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Nation Weekly September 5, 2004, Volume 1, Number 20 Upadhyay, Akhilesh 2004-09-05

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OL. I, NO. 20
Maoists Face Angry Civil Society
RS. 30       ISSN 1811-721X
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21 Bungled Blockade
Byjohn Narayan Parajuli
The blockade failed because most people ignored it. That's hardly a resounding victory for the government, but it may be enough of a blow to the Maoists
to edge them towards the negotiating table.
Interview: Matthew Kahane, UN. resident representative
11 Blockade On
My Mind
By Suman Pradhan
The international community must say
that Maoist threats are inconsistent
with their desire for U.N. role in talks
30 The Right
To Information
By Pratyoush Onta
In 1994 the Supreme Court made an
important decision regarding citizens'
right to information
38 Socrates Square
By Yuyutsu RD Sharma
The place with its small Kavi Kuna
teashops speaks of tumults of this nation
40 Unblock The Block
With the lifting of the blockade,
Kathmanduties have lost a great opportunity to relearn the tricks of survival
42 The Ad Gurus
ByAditya Adhikari
Business Advantage has emerged
as a trendsetter in advertising
47 Use It Or Lose It
By Yashas Vaidya
Gai Jatra is an opportunity for people
to come out and say whatever they
want. Too bad we pass up the opportunity every year.
50 Only A Game
ByAditya Adhikari
For better or for worse, the Olympic
Games are a political as well as
sporting event, with enormous stakes
for winners and losers.
18 Forbidden Fruit
Byjohn Narayan Parajuli
The story behind the first large-scale
abduction of Nepalis in Iraq is
24 Scary Business
By Satishjung Shahi
Maoist ban on U.S. investments has sent
the business community into a tailspin
26 Royal No-Hope
The Royal Nepal academy is adrift—
poorly managed, highly politicized,
unproductive and expensive
28 Burden Of Beasts
By Sudhar Nepal
Tourism has dried up in Chitwan, and
it's having a negative effect
32   Proudly Made
In China
By Satishjung Shahi
Chinese goods have spread from
sidewalk stalls to swishy supermarkets
34   Comedy TV
By Satishjung Shahi
Comedians are finally stealing
primetime TV slots
36  As Always
A Novelty
Contemporary Indian paintings are
rich banquet of delight
ii I am equally keen to
see the CIAA take
action against police
Young Maoists
Them Young" tells us in a nutshell the problem of the Maoist rebellion: The rebel
soldiers are young and dogmatic (Guest
Column, August 29). But that exactly is
why the problem is ours as much as theirs.
Her journey to Makwanpur to see
Maoist students was enlightening in
more one way. She does well in talking
about the attendant dangers of a Maoist
rebellion without being too harsh on the
Maoists and yet keeps short of glorifying their revolution. Like another letter
writer last week ("Media's Maoist menace" by Navin Thapa), I have always felt
that the Maoist problem has been much
romanticized by the media and a
complicit civil society. More than anything else, it may be due to their failure
to analyze the events and issues at hand.
What disturbs me the most is the swelling ranks of young Maoist fighters. When
you have fighters as young as eleven, you
can't help imagining the worst for the
country. Sijapati is wary of the young
fighters' "commitment"; I am scared to
death by their dogmatism. Commitment
to me has a positive connotation.
Mixed feeling
watering hole that is extremely popular
among the expats in Kathmandu (Lifestyle,
by Aditya Adhikari, August 29). As someone
who has spent a lot of time with them over
the years I have come to see one thing: The
expats quickly leave a place that becomes
too popular, especially among the locals.
Call it their love for privacy or a desire to
stand out. I am not too sure whether featuring Upstairs in your magazine was a
good idea.
Humble man
("The River Guide," by Satishjung Shahi,
August 29). Thanks for highlighting a person who has put in a lot of hard work to
reach where he is now. I have come to
admire this man more than most other
high-sounding professionals. He was not
born with a silver spoon in his mouth, like
so many other tourism entrepreneurs and
second-generation success stories. Everyone can learn from this humble man.
U.S. elections
Summer" was an excellent read (Sense &
Nonsense, August 29). The upcoming
U.S. presidential election is going to be a
dead heat, just as the 2000 elections. Bush
never won the popular vote and yet won
the election. So don't be surprised if
something similar happens. The debate
that followed the 2000 elections deadlock
brought to the fore many issues that had
remained buried under the carpet in the
United States: minority issues, black
rights, right-wing fanaticism and, of
course, chad ballots. Let's hope that the
American democracy functions better
this election.
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Bush bashing
United States now and Bush bashing is
fashionable among liberals like your columnists Samrat Upadhyay and Sushma
Joshi. So make hay while the sun shines.
Omar of the Pacific
wonderful job in highlighting the
achievements of K.N. Sharma ("On Migration And Omar Of The Pacific," Writing on the Wall, August 29). There are
some amazing success stories abroad.
While it is not so much of a surprise to
see some Nepalis stand out among a
much larger diaspora in Europe and the
United States, they are few and far between in Asia where Nepalis are still
busy toiling in the sweatshops. So Omar
comes as a breath of fresh air.
CIAA needs support
offered in "More Bite" that the CIAA needs
more legislative teeth to target the power
centers (by John Narayan Parajuli, August
29). This in fact was a routine excuse offered by former CIAA officials for their inaction. Other things, I believe, are more important than that: the political will to pros
ecute the guilty without vendetta and a civil
society that supports the anti-corruption
drive. While the media has been largely supportive ofthe CIAAs anti-corruption measures, it has time and again given unnecessary credence to the stories made up by the
corrupt. One thesis doing the rounds is that
Wagle is not the only corrupt politician and
that the CIAA should have prosecuted others before booking Wagle. It's been said that
Wagle is being made a scapegoat by the institution that suddenly wants to flex its
muscles by going after high-profile leaders.
I say this: The CIAA had to start somewhere
and Wagle happened to be the one. No excuse can be offered for not taking action
against him, though I personally sense that
the Deuba government is dilly-dallying
and delaying actions against Wagle. I am
equally keen to see the CIAA take action
against police officers—both the sitting
and the retired ones. While politicians
have rightly been fingered for their abuses,
two of the most corrupt institutions in
the country are the police force and the
judiciary. The CIAA and the man behind
the current mission, Suryanath
Upadhayay, both need our support. I
would be very disappointed if they were
to back down—for whatever reasons.
Corruption eats into the vitals of a society and someone has to take the initiative
before it's too late. Maybe Upadhayay is
the man ofthe hour. I wish him luck.
Thin to thick
Jyapu Newar
Thin to medium
Jyapu Newar
Thin to medium
Thin to medium
Rai, Limbu
Toast to local brews
SATISH JUNG SHAHTS "A Toast for Good Health," about Nepal's only commercial vintner
Maheshwore Lai Ranjitkar, was informative (Lifestyle, August 1). Thankyou.
