News from Nepal

Selected Items From the April, 1996 Issue


Peoples' War. The start of it seems to have been in mid-February. Masked men chanting Maoist slogans descended on police stations in three districts in the sparsely populated hill Zone of Rapati in mid-western Nepal. Fire was exchanged and documents, wire and explosives were taken. At the same time, the houses of officials were looted and robbed. It was not a simple act of banditry; it was the opening of a "People's War," organized by the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) and United People's Front (Bhattarai), two extremist groups who believe that a complete change in Nepal's government to solve "the problem of food, clothing and shelter" cannot take place without "a violent end to the present system." The "war" is being fought out largely in the remote districts of Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, and Salyan of the Rapati Zone and its neighbor Bheri, but also in other hill districts farther to the east. These are said to be places where the CPN (Maoist) is strongest and where there is the largest number of retired Gurkhas from the Indian army. The reports are scattered and fragmentary: some people -- mainly officials -- have been murdered; houses, shops, and police stations have been looted and sometimes burned; phone lines have been cut; banks robbed; schools closed; and crops destroyed. The limbs of at least one person, according to reports, were amputated. The news of these incidents is spotty. Even more fragmentary are accounts of the government's reaction to the violence. It is reported that more than 1,500 government "security personnel" have been sent into the area; authorities are also helping people to form citizens' self-help committees. Reports of casualties are inexact and unreliable. The count includes both insurgents and their victims. By mid-March, 13 people were said to have been killed, 22 were undergoing treatment for wounds, and 400 had been arrested. All major political parties including the Communist Party of Nepal and United Marxist Leninists have condemned the violence, although there have been questions about the violence which the government forces are using to put down the rebellion. (all media, from mid-February)


Government Survives No-Confidence Vote. Nepal's six-month-old coalition government has survived a vote of no-confidence brought by the main opposition party, the United Marxist Leninists (UMP), in a special session of parliament, March 24. A split in the Rastriya Prajantanta Party (RPP), whose 19 votes are needed by the 85-member the Nepali Congress (NC) Party to maintain a majority, inspired the attempt. There was apparently an arrangement between UML forces, under the leadership of its General Secretary, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and Lokendra Bahadur Chand, who leads a splinter faction of the RPP, to make the latter prime minister in a new coalition government in return for the votes of dissidents in his party. But at the last minute, five ministers identified as Chand followers switched their expected support from him to the existing government, and the no-confidence vote failed, 106 votes to 90. One of the RPP ministers referred to "an understanding with the government," but NC officials denied that there had been any deal. (Rising Nepal, March 25; Kathmandu Post, March 25)

Former PM Absolved in RNAC Scam. The Abuse of Authority Investigation Commission has concluded that allegations of irregularity and corruption against former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala in the appointment and overcompensation of a Royal Nepal Airlines General Sales Agent for Europe are baseless. The blame should go to the RNAC board chairman, its managing director, and other employees whose negligence resulted in a huge overpayment to the Sales Agent, said the Commission. "Necessary departmental action" will be taken against them. Koirala, the Commission found, was not acting outside his authority in directing the RNAC to speed up the transaction. Yet he is not yet totally in the clear on this charge. His part in the deal is still under study by a judicial commission set up by his political enemies under the UML government. (Rising Nepal, Kathmandu Post, Feb 24)


Bus Fares Up. The government has increased long and medium-route day and night bus fares by 10 percent, and short-route fares by 25 percent. It is the first fare hike in many years, and it reflects rising operation costs. (Kathmandu Post, April 10)

Suicides Increasing. Although statistics are hard to come by, a recent investigation shows that suicide cases have apparently been rising during the past three years in Kathmandu, and possibly elsewhere in Nepal. A few years ago, when there were suicides every other day in the Palpa district of south central Nepal, the causes were investigated. The most common reason for killing oneself was poverty. "Most people could not feed their children," said investigators, "and had to commit suicide to get rid of the problem." Illicit relationships and incest were also cited, as well as the loneliness of old people whose spouses had died. Hanging is the most frequently used method of suicide ("rope is available everywhere and people find it easy to hang themselves"), followed by poison. Self-immolation "is getting popular in Kathmandu," according to investigators. "Probably it's because of Indian influence on our society." (Kathmandu Post, March 27)


Plight of Stateless Refugees Still Not Decided. Last year, a group of Bhutanese left their refugee camp in southeastern Nepal and headed for Thimpu, Bhutan's capital in an attempt to convince the Bhutanese government that it should allow them to return to their homes. They were stopped at the Indian border and many of them were arrested. A subsequent wave of marchers got as far as the Mechi bridge that separates Nepal and India, sat down there and vowed to stay where they were until their companions were released from detention in India. They too were arrested, as were a third, fourth, and fifth group of marchers. Many have since been released, yet hundreds remain in Indian jails. None of the marchers have reached Bhutan itself, yet they have managed to stir new interest in their problem. Past and present Foreign Ministers and nine international observers, as well as representatives of the US "Foreign Department," have visited the refugee camps in southeastern Nepal. There have been mass demonstrations in Darjeeling and Siliguri in India, and the European Parliament has passed a resolution condemning Bhutan for its position on the matter. A new round of talks between Nepal and Bhutan opened in early April. For the first time, it was on the foreign minister level, but like the six sessions before it, it ended in deadlock. Bhutan now maintains that it might take back some citizens, but 99% of the refugees are not real citizens. "If the refugees are not Bhutanese citizens," say Nepal's Foreign Minister, "then they certainly are not Nepalese citizens either." (all media, February-April)

