a Kuwaiti hospital.  But after a three-month wait in Delhi, she ended up as a domestic servant in a Kuwaiti household.  She had written him from there asking for his bank account number so she could send money home.  Her father had originally paid 25,000 rupees (about US $325) to the agent of an Indian-based manpower supply agency to arrange overseas employment for Shamista.  After receiving the telephone calls, he approached the agent.  The latter Awas rude to him@ and told him to call the agency.  He dialed the number that the man gave him Abut it does not work.@  He has now filed a complaint against the agent,  but the latter has disappeared.  (Kathmandu Post, May 27)


Another Kidnapped Nepali in Kuwait.  In another incident of a Nepalese woman being held for ransom in Kuwait, the employers of Iswari Karki, who has been working as a house maid in their household for the last five months, have telephone her husband to announce that he must pay them Rs 40,000 (around US $535) or be prepared to receive her dead body in Kathmandu.  The husband, Mansoor Ansari, has sold the restaurant he owned as well as his motorcycle, and although he has spent some Rs 60,000 (US $780) to bring back his wife, has had no success.  The Nepali Embassy in Kuwait, to which he has turned,  is no help.  (Kathmandu Post, May 30)



GNP Up.  Not all the news is bad.  Nepal=s Gross National Produce (GNP) grew 2.4% during the past eight months, with exports up by 3.2%.  This compares with a GNP growth rate of half of one percent for a comparable period last year.  The cease-fire is given at least partial credit for the increase.  (, July 25)


Dollar Down - Rupee Buys a Little More.  One benefit to Nepal of the US invasion of Iraq seems to have been a gradual, if small,  increase in the value of its money as measured against the US dollar.  At the time of the invasion, the dollar was selling for 78.34 rupees.  It is now at 74.76.  AFailing demand@ is blamed for the diminished value of the dollar.  The Nepalese rupee is tied in value to the Indian rupee.  (Spotlight, May 30, June 30;, July 1, 2)


Huge Illegal Trade Between India and Nepal.  Fifty-two percent of total trade between Nepal and India is illegal, according to a study by the World Bank=s South Asia Network of Economic Institute.  Some 30 billion rupees=  (around US $4 billion) worth of goods are smuggled over the open border, with each country sharing about equally in the illicit trade.  It is mostly clothing that is smuggled -  Indian-made clothes going to Nepal and Chinese-made clothes going in the other direction.  ((Spotlight, May 16)



For Rent: RNAC Headquarters. RNAC=s headquarters is available for lease.  It may not be the space that every potential rentor has been looking for, yet for someone who needs  69,200 square feet of floor space in the middle of town, it may be just the thing.  Occupancy will not be immediate.  The airline will not begin its move until 12 months after a lease agreement has been signed, and will not finally be out of the building until 12 months after that.  (, May 24)


World Heritage Sites Degraded.  It is not only some wildlife species that are endangered in Nepal.  UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has just dropped Kathmandu Valley=s historic monuments from its list of World Heritage Sites to its list of World Heritage Sites in Danger.  In spite of repeated warnings, Nepalese authorities have allowed Auncontrolled urban development@ to encroach on seven of Nepal=s eight World Heritage Sites: Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Stupa, Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, and Changu Narayan Temple.  These all have enjoyed World Heritage status since 1979. Yet in recent years, traditional buildings around the sites have been replaced by modern ones higher than the required 35 feet, along with electrical transformers, floodlights, and advertising billboards.  UNESCO began warning of its impending action as long ago as 1993, yet nothing has been done to forestall it.  The government did not seem to have much to say in  response to UNESCO=s action.  Its only quoted statement came from the Department of Archeology=s official in charge of the World Heritage Sites: AOur guidelines for constructions around the sites to the concerned authorities are sadly not being implemented,@ he admitted.  (Kathmandu Post, July 2)


An Inauspicious Anniversary Celebration.  June 5 marked the third anniversary of the National Human rights Commission (NHRC).  A number of people, including the prime minister, justices of the Supreme Court, UN officials and various other high-ranking officers were invited to a program at the Commission=s headquarters.  However, just before the program opened, a fire broke out outside the building.  Smoke rose to the sky as the tent reserved for dispensing snacks was reduced to ashes.  The fire brigade arrived to bring the situation under control and the Commission  resumed its program.  Shortly after events got under way, the hall in which they were taking place was plunged into darkness as the power supply failed.  But there were still the snacks that had been saved from the earlier conflagration.  As people crowded to the small tent from which they were now being served, it started to rain - hard.  Delegates stepped out of their arriving limousines into a knee-deep puddle and even the four umbrellas that people were trying to hold over the prime minister were not enough to keep him dry.   It was hard not to think that the gods, whom one would like to think would to be supportive of so worthy a  group, had some mysterious message to send.  As the event came to a close, the remaining snack tent collapsed in heavy rain.  (, June 6)