Maheshwore Lai has an illustrious pedigree. His father, the late Satya Lai Ranjitkar, was the first
Nepali horticulturist and the pioneer of fruit preservation in Nepal. After his resignation from a
governmentjob in 1970, Satya Lai devoted the rest of life in a single-minded pursuit to develop jam
and jelly under the brand name NESY.
Different kinds of wine are in vogue in different communities in Nepal. I myself have over the
years tested many kinds of wine or wine-like products. I list some of them below.
Hayun Thon
All these products are locally made and have yet to be exploited commercially by modern winery.
They hold great promise and it's time we did something about it.
Nation Weekly, The Media House, Tripureshor,
Kathmandu, Nepal (Regd. 165/059-060).
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EDITOR: Akhilesh Upadhyay
SEN I0RSTAFF WRITERS: Sushma Joshi, Satish Jung Shahi,
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All Rights Reserved. Tlie reproduction of the contents of this
publication, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the
prior consent of the publisher.
Vol. I, No. 20. For the week August 30-September 5, 2004, released on August 30
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nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
union activist protests the
closure of Industries, Including
Soaltee Hotel by the Maoists
nation weekly/Sagar Shrestha
 Blockade On My Mind	
The international community must say in no uncertain terms that Maoist threats to re-impose
blockades is entirely inconsistent with their desire for U.N. role in talks. And that the international
involvement depends on improvements in the Maoists' respect for human rights.
The Maoists may have suspended their blockade of Kathmandu,
but last week's episode brought to focus the stark realities of
today's Nepal: The country's political process remains as deadlocked as ever. All sides involved in the eight-year-old conflict have been
unable to muster the will to overcome the obstacles to a peaceful settlement. It's about time for the world to step in.
Despite our geographical isolation, it is hard to believe that the international community has not shown more interest in this ever-escalating
conflict, which is arguably the deadliest in Asia. More than 10,000
people have died since the rebellion began in 1996, almost a third of
them in the past year since the ceasefire between the government and
the Maoists broke down.
It could have been different. In June, a new government came to
office promising peace and stability. Sher Bahadur Deuba, who had
been dismissed by King Gyanendra in October 2002, was reinstated by
the monarch to quiet political
protests and resolve the conflict. The prime minister had a
good start, managing to bring
together four major parties in
his governing coalition and,
crucially, lend his government
a broad appeal.
But nearly three months
later, that hope is dissipating,
as the coalition partners publicly bicker about whether or
not to hold peace talks with
the Maoists. For their part, the
Maoists have consistently said
they are in favor of talks but
only under U.N. auspices and
only if the government agrees to their minimum demand of holding
elections to a constituent assembly to write a new constitution.
In the meantime, the grim conflict continues. The rebels' hit-and-run
tactics have succeeded in stretching thin the Royal Nepal Army. The
blockade intensified that pressure, as Army and paramilitary units were
reassigned to defend the two main highways that link Kathmandu to the
outside world. The civilian population, of course, continues to endure the
greatest suffering. The rebels have forcibly indoctrinated thousands of
school children and teachers, and have lately been targetingjoint-ven-
ture industriesand journalists.
Under such circumstances, it is easy to forget that the warring sides
do actually have some common ground on which to build peace. The
idea of a constituent assembly, long an anathema to most political
groups, has now by and large been accepted bythe main parties. But
the Palace is still reluctant, fearing that a new constitution would restrict
its powers. There is also fear that the Maoists could hijack any prospective constituent assembly to draw up a one-party republic with scant
regard for human rights.
This is where the international community can play a very positive
role. Quiet donor diplomacy has already led to the formation of a high-
level peace committee comprising the four governing coalition partners
and the King's representative. But a key player, the Nepali Congress, is
still outside the committee and needs to be coaxed in, along with opposition parties, to lend it the broadest possible political base. The main
outside powers here—India, China, the United States and Britain—
should urge the committee to hold a conference involving all political
forces to build a common position on constitutional reforms. This is
crucial if future negotiations with the Maoists are to make any headway.
Experience has shown that the main parties have different views on
reform; harmonizing their position before any peace talks therefore is
paramount. But first the international community should make clear to the
Maoists that they cannot return to the tactic of blockading Kathmandu or
any other part of the kingdom.
The Maoists may believe the
past week has achieved their
minimum objective—to show
that the government is not in
control ofthe highways—but
their threat to reapply the
blockade in a month must be
condemned internationally.
Such a message should hit
home, given the rebels' desire for international acceptance.
Earlier this month,
UNICEF Deputy Director Kul
Chandra Gautam, speaking
in his personal capacity as a
Nepali citizen, struck the right note when he called for the government
to accept U.N. involvement before it is too late. There is no reason why
our neighbors should block such attempts because resolving the conflict peacefully is in their interests too. Most government officials here
fear that U.N. involvement means instant recognition for the Maoists.
Gautam made it clear that it wasn't the case. The international community, therefore, must say in no uncertain terms that Maoist threats to
re-impose blockades is entirely inconsistent with their desire for U.N.
role in talks, and that international involvement also depends on improvements in the Maoists' respect for human rights.
If this point could be hammered home to the Maoists, and if all
political parties are united on a common constitutional agenda, then
there isa real possibility of breaking the political roadblock that keeps
Nepal mired in conflict.□
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DAMAGE CONTROL: Tourism entrepreneurs say Nepal's problems have been
exaggerated by the media, both domestic and foreign
Maoist warning
The CPN-Maoist has called on
the Chief Election Commissioner Keshav Raj Rajbhandari,
and four other commissioners at
the Election Commission, to resign from their posts ■within the
next four days or face "serious
consequences." Maoist leader
Prabhakiran and the commander
of the Maoist special task force
for the Valley, ■who goes by the
name Bhisan, have accused the
Election Commission of "plotting to organize elections" in the
country. The latest Maoist threat
came a day after they called off
their blockade ofthe Valley.
Gurkha compensation
The British government has
compensated 101 ex-Gurkhas
who were held as prisoners of
war by the Japanese during the
Second World War. Two years
ago, a British court had ordered
the British government to pay
compensation of 10,000 pounds
to each prisoner of war. The
Kathmandu office of the Far
East Prisoners ofWar has received
1,400 applications for the compensation. The office will remain
in Kathmandu until 2005, by
which time all eligible claimants
must apply for compensations.
FNJ ultimatum
The Federation of Nepalese
Journalists has given a seven-day
ultimatum until August 31 to
Maoist leaders to make public
their stand on press freedom. It
has also asked the Maoists to
hand over the body of journalist
Dekendra Raj Thapa to his family, to provide compensation to
his family and take action against
those involved in the murder of
Thapa. It has asked the Maoists
to make public whereabouts of
abducted journalists Dhan
Bahadur Magar, Kul Bahadur
Malla and Parej Raj Shahi. The
FNJ has threatened to boycott
Maoist-related news if the demands were not met within the
specified date.