New US Ambassador. Dr. Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, who has been appointed Ambassador to the USA, has served in this capacity earlier (1981-85), and has had other responsible posts in the government during the last three and a half decades, including Minister of Finance (1974-76). He has a Doctor's degree from Claremont University. (Rising Nepal, March 11)

Stranded Workers in Singapore Jail. "Some manpower agencies in Kathmandu are illegally exporting Nepalis abroad," says the Director General of the Labor Department, Narayan Bahadur Raut. "As a result, some are arrested and some reportedly get stranded." His remarks would seem to apply to 25 Nepalis who are said to have been arrested in Singapore and are being kept there in three different jails for terms of at least three months. The manpower agencies, to whom the workers paid Rs 100,000 (almost US $2,000) per person, do not seem concerned. (Kathmandu Post, March 13)

Nepali Girls Arrested in Bombay. In an effort to prevent the spread of the deadly HIV virus, police have arrested more than 218 Nepali prostitutes in Bombay. The Indian government will send the girls back to Nepal as soon as court procedures are completed. (Spotlight, March 15)

Sherpa Girl Killed in Dubai. Seventeen-year-old Mirju Sherpa went to Saudi Arabia to work as a housemaid, then moved to an Arab household in Dubai. A teen-ager there made her pregnant, then, when he realized what he had done, murdered her and dumped the body into a rooftop water tank. He later confessed his crime. The Nepalese community in Dubai has strongly appealed to all Nepali girls not to go to foreign countries searching for jobs. (Kathmandu Post, April 11)


Valley Houses Vulnerable to Earthquake. "Most of the houses of Kathmandu Valley cannot resist an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter Scale," according to a senior engineer at the Department of Housing. The majority of the public and private buildings have been designed and constructed haphazardly. The average life of a house is 50 years. With no building code, little attention has been paid to the load bearing capacity of the soil, to foundations, construction materials or design. When asked why old temples and houses are more durable than the new ones, the engineer explained that it is because they are square-shaped. (Rising Nepal, March 5)

Smokeless Tempos. Nepal has become the first country in South Asia to operate the SAFA tempo, a battery-operated three-wheeler. Eight of them have racked up 75,000 kilometers (46,600 miles) on Kathmandu streets during the last six months and have proved so successful that they will soon be joined by more than 20 others. The vehicle, which has to be periodically recharged at special stations, can carry up to 600 kilograms (more than 1,320 pounds) and travel at a speed of 40 kilometers (about 25 miles) per hour. (Rising Nepal, February 24)

Keeping Thamel Clean. Thamel has been growing as a tourist area since the early 1980s. Today, one out of every ten tourists goes there for lodging or to eat, shop, develop film, hire a guide, buy a rug, get a massage, or find any of a number of tourist services. Thamel businessmen, concerned that the general deterioration of the city may affect their businesses and finding that the government could offer no substantial help, have taken matters into their own hands with the organization of Thamel Tourism Development Committee. Its first move was to send 20 sweepers and eight security guards into the area. Their success was noticeable and now the group has a membership of 300, committed mainly to cleanliness. With government cooperation, they have started a door-to-door wastage collection campaign and are spreading their mission into neighboring community districts. (Spotlight, February 23)

Foreigners Only. Twenty-eight Nepalese gamblers were arrested in a recent raid on the Everest Casino. Foreigners are welcomed in Kathmandu's casinos, but a law forbids Nepalese citizens to enter them. Nepal is becoming known in some circles as the gambling center of the Asian sub-continent (a World Bank official calls it "the Las Vegas of South Asia"). Most of the gamblers are from India.(Kathmandu Post, March 17)


Legal But Not Very Nice. Man Bahadur, 48, of Baglungpani in Lamjung district northeast of Pokhara tricked his "illiterate and ignorant" father into signing over the deed to his mother's land before the father's death. When Bahadur's 75-year-old mother, now a homeless beggar, came to ask him for food, "he threw her down from the veranda of the house and her hand was broken." He has also made his sister homeless after gaining control of her land, and is alleged "to have looted the property of his youngest brother who has therefore gone mad." The sister has filed a complaint with the District Administration, yet officials there suggest that "it is a hopeless case." Although he has taken advantage of family trust and ignorance of legal procedure, Bahadur has otherwise been careful to act strictly within the law. (Kathmandu Post, February 24)