Dropping Like Flies.  The forces of gravity took a heavy toll in Kathmandu on June 30, with two people falling to their deaths from buildings and three others meeting their end after dropping into wells.  Twelve-year-old Priti Lamsal fell from the rooftop of the five-storey building in which her parents were rentors.  In another part of the city, 11-year-old Binaya Poudel died in a fall from the window of the four-storey building in which his family was staying.  Twenty-four-year-old Bishnu Poudel dropped into a well while he was trying to draw water from it.  His friend, Nil Kumar Basyal, 22, jumped into the well to rescue him but then found himself in the same predicament.  Both died by Ainhaling water.@  Around 4:30 am in still another part of the city, Ek Bahadur Ale Magar, 40, was studying  the water level in a well on the grounds of an estate where he was employed as a gardener when his purse Afell off his shirt=s pocket.@  He dropped into the well to retrieve it, but Asuffocated and drowned.@  It was another case where  a loyal friend  tried to help.  Birendra Sardar, 24, climbed into the well with a rope, but after he got to the bottom, fainted.  Fortunately, there were others around who could pull him out.  They could do nothing for Magar, who was pronounced dead at the hospital to which he was taken.  (Kathmandu Post, July 1)


Incidents of Dowry-Related Violence High in Capital.  There is a law - Social Improvement Act 2033 - that prohibits all forms of agreements regarding financial exchanges between marrying parties,  and limits any dowry payment to the groom at 10,000 rupees (around US $135).  Yet police records suggest that more than 50 percent of Kathmandu=s cases of household violence originate in squabbles over dowry.  Five to seven cases of dowry-related violence are reported to the police or social organizations every day.  Brides whose families do not provide what the groom and his family consider sufficient dowry are often tortured, neglected or divorced.  The law is difficult to enforce.  Although the custom of offering a dowry originated as a means to provide the wife, who has no property rights, with a supply of spending money over which she would have exclusive rights, it is now accepted as the husband=s money.   Dowry related violence in Kathmandu is not as common as in the Terai.  AIn the capital,@ says the chief of the Valley Crime Investigation Branch of the police, Athe system of demanding dowry is not so obvious.  It  has long taken the form of >gifts.=  And the tradition of judging the >value= of the bride on the basis of those >gifts= is still very popular.  The problem is more severe among the >educated and civilized= in the capital.@  (Kathmandu Post, May 27)



Most West Nepal Kids Take Drugs.  Ninety percent of the young people in the far western districts of Baitadi and Dadeldhura use marijuana or hashish in some form and 17 percent use it on a regular basis.  This is the finding of Human Development Center, an international non-governmental organization that has recently completed a survey of Aall types of youth - schoolboys, jobholders, and others who stay at home.@   Large amounts of the drugs are brought from across the border in India and are readily available in the two districts.  For the most part, parents are unaware of their children=s habits.  Nepalese and Indian officials have done little to control the smuggling of the drugs, which are banned in both countries.  (Kathmandu Post, June 30)


Teacher Dispels Threat of Evil Spirits in Cave.  For years, no-one had entered Tila Cave in the remote western district of Kalikot out of fear of the wild beasts and evil spirits that were known to inhabit it.  AWe sometimes made a bonfire and stayed outside facing the cave,@ said a local, Abut never ventured to enter inside.@  It took a 52-year-old teacher to discover that the place was safe after all.  Devi Krishna Pandey was on a teacher=s training tour when he took a candle and entered the cave.  What he found astounded him.  The oval-shaped tunnel was about 20 feet wide and 14 feet high and extended some 150 feet.  Its walls were covered with carvings of various deities.  Now thousands are flocking to view it.  AMy friends tried to dissuade me from entering the cave, saying wild beasts or evil spirits were waiting to devour me.  However, my daring step proved to be worthwhile,@ said a beaming Pandey.  (Kathmandu Post, July 1)


If at First You Don=t Succeed...  The 40-year-old mother was not named in the news report but there was general rejoicing in the village of Dhungana when she gave birth to a son.  All of her 13 earlier children had been girls.  Eleven of these are living at home; three are now married and have left.  (nepalnews, June 25)