Rapist dacoits
Dacoits from neighboring Indian
villages are reported to have raped
at least a dozen women in
Harchagadi, Morang, 25 kilometers east of Biratnagar. The
women reported the incident at
the local police post. Among the
victims, sixwere married women
aged 27 to 35 years, while the
rest were unmarried girls between 15 to 18. Some 25 fami
lies have left the village. The
dacoits raped the women because
they did not find valuable goods
in the houses, according to the
victims. The victims were gang-
raped in front of their husbands
and parents, reports said. Babaita
Devi from a village in neighboring Dainiya VDC was murdered
after she was raped.
Arrest Wagle
The Special Court sent a written
order to the Kathmandu District
Court to arrest and confiscate the
property of Chiranjivi Wagle,
who was convicted on charges of
corruption on July 22. The court
sentenced Wagle to two and half
years in prison and imposed a fine
of Rs. 27.2 million on him. Officials at the Kathmandu District
Court have reportedly started collecting details concerning Wagle's
property to be sent to the Revenue Department. The
Kathmandu District Court has
also sent an official letter to Wagle
informing him of the Special
Court's final verdict.
Maoist camp
Police in the Indian state of
Uttaranchal found a Maoist
training camp in a forest near
Chorgaliya and Hanspur in
Nainital district during a search
operation, reported Dainik
Jagaran, an Indian daily. The find
came after the Special Security
Bureau carried out the search
operation. The Indian police had
intensified their search operations based on information that
armed people in combat fatigues
were active in the area. Additional paramilitary forces have
been deployed following the
discovery, the daily said.
Talk team
The Maoist-aligned student
body, the ANNISU-R formed
a four-member team for talks
with the government. The committee comprises central secretariat members Ramesh Malla
and Shivaram Yadhav, Office
Secretary Suresh Gautam and
General Secretary Himal
Sharma. Sharma is alleged to be
in Army custody. The students
said they would sit for talks after
consultation with other student
unions. The government said it
had not received confirmation
from the Maoists on the appointment of a talks team.
TU quotas
Tribhuvan University announced reservation quotas for
women, dalits and ethnic students. The university said 20 percent quotas will be made available for women, 15 percent for
dalits and 10 percent for students
from ethnic communities.
No to Kuwait
The government temporarily suspended
work permits for Kuwait and Jordan. The
move comes after militants abducted 13
Nepalis in Iraq. A large number of Nepalis have
entered Iraq through Kuwait and Jordan. After
the hostage crisis, the Jordanian government has
dissolved the Amman-based employment agency
Morning Star Company, which was responsible
for sending the 13 Nepalis to work in Iraq. Meanwhile, police in Kathmandu have arrested six persons from two employment agencies for sending
workers illegally to Iraq. Offices of Quick Manpower Agency and Pioneer Manpower Agency
were raided, and 24 Nepali passports were recovered. In related news, the Iraqi interim government arrested 14 Nepalis for entering Iraq illegally.
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Blockade off
The Maoist "district chiefs" of
Dhading, Nuwakot, Rauswa,
Sindhupalchowk and
Makawanpur said they were
postponing the Valley's blockade
for a month. They said that the
blockade was called off after requests from the civil society, political parties and intellectuals. In
another development, the
Maoist trade union said the ban
and 12 businesses in the Valley
will remain. They have also ordered all businesses with U.S.
investments to close.
Int'l intervention
The Asian Human Rights
Commission said that immediate international intervention is
needed to avoid a humanitarian
catastrophe in Nepal. The Hong
Kong-based organization said
that the situation of law and order and internal security is deteriorating, reflecting government's inability to ensure safety
and security for its people. Urging the international community to condemn the killing of
civilians by both sides to the conflict, the Maoists and the government forces, the commission
said the international community should consider current
events as a sign of warning and
intervene to encourage both
sides to head for peace talks.
Women's varsity
To raise funds for the establishment of a women's university,
Padmakanya Multiple Campus
organized a Srimadbhagawat
Mahayagya. The 53-year-old
campus hopes to raise over
Rs.100 million from the program. The campus was able to
collect more than Rs.1.1 million
on its first day. The Mahayagya
runs for seven days.
More fare
The Civil Aviation Authority
has recommended a seven percent increase in airfares. The
recommendation comes amid
growing pressure from air transport entrepreneurs on the Ministry for Tourism and Civil Aviation to increase the airfare. The
airlines said that they had been
operating at a loss since the increase in the price of aviation
fuel. The airlines have been demanding an increase of Rs. 200
for flights whose flight time is
less than an hour and Rs. 300 on
longer flights.
VDC resignations
Fifty-one secretaries of Parbat's
village development committees
resigned en masse citing security reasons. The Maoists had
accused them of misusing the
VDC budgets and ordered them
to resign. The secretaries collectively handed their resignation
to the local development officer
and board chairman ofthe district development committee,
reports said. The resignation has
caused a lot of inconvenience for
the people in Parbat. Such administrative works as verification
of family relations, recommendations for the citizenship, details of elderly allowance, marriage registration, and birth and
death registrations have come to
a halt.
Refugees critical
Bhutanese refugees in Jhapa and
Morang criticized the Bhutanese
government's campaign to distribute new citizenship certificates to its nationals. They said
the new citizenship campaign
was yet another plot to make
them "non-Bhutanese" after
their repatriation. The
Bhutanese government started
issuing new citizenship identity
cards from August 20.
Lever bombing
Maoist rebels detonated three
bombs simultaneously at the
main factory of Nepal Lever
Limited, a major Nepal-India
joint venture company, at
Basamadi in Hetauda. A group
of armed rebels took control of
the security guards at the factory before setting off the bombs,
reports said. The details ofthe
loss were not available by the
time we went to press. The Indian Embassy has condemned
the attack and demanded actions
against those responsible.
Transport strike
Transport entrepreneurs in the
Eastern region have called an indefinite strike starting from Au
gust 26.The strike was called
against the Department of Transport Management's decision to
issue permits to light vehicles on
the hill routes. Entrepreneurs said
that the permits were a complete
violation of established regulations. Over 500 buses are expected
to remain off the roads.
NC supremo
President of Nepali Congress Girija Prasad Koirala
was stopped from boarding a
flight to Bhairahwa by security personnel at the
Kathmandu airport. The
Army spokesman, Rajendra
Bahadur Thapa, said that the
former prime minister had
not informed the security
personnel of his trip. He denied any misbehavior on the
part of the security personnel and said he regretted the
incident. The NC spokesman Arjun Narsingh K. C.
denounced the move. The
government has formed a
five-member committee under Medini Prasad Sharma,
joint secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and
Civil Aviation, to investigate
the incident.
MAN   povtFf^ C0MMN7
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nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
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launched the Sure Home Pregnancy Test Kit.
Sure is a discrete, reliable and easy-to-use
home pregnancy test kit that provides quick
results. Sure is affordable at Rs. 20 and is
available in selected medical outlets as well as
some general stores. Population Services International Nepal isa non-profit organization
working in the areas of HIV/AIDS prevention,
maternal child health and family planning.