Loneliness at the Top. Local Rastriya Prajantantra Party (RPP) workers in Parsa district (southeast of Kathmandu) boycotted a district-wide meeting for two hours in late February because they were upset about the high-handedness of Assistant Minister for Commerce Rajiv Parajuli and the party's district unit chairman. While they were away, the Assistant Minister broke down and wept. He was unhappy, he said, because "he got secluded from his own close aide as soon as he became a minister." (Shree Sagarmatha in Spotlight, February 15)

Prohibitionists Encounter Opposition. The women of Bhiman Village Development Committee in Sindhuli district southeast of Kathmandu are having a tougher time in making their area alcohol free. After they had "joined hands to ban alcohol" and invaded local wine parlors to break pitchers of alcohol, a pro-alcohol group of both men and women was marched in protest, chanting slogans such as "Arrest those who are attempting to ban alcohol!" Police kept the two groups from coming to blows. The women who oppose the ban are mainly from hill tribes and make their living selling booze to the Brahmin and Chhettri men in the village. The village chairman says that it would be wrong to take away the alcohol without providing some other means of livelihood to the hill women. Yet the Brahmin and Chhettri women maintain that they are regularly abused by their hard-drinking husbands and will not back down. (Kathmandu Post, March 30)

Drowns in Swamp. Krishna Devkota, 26, of Itahari in southeastern Nepal, "drowned to death" in a swamp while wandering under the influence of alcohol. (Kathmandu Post, March 22)

So Who Does the Work? Jaisi Brahmins of Arghali in the south central district of Palpa do not plough their fields for fear of losing their caste. They are the dominant force in their village, and worry that breaking this tradition will weaken their distinct identity. There are a few Upadhyay Brahmins in their community, but the Jaisi Brahmins will not let them carry out their religious functions. In other areas, Upadhyay Brahmins also refuse to plough their fields. (Rising Nepal, March 12)

Birds Are Singing Again in Hetauda. On the one hand, there are reports that poachers have been entering a local forest in Hetauda (in Makawanpur district south of Kathmandu) that is under the protection of the Institute of Forestry and have killed enough animals so that some of these are becoming extinct. But this dismal report is balanced by the news that elsewhere in the Hetauda area, forests cared for by local inhabitants are doing very well. Eleven years ago, Hetauda citizens set aside 170 hectares (420 acres) of land for protection, and formed a committee to take care of it. "It has now been transformed into a green oasis," and birds and wild animals are returning. In another community, Chuchchekhola, 286 hectares (707 acres) of land have also benefited from community protection in the last ten years. In all of Makawanpur district, a total of 5,300 hectares (more than 13,000 acres) of land in 44 places has been under the protection of a forest consumer committees. "Only a person who can rise above party interests can save a forest," says Madhav Subedi, the president of Saraswati's forest consumer committee. He is obviously a man who cares. Local people say he spends the night in his community's forest to minimize the possibility of a holocaust. (Kathmandu Post, March 29)

Bedevilled by High-Living Spirits. Dhirendrajung Thapa, a presumably sober graduate student of Sarlahi district southeast of Kathmandu, confused friends and family by taking up drinking. But he had no choice. "Eerie spirits" forced him to drink wine with them and attacked him with bow and arrows if he refused. They were not the only spirits in his life. He has explained how only he was able to see the female spirit who wanted to dance with him and seduce him. His sister felt the time had come to consult a witch doctor, who exorcised the spirits with his magic power. Thapa, now free of "agents of darkness," claims that if it had not been for the witch doctor, he would have been dead long ago. (Kathmandu Post, March 26)


Killed by Lightning. Class was in session when lightning struck the Dubring Village Develoment Committee primary school in the west central district of Rolpa. The teacher and five students were killed. Twelve others were injured. In far western Nepal near Mahendranagar, two women who were collecting fodder sought shelter from the storm under a sal tree on the Nepal-India border. Lightning struck the tree and they were killed. Two other women in the area were said to have been rendered unconscious by lightning. (Kathmandu Post, Feb 28)

Storm Disrupts Kathmandu.udden rainstorm, with wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour, struck Kathmandu on April 7. At least 15 people suffered broken arms and legs when trees or limbs fell on them. Power lines were downed and one vehicle was crushed under a fallen tree. (Rising Nepal, April 8)


Stray Animals Threaten Citizens of Rajbiraj. Rajbiraj municipality, near the border in southeastern Nepal, is fast becoming a haven for stray animals. The roads, side streets, squares and public places are teeming with bulls and cows. "We are poor," said a vegetable seller whose daughter broke an arm trying chase away a bull that was eating their vegetables. "We had to spend a month's income for her medication." Others in the community also reported broken limbs. (Kathmandu Post, March 24)