A Hayu Tiff - Burial or Cremation?  The Hayu are a small ethnic group (about 28 families),  in the Badi area of the western district of Ramechap, with its own way of life and customs.  Recently some of its young people issued a challenge to at least one of those customs that has Agiven rise to long discussions.@  The Hayu have traditionally buried their dead in the vicinity of their village.  The younger generation would like to follow the custom of Brahmins, Chhetris and others in cremating the dead.  When the question came up a few months ago, the matter was settled by the young people agreeing to respect the wish of the deceased that he be buried.  Yet it is still a heated issue in the community.  What is not a heated issue is the new generation=s campaign to reduce the consumption of alcohol during festivals, marriages and other rites.  This, according to an elderly local, is the kind of thing the older generation can enthusiastically support.  (Kathmandu Post, April 21)


Woman Dies in Witch Hunt.  Thirty-one-year-old Raheli Pariyar, mother of five children, of a village in the western district of Ramechap, had never been the same after falling off a cliff in April.  Something had happened to her mind, and her fellow villagers thought they knew what - a witch had Ainvaded@ her head.  The locally accepted means for curing this condition is to beat the victim - and that is what the villagers, joined by four shamans, did.  It ended the problem, not because the witch was found and banished, but because the wounds they inflicted on Raheli caused her death.  (Kathmandu Post, May 27)


Witch Hunters Brought to Justice.  The neighbors of Bhakta Kumari, 77, of a village in Sindhuli district in eastern Nepal, think she is a witch and is responsible for every death in the village.  They have made this a public claim and some of them have taken what they view as corrective action.  AThey held me and tried to feed me human excreta,@ she says.  AWhen I raised an alarm, a local schoolteacher came to my rescue and I was spared from the horrible experience.@  She has now taken the neighbors to court.  Police have filed a case on her behalf, accusing the neighbors of attempted murder and are holding at least two of them on bail.  (Kathmandu Post, May 31)



Lives and Property Lost in Floods and Landslides.  This is monsoon season, a time of floods and landslides.  More than 100 people in 30 of Nepal=s 75 districts have died, either by drowning, from being struck by lightning or being buried in, and sometimes out of, their houses under piles of sliding earth.  Hundreds have been forced to leave their homes.  Damage to houses, livestock and crops is estimated in the millions of rupees.  Apart from physical damage, the forces of nature have seriously disrupted the order of life in large areas of the Terai and hill country.  (Spotlight, July 18)



Protest by Padlock.  Thirteen dollars and thirty-five cents (Rs 1,000) per month might not seem to most Americans to be much to pay to give your child a good education but in Nepal, where the average income is $235, it is a lot.  As far as The Nepal Students= Union (NSU) and the All Nepal National Free Student=s Union (ANNFSU) are concerned, it is an outrageous over-charge, and on June 23, they started padlocking the doors to the offices of the principal and accounting departments of private schools in Kathmandu that charge their students Rs 1,000 per month or more.  Private schools outside the Valley that charge Rs 500 or more per month are to be locked up next.  A longer-term goal of the unions is to make all public education free.  The two student organizations are branches of larger political groups - ANNFSU of the Maoists, and  NSU of seven national parties, including Nepali Congress and UML.  The offices would remain closed, they said, until the schools met their demands, chief among which was the lowering of tuition fees.  The private schools, of which there are some 10,000 in the country - 8,500 registered -  have their own organizations, the Private and Boarding Schools= Organization of Nepal (PABSON) and the National Private and Boarding Schools Organization of Nepal (N-PABSON).  These responded by threatening  simply to close the schools down, but promised Ato try to resolve the problem through dialogue before taking such a harsh step.@  On June 26 there was such a dialogue involving all interested groups and the Ministry of Education.  The results did not satisfy the two PABSON groups and on June 28, they closed down all 8,500 registered private schools.  Tens of thousands of students had to go home.  But a day or two later, the groups met again and this time worked out a compromise that allowed the schools to re-open. A joint task force has been appointed to study the situation and make recommendations to the government within a month.  One-and-a-half million students, or 20 to 25 percent of all students, attend private schools in Nepal.  These employ some 75,000 teachers.  That generally they do their job well (whether or not their fees are fair) is suggested by the fact that 83 percent of students who pass in the first division of SLC (see below) come from private schools.  (Kathmandu Post, May 16, June 23-30, July 1-4)