Marketing home pregnancy test kit not only
encourages women to detect pregnancy early,
but also allows women the much needed option of consulting a physician for pre-natal care
if they are pregnant, thereby increasing their
chances of having a healthy pregnancy and
birth. Sure is also an ideal "gateway product"
for consumers, especially women, to find out
more information on available family planning
methods, with the aim of encouraging increased
contraceptive use as appropriate.
BPL televisions have been introduced in the
Nepali market by Jaiswal Enterprises, the official seller and distributor ofthe television sets
in the country. BPL TVs are available in five
*    J
- - ■ -    *■—»*«■
different sizes
(14', 20', 21', 25' and 29'). They have
been manufactured with technical assistance
from Sanyo, a popular Japanese brand. They
are equipped with quadra point focus, white
tone and plug and play features, 100 channel
settings and 150-watt sound system. According to Mr. Rajendra Jaiswal, proprietor of Jaiswal
Enterprises, BPL televisions meet the standard
of Sanyo electronic goods.
The Beauti and Boutika-2004 program scheduled to be held on September 9-13 at the
Birendra International Convention Centre will
include the Mr. Innovative 2004 contest, as
part of the exhibition. A man between the
age of 16 and 30 will be selected as Mr.
Innovative, based on a set of questions asked
during the final round. Out ofthe 40-50 entries each day, two will be selected. Among
the final eight entries, one lucky winner will
be selected as Mr. Innovative. He will win
prizes worth Rs. 10,000 in cash and six
months of free haircuts.
The installation of optical fiber cable between
Bhadrapur in the eastern Mechi district to
Lamahi in Rapti district in
the West under the East-
West Highway has been
completed. Optical fiber
lines have been installed
along 900 kilometers
from Bhadrapurto Lamahi
at a depth of one and a
half meters. Thistechnol-
ogy is more dependable
that traditional telephone
lines. According to Nepal
Telecom, once the new
technology comes into effect, telephone services improve in quality, and 10,000 customers will be able to call overseas simultaneously.
The technology is already in use in Kathmandu
and Biratnagar on a trial basis. The total cost of
installing optical fiber is Rs. 1.74 billion out of
which Rs. 1.34 billion was provided as assistance by the Indian government the rest was
met by Nepal Telecom. The next phase will cover
the Lamahi-Kanchanpur segment.
Hulas Motors, the only auto manufacturer in
the country, started commercial sales of its four-
wheel pick-up vans. The new Mustang models
were unveiled at a function organized by the
Morang Trade Association. According to
Surendra Golchha, managingdirector of Hulas
Motors, the Nepal-made vans are capable of
carrying 25 percent more load than Indian-
made vans.
Quality Biscuit Company recently launched
Country Cracker, a low-calorie, sugar-free biscuit with high fiber content and rich in vitamins.
The biscuit is ideal for people suffering from
diabetes and also suitable for people with high
blood pressure because of its low salt content.
National Hydro Power Company recently announced the flotation of shares worth Rs.
140 m i 11 ion at the rate of Rs. 100 per share.
Ofthe total shares, 70,000 shares will be
reserved for NHPC employees and the remaining 1,330,000 shares will be made
available for the public. NHPC was established in 1996byN.B. Group to develop small
and medium size hydropower projects.
Indrawati III was one of the first to be constructed bythe company. It has a capacity of
7.5MW and produces 51 million kilowatt-
hours of electricity in a normal year.
Sangina Vaidya—Nepal's best Olympic hope to
date—never made it beyond the first round in
Athens. Her defeat came against Shih HsinChen
ofthe Chinese Taipei, who later went on to win
the gold in the flyweight (under 49kg) category.
The Taiwanese thrashed the Nepal's lone star 4-
0. While Sangina's loss to the Asian champ was
hardly a shock, she failed to make any headway
in the battle for bronze: She was again knocked
out in the first round by the Cambodian, Mora
Romero Gladys Alicia, who defeated her 5-1.
A lot was expected of the Bruce Lee fan.
With 18 medals, including 15 golds and a silver in South Asian championships, she is certainly South Asia's undisputed taekwondo
queen. She has golds in the last two SAF
Games. She also brought home a gold from
the 12th Asian Taekwondo Championships held
in Australia in 1996. She confirmed her place
in the Athens Games and in Nepal's sporting
history when she finished third in the flyweight
category at the Asian Taekwondo Qualification
Tournament in Bangkok in February.
Although she started with wushu in her early
teens, Sangina soon decided itwas going to be
taekwondo. And taekwondo it was all the way.
Early this year, the 29-year-old was named
Player ofthe Year by Nepal Sports Journalists'
Forum. She was also awarded the prestigious
Trishakti Patta.
With her loss, Nepal's dream of an elusive
Olympic win has to wait for another four years.
"I might retire after the Olympics," Sangina had
said before she left for the Olympics. It now
remains to be seen where she will go from here.
Despite her loss, however, she will be an inspiration for a new generation of Nepali athletes.
Her records outside Nepal speak for her.
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nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
 Iraq Sag
The story behind the first large-scale abduction of Nepalis in Iraq is unfolding. The
time has come for the government to regulate the Iraqi market and start cracking down
on culprits.
is another killing field waiting for
Nepalis. Most seem happy to go,
even if it requires a bit of self-deception
and the willingness to turn a blind eye to
the lies of the crooked agents and
middlemen. Three Nepalis have already
lost their lives in Iraq, one in Basra and
two in Baghdad in the past few months.
Another succumbed to jaundice in
Mumbai, en-route to Iraq this month.
"We don't know who took my son to
Iraq," says Jit Bahadur Khadka, father of
Ramesh Khadka, who was abducted with
11 other Nepalis on August 19. "I appeal
to the kidnappers to release my son and
other Nepalis," pleads Khadka's mother,
Radha in grief. But Ramesh is not the
only one.
As many as 23 Nepalis could have been
kidnapped in Iraq in August, according
to a government official. Fourteen others have been arrested by the Iraqi government for illegally entering Iraq.
Nepal's Foreign Ministry has confirmed
12 abductions. The Amman-based recruiting company Morning Star, had
subcontracted 67 Nepalis to work in
Iraq—out of which 12 have been abducted.
Details are still sketchy but a militant group, the Army of Ansar al-Sunna,
has shown pictures of Nepali hostages
on its website. It's hard to speculate
why the militants have targeted the
Nepalis until the Nepal government
establishes a clear communication of
line with them. But militants have said
they want to set an "example to all the
collaborators of American and other
imperialist forces and to those combating Islam." In a vaguely-worded
charge, the Iraqi militants accuse the
Nepalis of supporting the American
"infidels" in their crusade against Iraq
but everyone is at a loss to explain why
Nepalis, neither citizens of a powerful country nor with any established
connections with "the American infidels," have been targeted.