Mad Dogs Terrorize Jhapa. The cows are sane in Jhapa district in the southeastern corner of Nepal, but mad dogs are rampant. Around ten or twelve people come to Mechi Zonal Hospital each day to be treated for mad dog bites. This is more than the facility has resources to cope with And most all of the people in the village of Duhagadi "have fallen victims of mad dogs." One man has died. "School children, laborers and cows are the most vulnerable and easy targets of mad dogs," according to the press report. (Kathmandu Post, April 3)

Killer Coke. Ang Phurba bought three crates of Coca-Cola from a small store in Maharajgung in Kathmandu to serve at a party. Noticing something shiny in one of the bottles, he opened it to find that it contained a full-sized razor blade. The man he talked to at the Coca-Cola company offered to replace the bottle with a free crate of the beverage, but Ang Phurba explained that it was not losing the bottle of Coke that he was concerned about but the safety of his guests. "The employee said that he was not in charge of that department," complained Ang Phurba, "and so transferred my phone from one place to the other until I was cut off from the line." (Kathmandu Post, April 4)

Precarious Water Supply. The water problem in Damauli, a community just southeast of Pokhara, is that its water supply comes from somewhere else, Gunadi, and the people of Gunadi don't particularly like sharing it. They do things like break or put stones in Damauli's water pipe to stop the flow, as well as take baths, wash clothes, and throw the bodies of sacrificed goats and pigeons in the water supply. The two communities have been having meetings to try to work out an understanding. The people of Damauli wonder why their representatives, who include the House Speaker, are not trying to help with the problem. (Kathmandu Post, April ll)


Police Put an End to Youthful Business Enterprise. "We wanted to do something good and not be thieves and pickpockets like many others on the streets," said a "khate" (or "street boy"). So, with a small donation from a Japanese tourist, he and his friends opened a small tea stall on the sidewalks of a busy Thamel street in Kathmandu. They were open only at night -- from 7 pm to around 1 am -- but rapidly built up a clientele of rickshaw drivers and loaders who would stop for a quick cup of tea and a snack. After a month of business success, police closed the operation down, claiming that it was a nuisance to nearby shops and offices. Still hoping to avoid a life of begging, the boys now support themselves by collecting tin cans and plastic bags to sell to recyclers, and making "crude drawings" for a thangka painter to market to tourists. The police have done nothing about the adult fruit vendor and cigarette seller who, during the day, display their goods where the boys had their tea stall. (Kathmandu Post, March 15)

Narayanthan Makes Its Choice. As the years have gone by, the long neglected Bhagwati temple in Narayanthan, a small village on the outskirts of Kathmandu, has become crowded with garbage and uncontrolled shrubbery and is used as a public latrine. Recently, a group of youths formed a committee to do do something about the problem. The first step was to build a wall around the temple compound, but halfway through the construction project, work was forced to a halt. Some of the villagers were upset that they were about to lose their public toilet. They stole tools and construction equipment and delayed the renovation effort with "numerous small obstacles." After a while, backers lost interest and the project was abandoned. (The Independent, March 13)

A Punishment That Backfired. Another teacher with an innovative idea of punishment has been forced to accept failure. This one, Asheshar Mahato, wanted to discourage his students at Janata Primary School in eastern Nepal from smoking. He mixed excreta with tobacco and forced the students to smoke it. "I will remove your bad habit," he vowed. But it is he who has been removed after angy parents locked the school. (Kathmandu Post, March 25)


500 Demonstrators Arrested. On March 18, Amnesty International and Free Tibet activists gathered in New Road in Kathmandu in the vicinity of the RNAC Building, intending to march peacefully to the Chinese Embassy to submit a memorandum with signatures demanding an improvement in the human rights situation in China. Police charged them, "kicking and shoving them into police vans." Amnesty International, which had been planning the demonstration for a month, claims it had not invited either the Tibetans or the monks; they joined of their own will. Among the 500 who were arrested, some robed monks and "Tibetan-looking pedestrians" claimed to be shoppers who had no involvement in the demonstration. No reason was given for the arrests. Nepal officially considers Tibet as "an inseparable part of China." Just before a trip to Nepal's powerful northern neighbor, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba made it plain that Nepal is "committed not to allow any anti-China activities to take place on Nepalese soil." The Tibetan refugees do not easily accept this policy. "We have been allowed to demand freedom for Tibet in every international arena except Nepal," said one of them. (Kathmandu Post, March 19)

Home 5 Years After Being Sold to Bombay Brothel. Bir Maya Tamang was taken from her home in Chitwan district some five years ago on the promise that she would be given a good job in Bombay. Instead, her three wards sold her to a brothel for 30,000 Indian rupees (US $875). After two years of "hellish life," she was somehow able to escape, and has been living since with a man in Gujarat. From there, she wrote letters to her family. They have now rescued her. As it turns out, the three who abducted her were arrested some four years ago, but Bir Maya "has given further evidence against them." (Kathmandu Post, March 13)