Less Than a Third of Nepal=s Students Pass Important Exam.  The School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examination is a nationally-administered test that certifies that a  student has successfully completed his or her secondary education and is qualified for higher learning - or at least a job that requires a high school education.  Students call it the AIron Gate@ to a better life.  Those who fail have to wait a full year before they can try again or resign themselves to lower-paying jobs.  Some, in their disappointment, have committed suicide.  When this year=s results were published in June, it appeared that of the roughly 170,000 students who took the exam, only around 55,000, or less than 33 percent, passed it.  Private school students tended to have a much better success rate than public school students, and more city school students passed than those from rural areas.  Whether blame for the low success rate lies in poor teaching or in the exam itself is a moot question. According to one social worker in Morang district, the dismal showing of public school students is due to the increasing interest of government schoolteachers in politics rather than teaching.  (The People=s Review, June 19; Kathmandu Post, June 22)


When Nodding Off in Class Can Result in a Trip to the Hospital.  Teachers may be used to a child or two dozing off in class but when 18 students of the second and fifth grades in Tuteshwor in the far western district of Mahottari drifted into sleep, the teacher knew that something unusual was going on.  It is believed that they were victims of a Amystery disease@ that has attacked 26 people in their area.  None of those who have been stricken with the disease, whose symptoms include severe stomach pain, headache and difficulty in breathing, have died, yet its presence in the area has put a crimp on all social life.  A@People have stopped visiting their neighbors, fearing the spread of the disease,@ says one of the victims.  Because the doctors and health workers do not know how to treat it, most people are relying on shamans.  The school has been closed for at least a month and may stay closed until the disease is brought under control.  (Kathmandu Post, June 6)




Boris Jr. Arrested.  Boris Lissanevitch became famous among early western visitors to Nepal for his colorful life and personality as well as his hospitality at the Hotel Royal that he managed,  and later, Yak and Yeti.  His son Alexander, a Danish national with a Nepali wife, was arrested in late June at Tribhuvan International Airport as he was about to leave the country with Rs 6.5 million (approximately US $850,000) in unaccounted convertible currency.  He is being held while charges are prepared.  (, June 23)


An Original Approach to Looting.  However black their hearts, these robbers have to be given some credit for creative ingenuity in the way they went about their business.  Police arrested four Indians who have been looting people in the Boudha area during the past several weeks by first distracting them with Aitching powder.@  At the time of arrest, they had managed to make away with Rs 35,000 (slightly more than US $460) that they had taken from Sita Bujel after dousing her with itching powder while  she was preparing to deposit the money in a bank.  She kept control of herself long enough to notify the police, who arrested the looters and seized the cash, a camera and 40 packets of itching powder after raiding their hotel room in Boudha.  (, July 12)


A Bad Exchange.  Janak Shrestha came back from his job in Dubai with a suitcase full of dollars.  As with many who have dollars to exchange, he looked for a source that could give him a better deal than the bank, and an ad in a Kathmandu daily for Amoney exchange services@ seemed to promise this.  He telephoned and was told to meet at a designated hour outside a bank in Jawalakhel.  There he and a friend were greeted by two men who led them to a nearby cafe and counted their money.  But there was to be no exchange; the two announced that they were policemen and that Shrestha and his friend were engaged in an illegal operation.  They bundled them into a taxi to take them to the Valley Crime Investigation Branch of police headquarters.  On the way, one of the policemen had to make a phone call.  He did not return and it was only later that Shrestha realized he had taken $700 of Shrestha=s money with him.  The other policeman, Sub-inspector Ramesh Khadka, was later arrested and charged with attempted looting.  (Kathmandu Post, June 11)


Missing and Believed Stolen: the Bulls of Pashupatinath.  Bulls are worshipped by the Hindus as Lord Shiva=s escort, and every month a number of them are left at Pashupatinath as an offering, following certain rites.  But according to a representative of the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), many of these are being stolen.  AThere are only 39 bulls in the area at present,@ he says, Awhile in the last ten years, PADT alone left 60 bulls.@  It is when they scatter through the area for grazing that they disappear, presumably  taken by people who remove them to other districts to sell them or put them into service  for ploughing or fertilizing cows.  The problem is complicated by the fact that there are no laws against bull theft.  ATaking bulls for fertilization is allowed if legal processes are completed,@ says this official, Abut that=s not happening.@  He adds that there is no evidence to support local rumors that the bulls are being taken to be converted into  momos (a kind of Tibetan pot-sticker).  (Kathmandu Post, June 11)