"As far as the militants are concerned,
the Nepalis are being taken hostage for
specific reasons," says Bishnu Rimal, vice
chairperson of the General Federation of
Nepalese Trade Unions. The Iraqi militants increasingly see the Nepalis in Iraq
as mercenaries working for the British and
the Americans, he adds, claiming that a
growing number of Nepalis are working
for American and British security companies based in Iraq. The number of Nepalis
caught in the Iraqi quagmire is rising, but
none ofthe culprits behind the rackets that
get them there have been nailed.
But who is the culprit? Government
officials say they cannot be blamed as the
hostages crossed into Iraq illegally
though they admit they have moral responsibility to do their best to free the
hostages. By all indications, the employment agencies were willing to go far to
cash in on the Nepalis' desperate search
for employment. The employment agencies say the government is responsible
as much as the agencies. There are allegations that some labor officials maybe
hand in glove with the culprits. Many
smell foul play behind the government
reluctance to take action against Moonlight Consultancy, the employment
agency that's responsible for sending the
abductees to Jordan. Officials avoid directly commenting on whether they
would take actions against the operators
of Moonlight Consultancy.
"We have formed a committee to
probe the incident," says an official, insisting that the government would take
action only after the probe is complete.
The director of Moonlight
Consultancy KB. Rana, confirmed nine
names out of 12 as having gone through
his agency but he denied that he or his
firm had anything to do with workers
going to Iraq. Here in Nepal, police
raided offices of two recruiting agencies
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 State of Shock
In a humble house on a gravel
road, the family of 19-year-old
Ramesh Khadka is wondering
why an Islamic militant group in faraway Iraq would hold him hostage.
Ramesh's father, 55-year-old
Jit Bahadur Khadka, holds onto a
picture posted on an Islamist
website and repeatedly reproduced in newspapers that shows
his son demurely holding his passport in front ofthe militants' banner. "All we can do is pray for his
safety and his safe return," says
the father, who is in tears.
The government has appealed
for the release ofthe 12 Nepalis
abducted but says it has no independent information on their
Ramesh is one of five children, four sons and a daughter.
The family survives in Lele by sell
ing milk to the local dairy and
working in the fields. Khadka says
the family had taken a Rs.
150,000 loan in belief that his
son was heading to Jordan. The
sum isafortune for the family, he
says. He recalls his son saying,
"Since things are not looking up
in Nepal, why not go abroad to
make some money?
"I don't understand why and
how Ramesh got into Iraq in the
first place," says his 23-year-old
brother, Sudarshan Khadka. "His
employment company in
Kathmandu had said he would be
going to Jordan to work as a cook
at a hotel in Amman, as he had
trained as a cook in Kathmandu."
Sudarshan says his brother's employment company in Kathmandu
had promised that he would be
able to earn at least $400 a
In Amman, Haytham
Mohammad, assistant manager of
the Morning Star employment
agency, says the Nepalis were
hired to work there but like "everyone who comes to Jordan," they
heard of higher payingjobs in Iraq
and decided to try their luck.
The family last heard from
Ramesh a month ago when he
called from Jordan to say that he
was still without work. "He is not
even politically motivated, let alone [interested in] helping a foreign country's army in
a foreign land,"
Sudarshan Khadka
Bishnu Khadka,
Ramesh's 16-year-
old sister, says the
family first heard
about his situation
while watching television Sunday evening.
Officials at the labor
and foreign ministries
have assured the family that they
are doing all they can to free
Neighbor Sudarshan Dottel
says, "We are really surprised by
the charges against the Nepalis
abducted in Iraq. They had gone
to work in Jordan as cooks at a
hotel. I think they have been
framed." Nepal had declined U.S.
requests to send troops to Iraq,
saying its army had its hands full
with the Maoists.
(Shrestha writes for AFP, the
French news agency.)
who were reportedly taking interviews
to send Nepalis to Iraq. The police took
into custody the operators of Quick and
Pioneer Manpower Agency days after
militants kidnapped Nepalis in Iraq.
This is the second kidnapping incident involving Nepalis in Iraq. In April
one Nepali was kidnapped along with
two Turks and two Indians. The Army
of Ansar al-Sunna, kidnappers of Nepalis
hostages, is a dangerous outfit, believed
to be an offshoot of Ansar al-Islam, "Defenders of Islam," a group with ties to al-
Qaeda. The group has been involved in
killings of civilians including Iraqi "collaborators," Canadians and Britons.
The Army of Ansar Al-Sunna staged a
high-profile attack in February this year
when it struck the offices of two prominent Kurdish political parties. Suicide
bombers entered the PUK and KDP
headquarters in Erbil, Kurdistan, an autonomous Kurdish enclave in the north
of Iraq, and detonated bombs simultaneously, killing 109 people, including
KDP Deputy Prime Minister Sami
Abdul Rahman and KDP Minister of
Agriculture Saad Abdullah.
Iraq is rapidly becoming an eyesore
for the Nepali government. The government has long banned Iraq as a labor destination for Nepalis, but hundreds of
Nepalis are bypassing the official prohibition to reach this forbidden destination. "There has been repeated oversight from the government officials too,"
says Dan Bahadur Tamang, former president of the Federation of Foreign Employment Agencies Association. Notjust
oversight there has been gross negligence
on the part of the government. The
shocking tale of Nepalis stranded in
Mumbai is a testimony to it.
Thousands of Iraq-bound Nepalis
are stranded in Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi,
Kuwait and Jordan. Sujit Mahat has reportedly died of jaundice while waiting
for his visa to go to Iraq. Most of the job
seekers took loans or sold property to
go to Iraq. Now that the touts have taken
their money, they have nowhere to go.
Some women job seekers have started
taking odd jobs in Mumbai, and some
even have reportedly taken to prostitution in a city notorious for its red-light
districts. Reports coming from Mumbai
say some 2,500 of those stranded there
have been rescued and sent back home
with the help of local NGOs.
The Iraq issue is increasingly becoming problematic both for the government
and the recruiting agencies. It's a test of
their commitment to the people who
have been and are being tricked to collect
the forbidden fruit in former
Mesopotamia, where legend says the Garden of Eden once existed. The government needs to regulate the Iraqi market
and start cracking down on unscrupulous
agents and fly-by-night companies who
are devising fraudulent ways to break the
law under the government's very nose. E
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
The blockade failed because
most people ignored it. That's
hardly a resounding victory
for the government, but it
may be enough of a blow to
the Maoists to edge them toward the negotiating table. So
the civil society hopes.
nerves of Valley's residents for a week, the
Maoists finally called
off—postponed, in
their terms—their indefinite blockade of
the capital. A statement issued by their
"district government chiefs" had
grown mellower in the intervening
week. "We are calling it off on the request of the civil society and human
rights activists...," the statement said.
That surely must have been an excuse
to pull out from an action that most
people had ignored and that was about
to backfire. By the time the blockade
was called off last Tuesday the Maoists
knew they had antagonized quite a large
section of the Valley's residents. Civil
society leaders were angry; the media
was livid.
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 "The blockade collapsed due to two
reasons," says Minendra Rijal, spokesman for NC-D, the prime minister's
party. "First, it never enjoyed popular
support, and second, the Maoists just
don't have the resources to sustain an
indefinite blockade." The Maoists were
certainly not hoping to beat the 30,000
security personnel manning the Valley.