And Then There Were Six. One of the things that few people expect to find in Nepal is dolphins; yet its rivers are home for a quickly vanishing population of these fish-like mammals. Of the world's estimated total population of 4,000 Gangetic dolphins, or susu, six individuals are known to live in Nepal. There used to be more, but they and the prey they depend on have become the victims of gill netters and pollutants in the rivers. Some have been killed by fertilizers and other toxic chemicals. Others have swum over dams into India only to discover they could not swim back. Now there is agitation to aid Nepal's last half dozen susu and increase the species, perhaps by declaring certain portions of some rivers as "wild and scenic," and thus off limits to human exploitation. If, in the meanwhile, you would like to see a Nepalese susu, we advise you to get out there fast. (The Independent, February 28)

Tiger Kills Boy. A two-and-a-half-year-old boy who was playing in the courtyard of his home in Asurkot in the Inner Terai district of Arghakhanchi was seized by a tiger, carried down the road and dropped. The boy later died. (Kathmandu Post, March 20)

Buffaloes on the Loose. During the first two weeks of March, six or seven wild buffaloes have been coming out of the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in southeastern Nepal each night and destroying local wheat crops. "Fencing around the wildlife reserve has been totally out of order," report local farmers, who "are in a dilemma and do not know what to do because if they chase the wild buffaloes, their life is in danger." (Kathmandu Post, March 17)

Leopard Injures Nine. A leopard went on the rampage in the border city of Nepalgunj, wounding nine people, including a two-year-old baby. It had come out of a nearby forest and entered a house, attacking a "tea shopper" and a tenant. The police evacuated the victims, locked the leopard in the house and shot it through a ventiling opening. (Kathmandu Post, March 17)

Mosquito Attack. Generally speaking, there are no mosquitoes in the jungle portion of Chitwan district in February and March. But this year, "every man bears the scars of the mosquito's bite." They are even attacking the citizens of Bharatpur, where none have ever been seen before. Although 15 people have been found to be malaria positive in the last two months and locals are worried about the spread of encephalitis and meningitis in the days ahead, the District Public Health Office has no plan for spraying insecticides in the infected areas. (Kathmandu Post, March 13)


Making Good with Clown Hats. The clowns of Kathmandu are beginning to show up in cities all over the world -- and no, we are not talking about the politicians. People first started appearing in such places as Thamel wearing tall felt hats, joker's hats, king's jester hats, mushroom hats, Mad Hatter hats. The people themselves are ordinary tourists but the hats are products of Kathmandu. Now they are spreading all over the globe. Sharada Rijal, a housewife turned school teacher, started making the fantastically-shaped, colorful headgear on two sewing machines in 1990. Now she has 50 sewing machines (all operated by Muslim males) churning out thousands of hats, mostly for the European market, in a three-storey factory in central Nepal. She maintains a showroom in Kathmandu where the hats, which can cost as much as $60 in Europe, sell for $3.50 each. Her agreement with her brother is that he runs the showroom but stays out of the factory. "The tailors prefer me," she says. "My brother is too hot-blooded." (The Globe and Mail, July 31)


Major Accident Every Four Hours. A major accident takes place in the Kathmandu Valley on an average of every four hours. That is the finding of the Valley Traffic Police Office. Most accidents involve motorcycles, followed by cars, buses, jeeps and auto-rickshaws. Seven percent of the accidents are fatal. (Kathmandu Post, March 24)

Huge Hole Slows Traffic. There is a giant hole in a bridge about four kilometers from Naubise on the Prithvi highway between Kathmandu and Mugling. It is so big "that a truck can fall through it," according to informants, and, as a result, vehicles now are waiting several hours for their turn to get by. The hole has added four hours to a journey that normally takes seven. Approximately 30% of the 200-kilometer (125-mile) highway is in disrepair. (Rising Nepal, March 13)

Truck Mishap Takes Five. A leprosy patient was one of the five persons killed when a truck carrying 20 passengers and a load of mustard seed and ghee, dropped 20 feet from the road in Surkhet district in mid-western Nepal. Thirteen were injured in the accident. (Kathmandu Post, March 20)


RNAC Cuts Flights. Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation announced the cancellation from April 3 to August 28 of the Frankfurt-Paris-Frankfurt leg of its European operations, as well as its Dubai-Paris-Dubai flights. An RNAC spokesman explained that the Paris flights are being postponed because "we have not been able to attract enough passengers at fares we had expected." Other sources claim that it is Paris authorities who have withdrawn traffic rights for Orly Airport for that period. The airline has reduced its service to Shanghai and Hong Kong to one flight per week from May 15 to July 10. According to the airline, this too is because of lack of business -- and according to others because Shanghai airport authorities, like those in Paris, have withdrawn traffic rights for this period. At the same time that the government airline says it is having trouble attracting passengers on its international flights, it is suffering from a shortage of aircraft to carry them. It owns two B-757s and is desperately trying to find a replacement for a rented A-310 whose lease expires in May. "The central reason behind most of RNAC's problems," says an official who requested anonymity, "is excessive interference by the government in its working and politicisation of the management." (Kathmandu Post, March 29)