Sleepless Nights in Jhapa.  Drunks from India are keeping whole villages in the southeastern district of Jhapa awake all night.  Yet sleepless nights are only a small part of the problem. The drunks in this case are wild elephants who are said to come across the border in search of local wine (Athey are very fond of it,@ says one villager).  Whatever gets in their way, whether it be persons, houses, fences or gardens, gets trampled.  Since, as is the case with many drunken rampages, their invasions usually take place at night, the villagers stay up trying to frighten them off by yelling, beating on drums, setting off fireworks and banging metal objects against each other.  AThe elephant scare has resulted in uncountable sleepless nights here,@ according to one observer.  It is when the water in the nearby Brahmaputra river begins to drop and standing crops in Nepal are about to mature that the elephants appear.  They have killed at least a dozen people in recent years and destroyed more than a score of houses.   Locals have turned to authorities in both Nepal and India to do something about the situation. But perhaps it is a tacit admission that there is not much anyone can do to stop a wild elephant, let alone a herd of intoxicated pachyderms, that  there has been no government action.  The locals, who have no choice but to run from their houses when they know the animals are on the way, have had to take matters in their own hands.  AWe have started keeping vigil at night to protect our lives,@ says one elderly villager. ABeating empty tins and bursting firecrackers have become our only tools to scare the elephants away.@  (The Kathmandu Post, July 12)


Searching for Dead Caterpillars in Dolpa.  Dolpa, a mountainous district in northwestern Nepal is not a place where you go to find crowds (it is among the least populated districts in the country), yet if you should visit one of its settled areas in May or June, you might be lucky  to see even a single person. This is yarchagumba picking season when nearly everyone hits for the hills to try to find all they can of this mysterious half-caterpillar, half- mushroom known as the Himalayan viagra.  AYarchagumba cures headaches, stomach aches and many diseases,@ explains one of the hunters.  AIt gives you lots of energy.  It=s also good for --@ and here, he leans over and whispers. AIf a man doesn=t feel like sleeping with his wife any more, he should definitely try yarchagumba.@  But it is not only for their own health or better sex life that some 30,000 people leave villages, schools and government offices to seek the strange half-insect, half-fungus.  AWhen Dolpa people find yarchagumba,@ says a local, Athey don=t find a caterpillar - they find money!@  Finders can make Rs 50,000 (more than US $650) a day.  This is a lot by Dolpa standards but farther up the chain, middlemen sell the stuff by the sackload at US $2,800 per kg to buyers in Thailand, Korea, China and Japan.  Few scientists have studied yarchagumba (which in Tibetan means Asummer grass, winter insect.@) but it is believed that it comes into being after spores of a particular mushroom land on the heads of a particular species of caterpillar just before the rainy season.  The fungus works its way through the unfortunate caterpillar=s body, sapping its energy and causing its death. One satisfied consumer, after finding 30 yarchagumbas, soaked them in rakshi for a month and then drank the stuff every day for a 2 weeks.  AIt worked for me,@ he said, happily. (Nepali Times, July 27)


Creeper Threatens Wildlife. It sounds like something out of a Hitchcock movie: a wild creeper has been growing out of control inside the lush forest of Bardiya National Park and is gradually destroying the food chain of the Park=s wildlife.  Unless a massive campaign is launched to weed it out, says the Park=s Chief Conservation Officer, it can eliminate  rhinos, deer, elephants and other animals, as well as many plants from the Park.  Banmara jhar is the name of this sinister attacker.  It is Aunfriendly@ to other shrubs and grass and seems to have the power to destroy and replace them.  Since it is these that the animals depend on for sustenance, its eradication is essential for their well-being.  This is not an easy task.  AIt takes a lot of time and effort,@ says the Conservation Program Director of the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, inasmuch as the only way to control it is to remove it carefully from its root each year.  The Park=s birds are no help.  They carry the seed from one part of the jungle to another, which is one reason it is spreading so rapidly over large areas, like a forest fire.  (Kathmandu Post, May 30)


A Last Romantic Mission.  AI know I cannot stop him,@ says the wife of 60-year-old house fitter Yoshiteru Takahashi who is setting out in early August with six companions to hunt down the yeti in the Dhaulagiri area of Nepal.  AHe has been convinced of the yeti=s existence for three decades,@ she says, Aand believes searching for it is the last romantic mission left in the Himalayas.@   This will not be his first visit to the Dhaulagiri range.  He came there twice as a climber, in 1970 and again in 1982, and once on a yeti hunt in 1994.  Although he did not actually see this elusive creature, he found what he thought was evidence of its presence: a strong animal smell  and barefoot footprints resembling those of a small child but measuring four to eight inches.  The yeti is notoriously shy about letting itself be seen by humans.  But Takahashi hopes it may not be worried about infra-red cameras, four of which the party is planning to set up in strategic locations to capture the yeti=s image as it walks by.  (ABC News on-line, July 15)