They attempted to create a virtual blockade for other reasons, say civil society
"The blockade was more a psychological tactic," says Krishna Pahadi, a human rights worker. The Maoists never
manned the highways to ensure the strict
implementation of their decree in a military sense. It was more to see if their
whip would override the government's
presence in the Valley.
There is every reason to believe that
pressure from civil society forced the
Maoists on the back foot. "It's a success
of sorts for the civil society," says Arjun
Karki, president ofthe NGO Federation.
And there are reasons to believe that the
Maoists still care about how the civil society responds to them. It is perhaps because the civil society still recognizes
them as a political force and it holds the
key to their legitimacy. The media played
a crucial role in telling the Maoists that
the blockade was a very unpopular decision. And for once, the government and
the media seemed to have made peace.
"The media coverage helped in belittling
the blockade," says Army spokesman
Rajendra Bahadur Thapa.
Analysts now say the Maoists made a
hasty move in announcing the blockade
in the first place and completely misread the mood of the Valley's residents.
But it was always going to be difficult to
close down the country's nerve center.
Kathmandu, after all, is both the
country's economic and political hub
and the state was bound to go to great
lengths to keep the highways open.
The Maoists must have held high
hopes, though. The blockade called by
their "district governments" in Dhading,
Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Makwanpur and
Sindhupalchowk had the full blessings
of their central leadership. Analysts say
they were testing the Kathmandu waters,
the seat ofthe "reactionary" government,
before launching their "final offensive."
The officials describe it as their
"endgame," their last shot to bring the
government to its knees. "The Maoists
are trying to exploit the fear of banda that
is deeply rooted in people's psyche," says
the Army spokesman Thapa. They had
hoped to attain much more, he says.
Independent observers say the blockade had several objectives. The first was
psychological. The Maoists wanted to
prove that they had attained more than a
"strategic equilibrium" and that they were
capable of taking on the state's security
apparatus head on. "The Maoists wanted
to make their presence felt without firing a single shot," says Narayan Wagle,
editor of Kantipur. It ended up, at best, as
a mixed blessing for them, he says.
That's not how the officials view the
blockade and its aftermath. A senior
Army official says that the security forces
didn't encounter a single Maoist along
the highways for all seven days of the
blockade. The Maoists will now have to
redraw their strategy if and when the
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
'No Military Solution
To The Conflict'
The United Nations Resident
Representative Matthew
Kahane spoke with Akhilesh
Upadhyay about the U.N. role in
Nepal's conflict.
What is the U.N. position on mediation/facilitation in Nepal's
The position of the secretary
general is that his good offices
are always available for facilitation. The secretary general is willing to meet various actors in
Nepal's conflict should the state
wish so.
How best can the United Nations do that?
To begin with, we can help the parties in the conflict meet without
putting up formal preconditions. This
could be quiet preparatory talks.
There are speculations that some
of that is already underway?
I am not aware of that.
How does the United Nations
view the situation in Nepal?
First, we are very concerned about the situation in the country.
Daily loss of lives of all
sections ofthe population. Frequent closures of schools, colleges, bandas, and
now the blockade.
Second, this is a war
and there has been a great deal
of military buildup. It could be difficult to get the opposing sides into
a peace process because they
mutually feel stronger about the
conflict because they have built
up strongfeelings about the conflict. This isa political conflict and
can only be solved with the Nepali
parties coming together.
Has Nepal's plight drawn
enough attention of the international community?
What has intrigued us is that the
mainstream international media
has neglected Nepal for months
and months on end. I am delighted to see much more of international coverage of Nepal
even if it's because of the
blockade. But the
way they have
presented the turn
of events doesn't
quite reflect the
situation on the
ground. Nepalis
have been very resilient in dealing with the situation.
There is a feeling here among
a section of the society that
that the international community now views that it's
endgame in Nepal and that
the country could be better
served by an intervention of
some sorts?
No. That's not the case. There's no
militarysolutiontotheconflict The
United Nations however could help
if the government and al I sides agree.
The overriding fear among
the critics of U.N. participation is that its involvement will legitimize the existence   of  two   states
within a state, something
that the Maoists badly
want—again according to
the critics?
We simply don't see it that way
at all. There needs to be some
form of peace process. For such
talks to be going anywhere, the
two sides should talk to each
other seriously. That's not an issue of conferring legitimacy.
What's the U.N. track record as
mediator/facilitator in conflict
As varied as the conflicts have
been. I can talk about the situation in Tajikistan with some authority since I was there. The mechanism put in place through United
Nations allowed the parties to
come together.
Lately, a lot has been mentioned
here about the South African experience?
Hie authorities in South Africa recognized Nelson Mandela and they had
to deal with him. Mandela and F W
de Clerk had the stature and moral
authority in front of their people.
Does Nepal have Mandela and
de Clerk to deal with the current situation?
That's for the Nepalis to decide. E
blockade resumes—in a month if their
demands are not met, according to the
Maoist statement last week.
Secondly, the Maoists wanted to raise
the morale of their war-weary fighters.
The argument is that the Maoists, over
the years, have kept their ranks motivated
more from the talk of their military
offensives than by the military offensives
themselves. The third objective was to
send a message to the international community that Nepal is a failed state, and
that the Maoists are capable of doing anything, including suffocating the capital.
Analysts believe that a prolonged
siege, even a virtual one, would send
Nepal's friends into a state of panic.
Many say the Indian contingency plan to
airdrop supplies to Kathmandu was a
clear hint of Indian concerns. Although
the press secretary at the Indian Embassy
in Kathmandu, Sanjay Verma, denied
media reports that JN Dixit, the Indian
national security advisor, had convened
a meeting of the security chiefs in the
South Bloc to discuss the contingency
plan, many in Kathmandu believe the information may have been deliberately
leaked and later denied. "The Maoists
will have to be blamed for taking the
country this far," says Pahadi.
Political instability and security situation are likely to top the agenda during
Prime Minister Deuba's visit to New
Delhi slated for September 8-11.
The blockade may have gained the
Maoists some propaganda value among
the cadres, but the message to the international community may have backfired:
The last thing the ulta-nationalistic
Maoists want is foreign involvement.
And the blockade failed to impress residents of the Valley. In trying to strangle
the capital by blocking its supply lifelines, the Maoists are employing the
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 same tactics as the king they say they
loathe most, Prithivi Narayan Shah.
Once the Maoists mocked his tactics as
"feudalistic." Last week they were emulating his campaign. There is a huge gap
between what they say and do.
The press has turned away from the
Maoists since the killing of journalist
Dekendra Raj Thapa. To many in the
media, the blockade was just another instrument for the Maoists to push for
their core demands one last time before
the peace process gets underway: U. N.
mediation and a constituent assembly. "It
was a clear shift in Maoist tactics," says
Kantipur's Wagle. The Maoists were trying to pressure the government without
a large-scale bloodbath—a clear shift
from tactics of mere killing and violence.