Radar Coming to Kathmandu Airport. A few years ago, the world was shocked by the crashes of Thai and Pakistani airliners trying to land at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport. The disasters might have been prevented if a new RADAR system, funded by the Japanese Cooperation Agency, had been in place. It is now scheduled to be in operation by 1997. With the new system, controllers will be able to monitor the movements of approaching aircraft on a screen, rather than relying on voice exchange. (Spotlight, March 15)

Cancelled Flights Blamed for Deaths. Generally speaking, the most serious consequence of delayed or cancelled flights is annoyance and inconvenience. But the publication Prakash claims that the cancellation of Royal Nepal Airlines flights in the remote district of Ramechhap east of Kathmandu resulted in the death of two people, a 35-year-old woman who "died at the airport while waiting for the flight," and a two-and-a-half-year-old child who was waiting to be taken to Kathmandu for treatment. (Prakash in Spotlight, February 16)

Boy Born in Helicopter. A pregnant woman on her way from Jomsom to Pokhara gave birth to a boy before the Nepal Airways helicopter was able to land. Mother and son were rushed to the hospital, where they are said to be fine. (Kathmandu Post, April 3)


A Seven-Man Murder. It apparently took seven people to murder Tek Bahadur Gharti, 25, of a village in the central Nepal district of Baglung. The attack took place while Gharti was on his way to a wedding. Police have identified the murderers, yet the latter disappeared after they threw the body into a gorge. (Kathmandu Post, March 15)

Drug Traffickers Caught. Two Indians were caught red-handed as they tried to cross the border at Bhairahawa at 4 am carrying packets of hashish in their waistcoats. Police have been trying to cope with an increase in drug traffic in this area. Most of those arrested are Indians, many of them posing as sadhus. (Kathmandu Post, March 17)

Restaurant Brawls. There has been a mushroom growth of "gazal" restaurants in the Pokhara area "in which women are the center of attraction." Unnecessary quarrels caused by "unhealthy competition, wine and women....often mar the night life" and "make the life of the customers miserable." In a recent incident, "some people indulged in hitting each other with bottles in a newly-opened restaurant near the Sabha Griha Chowk." One youth was admitted to the hospital and "had not regained his sense even the next day." (Kathmandu Post, April 3)

Famous Beauty Axed. Eighteen-year-old Chandi Sotar Magar, "a famous beauty of Santinagar" (in the south border district of Dang), has been axed to death by her father. He could no longer put up with "her illicit relations with several men," he said. Although the father has confessed his crime, another man, Dipak Malla, "who is supposed to have had close relation with the dead beauty," has also been arrested. (Kathmandu Post, February 25)

Drunken Septuagenarian Kills Wife. Krishna Bahadur Thing, of Lele in Kathmandu Valley, and his wife regularly took the maize that they raised to a nearby village to be ground into flour. One day, after finding that they would have to wait until afternoon for their turn at the grinding stone, they returned home and drank a little jand (a local alcoholic beverage). As well as running a farm, they run a small jand shop in their house. "We used to drink as well as sell the jand," the 72-year-old confesses. Later in the day, they came back with their maize, but as they headed for home in the evening, Thing "felt as if" he had pushed his wife from the edge of Tileswor Khola (a local stream) "under the spell of drunkeness." At the time, he did not look back, but in the morning he returned and found her body. "I am at a loss," he now says through tears. "What shall I do? My sons came to see me. They said I had lost my mind." He has been taken into custody by the police. (Kathmandu Post, March 2)

A "Unique and Clever Way" of Selling Hemp. An enterprising young man in Kalaiya, headquarters of Bara district (just south of Kathmandu Valley), has devised a "unique and clever way" of selling hemp that does not attract the attention of the police. He "emerges from his house on a bicycle with the two side pockets of his kurta [garment] filled with small packets of hemp," and cruises the marketplace. His customers, who understand what is going on, buy or sell the hemp from out of the pockets, thus making it unnecessary for him to spread out his wares where police will notice them. Those familiar with the operation point out that it also makes it easier for him to charge different prices to different customers. (Kathmandu Post, February 24)

Takes the Money and the Landlord's Daughter. The Secretary of Dhanpokhara Village Development Committee in the central Nepal district of Lamjung practiced forgery to make off with Rs 200,000 (more than US $3,600) of the Development Committee's money. That is not all he took. He has also run off with the 28-year-old daughter of the landlord of the house in which he was staying. (Kathmandu Post, March 28)

Top Kaski Official Arrested. Mahadev Gurung, the Chairman of Kaski District Development Committee in central Nepal, claims he did not punch a fellow official. The man was "heavily drunk," he says, and that was what made him collapse, sustaining injuries. Mr. Gurung, nonetheless, has been arrested under the Public Offence Act. (Rising Nepal, April 4)