Holy Man Stops Killing of Leopards.  Snow leopards, an endangered species, are coming back to Manang, and it is all due to one man - Lama Karma Sonam Rinpoche.  Once blue sheep and the snow leopards for whom they are a favorite meal had been plentiful in this north central district that borders on Tibet, but by the time Lama Karma arrived there in 1959 (driven by the Chinese from the Mt. Kailas area of Tibet where he had spent his early years in meditation), they had virtually disappeared.  Locals had  killed them or driven them away in an effort to protect their livestock.  This bothered the lama, who felt it was wrong to kill any sentient being.  AWhat comes from the earth must return in a natural way,@ he told his fellow villagers.  AKilling does not permit this natural progression.@  When he failed to persuade the locals, he made a decision: it would be either the snow leopard or himself.  If they did not stop the killing, he told them, he was going to leave them. The 70-year-old monk is so highly regarded in the area that this forced the locals to rethink the problem.  They decided to keep their guru and let the leopards live.  These and the blue sheep are now back.  And Lama Karma Sonam, on World Environment Day in early June, was awarded the World Wildlife Fund=s prestigious Abraham Conservation Award in recognition of his efforts.  Yet even he will probably not be successful in persuading the leopards to stop killing blue sheep or the local livestock.   (Nepali Times, June 20)



The Everest Report. The Golden Jubilee Celebration of the first climb of Mt. Everest is over and now it is time to look at statistics.  Seventy-three people reached the summit , but 130 of the 203 who had attempted it failed in the attempt, a success ratio of only 36%.   Bad weather forced the nearly two-thirds of those climbing to turn back.  Of the 25 expeditions that had come to climb the mountain, 22 actually got members to the top.  Teams from Japan, Korea, Nepal and South Africa turned away at base camp because of bad weather.  A Korean team got as far as Camp IV before turning back.  The Japanese had a permit for the West Ridge; all others were following the footsteps of the original 1953 climbers on the southeast ridge.  Unlike Hillary and Tenzing, they had fixed ropes, ladders and bridges in place to help them over the difficult places.  Out of 163 successful climbs of all Nepal high mountains this season, 90 were by Sherpas. (Kathmandu Post, June 6)


Climbing Records Set.  Mt. Everest itself occupies a unique place in the record books as the highest mountain on earth, which may in part explain its attraction for would-be record breakers.  In this year of celebration of the first climb, there were a number of them.  The oldest person ever to climb Mt. Everest was 70-year-old Yuichiro Miura, who arrived on the summit on May 22.   The oldest Sherpa, 60-year-old Temba Tshering, had reached the top two days before on his second successful ascent.  At the other end of the scale, 15-year-old Ming Kipa Sherpa became the youngest summiteer.  Nepal now forbids anyone younger than 16 to attempt the summit, but this young lady made her ascent from the Tibet side.   Jess Roskelly, at 24, became the youngest American to climb the mountain.   Apa Sherpa (see AYou Don=t Get Rich...,@below) who has climbed the mountain more than anyone else arrived at the top for the thirteenth time early in the morning of May 26, more or less at the same time as Lakpa Gelu Sherpa who had just made the fastest ascent of Mt. Everest (10 hours and 46 minutes from base camp).  Three days earlier, another Sherpa, Pemba Dorje, had startled the world by climbing the mountain in 12 hours and 45 minutes.  His first reaction on learning that he had lost his claim to fame as the fastest climber in so short a time was to vow that he would make a second attempt during the current climbing season and this time do it in 10 hours flat.  This did not happen but as time went on he apparently became convinced that Lakpa Gelu=s claim was fraudulent.  He requested that the Ministry of Tourism look into the matter; yet Lakpa Gelu, who could document his departure from base camp at 5 pm on the afternoon of May 25, had a trustworthy witness for his arrival on the summit, namely Apa Sherpa.  (, Kathmandu Post, May 27, 28, 30, 31)


You Don=t Get Rich Climbing Mountains.  AI climb once a year,@ says Apa Sherpa, who with 13 successful climbs to his credit has reached the summit of Mt Everest more times than anyone else in the world, Abut that hardly gives me enough money to provide for the bare necessities of a family for the rest of the year.@  Apa has a wife and two children who live in the high mountain village of Thame where, as he points out, agriculture is limited to the planting of potatoes and Athe clearest option is to work as a mountaineering guide.@  He is proud that his eldest son, Tenzing Jangbu, has just completed his School Leaving Certificate after attending Khumjung Secondary School but agrees with the boy that he should seek a future elsewhere than in the mountains.  AMy inability to get a good education forced me to risk my life in freezing snow and deathly passes, sometimes without oxygen, only for my family=s welfare,@ the father says.  AAnd even then I don=t make enough.@  But now the Nepalese government has announced plans to help.  In recognition of his Everest achievement, it is presenting him with a five lakh (approximately US $6,700) award. Other cash awards will go to the family of the late Babu Chhiri and to the Kantipur (daily) journalist who made it to the top this year.  (Kathmandu Post, June 28; July 10)