One Maoist demand that has been
consistent is the call for U.N. involvement. And even the United Nations believes that it has a role to play in Nepal,
provided that all parties to the conflict
so want. The role could range from facilitation to active political mediation.
Secretary General Kofi Annan's special
envoy, Samuel Tamrat, has been making
frequent forays to Nepal in recent months
and meeting with all kinds of leaders—
from the civil society and the political
parties. Kul Chandra Gautam, U. N. Assistant Secretary General who was in
town recently, gave a well-rounded argument on why United Nations should be
asked to step in now. "If Nepal can take
help from the international community
for development, in procuring weapons
and training its armed forces to fight the
Maoists, it can very well do so to restore
peace in the country," he said.
The United Nations remains open
about its role in Nepal, say civil society
leaders who have met U.N. officials, including the secretary general, Kofi
Annan. Unlike most countries, the
United Nations is seen as neutral by all
parties to the conflict. At the end of the
day, however, the differences have to be
sorted out among the Nepali actors, says
Matthew Kahane, the U.N. resident representative in Nepal. But the presence
of an objective third party could sig
nificantly narrow down the differences.
KEEP MOVING: The public face of a banda
The last two peace process could possibly have been salvaged in the presence
of a credible third party.
Activists say U. N. presence is key to
stopping human rights violations, which
then holds the key to creating an environment congenial for talks. NGO
Federation's Karki believes that the
United Nations can work in partnership
with local institutions to facilitate the
peace process, even if the warring parties can't agree on its active role.
"It's wrong to allege that both the parties are not serious about the talks," says
Karki. "My impression is that they are
doing serious homework to broker a
peace." It remains to be seen whether
the failed blockade will hasten the elu
sive peace process.
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
The Maoist ban on businesses with U.S. investments has
sent the business community into a tailspin. There is
massive confusion on the ground.
Nepal Trade Union Federation's
demand on August 27, Friday
for the closure of all businesses with
U.S. investments has confused the business community Many businesspeople
are plain nervous over the topic of
whether their companies fall under the
Maoist rule while others just don't know
what to make of it.
The Maoists' earlier call for the closure of 12 businesses, including the
Soaltee Hotel, cited concern for workers' exploitation. No such
concern seems to have
driven this move: Unions
doubt that companies
with U.S. investors are
any worse than others.
"If the Maoist move has
to do anything with labor
exploitation then why differentiate American from
Nepali, Japanese or any
other investors?" questions
Bishnu Rimal, vice chairperson of GEFONT, the
largest trade union organization. "The Maoist move
is like saying a black cat
would not hunt a mouse
while a white cat would." GEFONT has
ties to the CPN-UML; the other major
unions, NTUC and DECONT, are
aligned with the Nepali Congress. All
three unions have jointly protested the latest Maoist move and the closure ofthe 12
businesses since August 17. Thousands of
workers are now jobless.
Apart from the job losses, Rimal is
concerned which businesses were subject to the Maoist order. "The Maoists
have now forced us to think who the foreign investors are and the level of their
stakes in Nepali companies, and who is
a potential Maoist target." President of
the umbrella organization of industries,
the Federation of Nepalese Chambers
of Commerce and Industries, Binod
Bahadur Shrestha said he wasn't ready
for comments and was "following the
developments closely." Very similar
were responses from other business leaders.
The Soaltee Crowne Plaza Hotel,
one among the 12 businesses ordered
by the Maoists earlier to shut down, had
contacted its employees verbally to resume services starting August 28, Saturday. The assumption was that since
there were no U.S. investments in the
hotel, it was alright to resume operations. But the hotel management decided at the last moment that the Maoist
statement was still not a clear green light
for it to open its doors.
The Soaltee Hotel says it has no U.S.
investment, but it is not clear whether
the Maoists will promote it to the "safe-
list," as there are investments from royalties.
Other companies were quick to either guard or disclose information about
their shareholders, in hopes they
wouldn't become the next Maoist targets. Bottlers Nepal, which produces
the famous U.S. brand Coca-Cola, said
that U.S. investors no longer hold any
stakes in the company. U.S. investors
had sold off their 98 percent share in
the company to a South African company SAB CO. A group of shareholders,
all Nepalis, owns the remaining two
percent and also controls 92 percent of
its subsidiary in Bharatpur. The Nepali
public owns the remaining shares.
But it is still unclear how the Maoists
will treat Surya Tobacco. One of the
company's shareholders is British-
American Tobacco Company, which
does have U.S. investments. "It is difficult to distinguish the Americans in most
companies," says GEFONT's Rimal. "It
seems the Maoists are
only adding political
color to their protests,
and the workers are
being made the scapegoats."
Rajdhani daily reported on August 28,
Saturday that at least 90
companies in Nepal
have U.S. investments.
But that doesn't mean
others are safe. The
bombing of a factory
belonging to an Indian
joint venture, Nepal
Lever, in Hetauda Friday night deepened
the confusion. A
Maoist statement the same day had asked
businesses without U.S. investments to
resume regular services. The
unpredictability of the situation is worse
than paying extortion, say businesspeople.
"Most businessmen like us were
asked for money by the Maoists, for our
own safely," says an industrialist who did
not want to be named. "But the situation
is turning scarier with the Maoists looking into the nitty-gritty of our internal
workings. That could turn extremely
nasty for the entire economy." Q
Hotel and 11 other
businesses remain closed
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Gai Jatr
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Parody/Humorous performance by Sisnupani Nepal
Performance of ihe seasonal folk MepalF instrumental
Music Group
Appearance of KhytjIoOS (iok<rrS| qf vuriyus pnin's
Emergency facilities provided by paramedics and
electa rj
Voluntwn & Participants in fvnny/ fancy ottines and
painted faces
On-if*-5pol pointing session by the srudenls of Lalil-
kala Campus
Painting Exhibition by Mr. Bipin Shrestha
Cartoon Exhibition by Mr, Rojesh K.C.
Logistics sued as; Emergency facilities, Watcr &
Snacks tc be provided 1o volunteers, participants of
Gai Jalra
Endorsed by
urnmidlmkp Dyrbor SC(UC«
pm- 5;00prr
|usl 2004 ; 15th Bhadra 2061]
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Mapal Trust
Sponsored by
White Noodles
Orjgamzed hi/
Nepal s leading
The Royal Nepal Academy is adrift—poorly managed,
highly politicized, unproductive and expensive. It needs
professionals, not politicians or poets, at the helm.
appointed Basudev Tripathi as
. vice chancellor of the Royal
Nepal Academy. It was a long time coming: The post had remained vacant for
four months after former vice chancellor, Mohan Koirala, left office in March.
Shortly after Koirala's departure, a selection committee, comprising artists
Manoj Babu Mishra, singer Bachhukailash
Bahadur Basnet, Rastrakavi Madhav
Ghimire and Tribhuvan University Vice
Chancellor Govinda Prasad Sharma, had
been formed. The committee was chaired
by the then Minister of Culture, Tourism
and Civil Aviation Sarvendra Nath Shukla.