A Career Gone Wrong. Fakir Alam, 19, a scribe at Durmar court in Sitamadhi in Mahotari district southeast of Kathmandu, dreams of becoming a lawyer, but is getting his experience on the receiving end of the law -- as a criminal. He has confessed several robberies to the police, including the theft of idols from various temples in Bihar. After being put in jail, he escaped by bending the three iron bars in his cell window, but was later caught. "Unmitigated poverty has forced me to burglary," he explained. He would not, he felt, have had to take this course if he could be given an income of Rs 6,000 to 7,000 (approximately US $105 to $125) per month to meet his basic needs and pay campus fees. (Kathmandu Post, March 22)

Police Foil Bone Smuggling Attempt. Police have seized four pieces of human skull, four ammonite stones, and a piece of femur bone from passengers about to board a flight to Bangkok in Tribhuvan International Airport. (Rising Nepal, March 17)

The Assistant Sub-Inspector's Big Mistake. The people of Bihukot in the central Nepal district of Baglung do not take immoral behavior on the part of their officials lightly. There had been rumors that Assistant Sub-Inspector Laxmi Prasad Bhatta was involved in an "immoral relationship" with the wife of Gagan Bahadur Basnet, a village health worker. But it was not until one day when Basnet returned earlier than expected from work that things came to a head. He had said he would be away until the following day, but unexpectedly showed up that evening, and, after a meal, went to bed. The sub-inspector tiptoed in later as he had apparently been doing regularly when Basnet was away, climbed into bed and grabbed what he thought was Mrs. Basnet. It was Mr. Basnet. "When Basnet shouted for help, local people gathered at the scene and bound the hands and feet of [the sub-inspector]," then turned the offender over to the police. The next day, an angry crowd forced the sub-inspector and Mrs. Basnet to declare themselves husband and wife, then smeared black soot on their faces and put garlands on their shoes. Mrs. Basnet will be the sub- inspector's third wife. It seems that he already has two back home in Gorkha. (Kathmandu Post, March 9)

Khukris Don't Kill People; People Kill People. Some kind of an argument got started when Sahar Moktan, Pancha Lal Lo and three other men were carrying water pipes from the Sindhuli District Water Supply Office (southeast of Kathmandu) to their village. When the job was finished and Moktan and Lo were returning to their homes, the other three attacked them with khukri knives and sticks. Moktan died; Lo was taken to the hospital with injuries. (Rising Nepal, March 9)

Police Confiscate Tapes. Samana Pariwar produces audio cassettes featuring "revolutionary" songs of the ultra-left. They have enjoyed some popularity. In early March, some 30 plain-clothes policemen went to local retailers at the Bhrikutimandap exhibition ground in Kathmandu and seized all the Samana Pariwar tapes. Pretending to be customers, they gathered up the cassettes and then, instead of paying, flashed their identity cards. "We asked the police not to confiscate the audios," said one of the retailers, "telling them that we won't sell them but rather return them to the wholesalers, but they didn't listen." Instead, they told the retailers they must keep quiet. Some were made to sign papers promising not to talk about the cassette seizures. Yet the news has spread and caused a rush to cassette shops. People are paying up to Rs 100 (about US $1.75) for the banned tapes. (Kathmandu Post, March 4)

Homosexual Teacher Threatened. Police had to be called to the Butwal Multiple Campus to subdue students who had gotten out of control and were threatening to manhandle a teacher who had been accused of a homosexual assault on one of his students. The teacher, who fainted in the campus complex, had reportedly not regained consciousness even 30 hours after the incident. (Kathmandu Post, February 26; Rising Nepal, February 27)


Maad People Disease. A mysterious disease that the local people call "maad" has taken the lives of 111 people in the far west hill districts of Achham and Bajura. The sickness is said to start with coughing, cold and fever, and is particularly fatal to old people and children. The government has been slow to react, claiming that it had not received official word of it for two months. The disease spread, according to reports, because there was no medicine in the area and no qualified health workers to administer treatment. The only available treatment, according to local residents, has been through witch doctors. Now, however, a team of health assistants and doctors has been sent to Jajarkot, Achham and Bajura, accompanied by the Minister of Health, Arjun Narsing KC. The Ministry later reported that the disease is now under control. "It had been apparent after the on-the-spot inspection," he said, "that the spread of the disease was unnecessarily sensationalized by adding that death cases [from other causes?] also to the list of those who died of the disease in question." (Kathmandu Post, March 19, 28; Rising Nepal, March 31 )

Pill Substituted. Ram Bahadur Praja has no health training and is described as a "peon." Yet for the last five months, he has been single-handedly manning the Raksirang Health Center in Makwanpur in south central Nepal. When a woman came in suffering from gastroenteritis, Praja gave her a family planning pill. "It is not good to disappoint those who make it to the center in the hope of living," he said. "There was no other medicine. I therefore gave her the pill although it was for family planning." Experience had taught him that one such pill will do her no harm. (Rising Nepal, March 6)