Hillary Made an Honorary Citizen.  At an event organized to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first climb of Mt. Everest, King Gyanendra conferred honorary Nepali citizenship on Sir Edmund Hillary, the surviving climber of the two who made that ascent.  The award was made not only to honor Athe first successful ascent of Sagarmatha [the Nepali name for Mt. Everest; the Sherpa and Tibetan name is AChomolungma@]@ but Afor your valuable contributions on health and social services of Nepal.@  Through a New Zealand-based trust, Hillary has worked to establish a secular school system in the Sherpa area of Nepal, establish hospitals, restore temples, build bridges and generally improve the lives of a people he came to love and appreciate when climbing with them.  It has been said that rarely has one ordinary citizen done so much for a whole people for no other reason than that he just wanted to help.  More than 300 Everest summiteers, both Nepali and foreign, were given medals at the ceremony.  Ang Tshering Sherpa, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association, was happy that Aa true Nepal lover who has helped popularize Nepal all over the world@ should be granted Nepali citizenship.  He hopes that now the government will consider honoring the other member of the original two-man team, Tenzing Norgay, as a ANational Hero.@  It has held off giving him that award because, although a Sherpa who grew up in Nepal, he later moved to India and returned to his home there, instead of going to Nepal,  after the famous climb.  (Reuters. MSNBC News, May 29;Kathmandu Post, May 30)


Helicopter Crashes at Base Camp.  It was not only the slopes of Mt. Everest that presented danger during the spring climbing season.  A helicopter which had arrived to pick up Lakpa Gelu Sherpa after his whirlwind climb of the mountain (see above) crashed on landing at Everest Base Camp.  One person died and six, including the captain, were seriously injured.  (Kathmandu Post, May 27)


Fifty New Peaks.  To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first climb of Mt. Everest, Nepal has opened 50 new peaks to climbers.  Permits now can be obtained for 326 peaks - 33 for expedition climbs from the Nepal Mountaineering Association, and the rest for Atrekkers= peaks@ from the Ministry of Tourism.  (nepalnews, May 30)



Tibetan Border Re-opened.  China, which had closed the Tibetan border during the SARS scare, has re-opened it.   For Nepal=s  tourist industry, which for several reasons has been experiencing a drastic slump,  this was good news.  On July 1, the day after the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu started issuing visas for travel in that country, some 200 tourists in seven groups set off for Tibet.  (Kantipur Online, July 1)



Ancient City Found.  Not far from the Buddha=s birthplace in the south central part of Nepal, archaeologists have uncovered the ruins of  Devdaha,  capital of the ancient republic of Koliya, from which the Lord Buddha=s maternal uncle ruled some two-and-a-half millenia ago.  According to legend, it was the nephew who was called upon to settle a dispute between uncles about the use of a canal, which has now been discovered by the archaeologists.  The work, described as Adifficult and arduous,@ was done by the Department of Archaeology in conjunctionwith the Nawalparisi District Development Committee and has produced a store of terracotta idols, clay pots and other vessels, as well as bangles, necklaces and coins.  (, May 21)




Married into the Wrong Religion.  Anju Barma, 22, of the south central district of Kapilvastu had been married two months when the police came to seize her.  Her crime?   A Hindu, she had married a Muslim.  The  police felt obliged to act when her father lodged a complaint demanding his daughter be returned.  His claim that his daughter was kidnapped has been disputed not only by the couple but by others who know them.  The family of the husband, 21-year-old Mirja Rashid,  has sought police protection after being threatened with Adire consequences such as death@ by the wife=s family which has been keeping Anju out of sight with a relative in India, and refuses to cooperate on religious grounds.   After receiving no response from district police and administration officials, Mirja took his problem to the Supreme Court, which has ordered the police to produce Anju within two weeks.  There is one problem: her family says that they have already married her off  - to Aa boy from a good family.@  (Kathmandu Post, June 30)