Lovesick Students Fail Exams. Why do high school students flunk exams? Something called the Milan Research and Counseling Center of Kuleswor asked 646 students in 62 districts of Nepal about this and learned that the main cause (more than 47%) was unreciprocated love. Bad omens were also cited, as well as dumb teachers, the interference of household duties, and the distracting allure of radio and television. A relatively small number blamed friends and peer pressure for their failure. More than 30% did not seem to mind admitting that their problem was that they had low IQs. (Rising Nepal, February 22)


Tourist Attacked in Nagarkot. An unidentified foreign tourist was attacked with a sharp weapon by unidentified assailants weapon as he was walking alone in the forest of Nagarkot, in the hills above Kathmandu. Two members of the Lions Club of Kathmandu and a captain of the Royal Nepal Army helped get the tourist to hospital. The Lions Club has expressed its concern that such incidents may adversely affect tourism trade in Nepal. (Kathmandu Post, March 30)

False Promises. Police have arrested an Italian citizen identified only as Mr. Di Marchi who was found to have illicit relationships with Nepalese girls "under the pretext of getting married with them." Nude photos along with "evidence of being involved in sexual activities" has been recovered from the suspect's room at the Lotus Guest House in Thamel. Mr. Marchi is said to be a journalist. (Rising Nepal, April 10)


Four Die in Rafting Accident. Four people died when their raft overturned on the Sunkoshi River on the border of Ramechhap and Kavre districts east of Kathmandu Valley. Four earlier rafting accidents on this river have taken fifteen lives. (Kathmandu Post, April 3)


Everest Film. David Breashears has been to the summit of Mt. Everest twice and now plans to return with a camera crew. His film company, Arcturus Motion Pictures, is co-producing a $4 million film, "Everest, Pinnacle of the World," to be released in late 1997. Besides documenting an ascent, it will show something on the geology and climbing history of the world's highest mountain and contain footage on the life and culture of Kathmandu and the Khumbu. The international climbing team is led by Ed Viestures, one of America's leading Himalayan mountaineers, together with Deputy Leader/Climber Jamling Tenzing Norgay, whose father, Tenzing Norgay, was -- with Sir Edmund Hillary -- one of the first two people to reach the summit. Besides cinematographers, the expedition includes Audrey Salkeld as Historian and Roger Bilham as Science Advisor. Some of the others who are playing an advisory role in the venture are Lhakpa Norbu Sherpa, Jim Fisher, Peter Molnar, Bradford Washburn, Charles Houston, and Rick Cohen. Tim Cahill is in charge of the script. Special problems are presented by the film's format, IMAX, the world's largest, because IMAX cameras normally weigh 80 pounds, and a 500-foot roll of film (enough for 90 seconds of shooting) weighs 5 pounds. The crew is using a specially-designed 35-pound camera that has already been tested in the Himalaya (and is, presumably, hiring an army of climbing Sherpas). Those who would like up-to-the-minute reports can try to reach the expedition's web page at As we go to press, the team is on its way up the mountain. (The Independent, March 20, and other sources)

Sherpas Subject of Film. Khangi, a film based on Sherpa life, society, and "their love for each other" is being shown at the Tentruf Film Festival in Italy. Suresh Manandhar is cinematographer. (Kathmandu Post, April 10)


Pagers to Hit Market. Soon there will be nowhere you can go to escape. Pagers are coming to Nepal. Motorola and its Nepalese agent have received permission from the government to introduce these communications devices within the next six to nine months to about 8,000 users . As the company points out, pagers are less sophisticated as well as less expensive than cellular phones. (Rising Nepal, March 1)

Ethnic Language News Programs Costly. Radio Nepal now broadcasts the news in 13 languages in this multi- ethnic country, and is losing money. The Gurung and Magar versions of the news are transmitted from Pokhara; western Tharu and Abhadhi from Surkhet; eastern Tharu and Limbu from Dhankuta; and Nepali, English, Sanskrit, Newari, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Maithili from Kathmandu. The government provides 22 million rupees (around US $400,000) for news and news-oriented programs, but this is not enough. (Rising Nepal, March 1)

No Fax or TV in Okhaldunga. No-one in the east central district of Okhaldunga has been able to send or receive a fax or to watch television since the "breaking up" of the turbine rotor of Okhaldunga Small Hydel Project. According to "some sections," the project has been closed "due to the recklessness of the project chief and the manangement." (Rising Nepal, March 19)

More Time in Front of the Set. Kathmandu viewers will be able to watch four more hours of television per day with an expansion of viewing hours by Nepal Television, the national network. There is no announcement of what will be shown in the two hours that have been added to morning programs. Evening viewers, however, will now be able to see all of the midnight movie. (Spotlight, February 16)

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Contents copyright © 1996, Robert Peirce.
Revised: 29 April, 1996