Breaks Tradition by Marrying a Widow.  AI want to show our society that this type of exemplary marriage can take place even in the society where it is not taken positively,@ announced Rajan Nagarkoti of Danchhi village in Kathmandu Valley as he took Babita Bakhati for his wife.  Although Babita is only 17 years old, she is a widow, and in hers and Rajan=s circles, men don=t marry widows.  At the age of 15, she had married a member of the Armed Police Force who was shortly after killed by Maoists.  AAs I knew ill-treatment of her by her family members,@ said the 23-year-old groom, AI started to help her.@   They became close and after a while he sounded out his family about the possibility of his marrying her.  AHe is marrying neither for his mother nor for his father but for himself,@ they said.  ASo we are happy over his decision.@  Other members of the community applauded or at least accepted the marriage.  According to the news report, the many people who came to the temple to watch the ceremony Awere talking to each other why the groom decided to marry a girl who was already married.  But the groom had valid arguments to shut their mouth tight.@  (Kathmandu Post, May 31)


True Love Has Its Price. Briddhashram is a place at the Hindu temple complex at Pashupatinath where people go to await their deaths.  Among them were  Gopi Subedi, 72, who arrived there four years ago, and Manmaya Adhikari, 51, who had been there ten months.  Yet after the two had come to know each other, cupid struck, and two months later they were married.  Not long afterwards, they found themselves on the street.  According to Briddhashram officials, the couple left of their own will to escape social ostracism.  Yet they themselves claim they were kicked out. AThey forced us to leave, saying it was forbidden to get married in the Ashram as that would pollute the moral environment there.@  Now they are living in a roofless water tank and begging for their food.  They have tried to find jobs but Ano-one believes we can work.@  When it rains, they get wet inside the water tank.  AI always pray to god to prevent wind and rain,@ says Manmaya.  Her husband has sought permission to build a hut on unoccupied land near his birthplace but was told that the  law forbids this.  ANobody listens to the old,@ he complains.  (Kathmandu Post, May 28)




[The following editorial from the June 27, 2003 issue of NEPALI TIMES appears to us not only to give an eloquent and  vivid picture of the uneasy state of life in Nepal today but to identify some of its deeper problems while underlining the necessity of dealing with them soon.  We reprint it with permission.]



      There may be a truce, but this country is living under the shadow of the gun. In every sphere of life, there is the unspoken fear of violence: in the extortion rackets where the credo is Apay-or-else,@ to the forced entry of hooligans into schools to lock them up, in revolutioanry taxes that teachers, civil servants and businesses are forced to pay all across the country. 

      There is also the overt volence: the continuing harsh intimidation of ordinary people by security forces, the abductions, torture and, lately, new killings by the Maoists. In large parts of the country there are two administrations, two tax collectors, two justice systems, two armies, two governments.  How else do you explain a 20-year-old Maoist in Dailekh forcing a man old enough to be his father to do sit-ups outside the district police post because he was caught drinking alcohol?  Elsewhere justice is just as summary, but harsher.  This Talibanesque face of Nepal is keeping the population cowed in terror despite the truce. It has wiped out the slim hope everyone had for a return to a semblance of peace.

     The spreading anarchy is not readily apparent in Kathmandu, where new town houses are recording brisk sales, new motorcycle shops are opening daily, and the queue for mobile phones in Jawalakhel gets longer every week.  But even in the capital, we get a glimpse of a new culture of anarchy and violence that grips the land as vehicle drivers are nearly lynched over minor traffic accidents, there are shootouts in broad daylight in New Road, and school principals are murdered in their homes.  Something has changed in Nepal, and dramatically.  We are living in a different sort of country now, and we may as well get used to it.  If and when the peace talks resume, and it leads to some sort of normalcy, we have to learn to live with the legacy of this jungle raj, the insurgency and the brutal attempt to suppress it have brought the country to the brink of ruin, but it has also brought out all the festering social, cultural, economic and political problems to the surface in a pus-filled abscess.  At least now we can see the boil and treat it, perhaps without having to amputate the feet.

     It has now become quite clear that we need to dig deeper into the structural roots of the country=s malaise: poor representation, exclusion and the power monopoly of the traditional elite.  As the present crisis reaches a breaking-point, it presents an opportunity to finally find a political answer to the problems of poverty and social injustice.

     We were already on the right track in the mid-1990s, as grassroots representation started producing a citizenry that was ready to carve its own destiny.  But then the extreme left decimated the grassroot structure of the political parties, and then the radical right finished off the job with democratic reversal at the national level.  If this was a conspiracy to wipe out the country=s political middle, then it was partly successful.  What we see around us today is a direct result.

     We can regain the middle ground with inclusion, representation and democracy.  But first we have to unlock the doors to peace, not with pious paeans from pulpits but by being honest and accountable ourselves.



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