According to a member ofthe committee,
the committee had recommended three
names for the post in this order: Taranath
Sharma, Tulsi Diwas and Basudev Tripathi.
But Minister Shukla resigned before he
could recommend Sharma's name to then
Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa.
Even then, many had thought Sharma
would be appointed. No one knows why
Tripathi has now been tapped.
It was politics, apparently. The continued weight of parties and power play
in the corridors of the Royal Nepal
Academy doesn't inspire hope that the
academy can fulfill its mission to help
promote art, literature and culture in
Nepal. Novelist Narayan Dhakal says,
"I am not optimistic that anything good
will come out of the Royal Nepal Academy. Since 1990 we have been able to
put our faith in democracy but not in the
People close to the power centers
have always dominated the academy with
berths and funding going to scholars with
the right connections and the correct
opinions. Ramesh Bhattarai, who
teaches Nepali at TU, says, "Representation from the left has been next to nil."
He adds, "Ramesh Vikal is perhaps the
only left-leaning writer to be represented
in the academy." Women have also been
under-represented. People like Dhakal
demand that the academy be made into
an autonomous body.
Other academics have started to suggest that representatives should be selected through elections. "In countries
like England, academicians are selected
through elections," says Bhattarai. Maybe
we should follow suit. But Dhakal
doesn't quite agree. He says, "Elections
could be an alternative, but it's a very
complicated process. We should focus
on value systems instead." Basanta Thapa,
columnist with Himal Khabarpatrika
and director of Himal Association, says:
"It doesn't matter a fig to me whether
academicians are elected or appointed.
What matters to me is that the academy
should know where its orientation
should be. And its orientation, I think,
should be on research."
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Thapa and his association are one of
the few organizations making real advances in social science research. While
other fields are advancing, social science
research in Nepal is falling behind. "Yet
the academy rarely gives grants to researchers. It has brought out a social science journal. But such poor quality as to
be laughable, say other academics. Thapa
says the academy should be funding research and confining its publications to
reference works. "The academy should
not be publishing any other books. Our
writers are doing that. It should bring
out books that would a be standard
which we could follow."
Instead the academy has become a
haven for poets and writers, and its
membership is heavily skewed. Not surprisingly, most of its resources have gone
into the development of literature. Even
then, little has come out of the resources
that are purportedly being pumped into
the task. For instance, the academy hasn't
done anything to standardize the Nepali
language by publishing a language or editing manual.
The academy-sponsored dictionary,
"Nepali Brihat Sabdakosh," is a good
work, but the academy has been reprinting the book without ever thinking of
updating it. Oxford updates its dictionaries every year, incorporating new
words that have been adopted into English. As a result the English language
has expanded a great deal. Thapa says,
"The academy should bring out books
like encyclopedias that will be impossible for others to bring out." Referring
to the "Brihat Paribhasik Sabdokosh," a
dictionary of science, laws and humanities brought out by an Indian government commission, he says, "The academy should publish this kind of book."
A common feeling is that the academy has been unproductive because the
writers and artists running it have weak
managerial skills. People are therefore
coming around to the idea that professional managers should be given a
chance to lead the academy. Sangeeta
Thapa, director and curator of the
Siddhartha Art Gallery, says, "Someone
with good management training should
be drafted to run programs at the academy." She adds, "Many countries now
offer courses in hospital anyone from Nepal attending these courses that could change
the pathetic and incompetent way hospitals are functioning in Nepal? If our
academicians don't realize the importance of professional managers, the state
of the arts will remain like the state of
Nepal's government hospitals...sick and
pathetic, in the gray zone of profes
sional mismanagement, providing only
a nebulous glimpse of what could be."
The appointment of Tripathi doesn't
provide any indication that the things
will change for the better. Tripathi was
upbeat about the controversy surrounding his appointment: "People come and
go, but the institution remains. It's the
institution that creates a naya yug, a new
era. My efforts would be towards that
end." The complaints concerning his
appointment aren't about his qualifications. Indeed, he received the first Ph.D.
in Nepali, has taught at the Nepali department at Tribhuvan University for 37
years, has published 16 books of essays
and criticism and has written many journal articles. But his moral integrity isn't
beyond reproach.
Questions involve the reported inclusion of many of his unpublished
works in the Master's degree syllabus
while he was head of the Nepali department and a member of syllabus selection committee. He also listed books he
wrote for grades 9 and 10 as reference
material for Master's students. He is allegedly on the academy's list of scholars
who have neither completed their work
according to the conditions specified
nor returned their grant money. There
are other charges as well.
The government spends more than
Rs. 20 million each year
on the academy, a sum
equal to that set aside for
the new Peace Secretariat. It's time to question spending so much
on an institution that delivers so little. The government should stop
paying for the academy's
expenses. Instead, the
academy should be
made to generate money
for itself from its assets,
estimated at Rs. 2 billion. Professional managers can turn those assets into a regular source
of income; artists and
writers cannot. But can
good managers rid the
academy of politics?
Only if they, and the
academy, are autonomous.  □
In olden times the King sometimes gave an elephant to a
retainer with whom he was displeased. The royal gift
could not be refused or disposed of, and the cost of caring for the beast would eventually bankrupt the poor
official. Tourism has dried up in Chitwan, and it's having the same effect.
Sauraha meant elephant rides.
Everyone who visited the
"Thamel of Chitwan" would look forward
to experiencing the jungle with an enchanting elephant ride across the Rapti
and through the dense tropical forests
where grasses grow as tall as the elephants
themselves. The Royal Chitwan National
Park has been a tourist's dream destination since its establishment in the 1970s,
and the elephant-back jungle safari has
contributed significantly to making
Chitwan a must-do in travel experience.
A carpeted platform high on an
elephant's back is a splendid vantage point,
and there is no danger of getting lost or of
a breakdown in the middle of the huge
forest. Elephants, after all, have an uncanny
sense of direction, and other wild animals seldom attack them. In the jungle
book, the pachyderms are right on top of
the hierarchy. "You can see the tigers, rhinos and the migratory birds—the latter as
far as from Siberia—from the top of the
elephant, comfortably and safely.
But times have changed for the elephants who once had regular loads of
tourists. They are now seen mostly in the
Rapti river, sloshing and splattering, joyously playing with their mates or quietly dozing off for an afternoon slumber. They are well fed by the mahouts.
They have never had it so good. But
times are not good for their keepers: The
elephants have now become a burden.
During the tourist season, every elephant would make four to five trips a
day. Now with infrequent tourists, every single trip is good news. Gopi
Sapkota, who has been in the business
for a decade, says, "It's now become unimaginable to support yourself on the
meager income from the elephant business. Times have changed. Keeping the
elephant has now become a huge challenge."
When the tourists were coming in,
elephants meant very good business.
Every Nepali is charged Rs. 250 for a
single ride, South Asians Rs. 300 and all
others Rs. 500. The owners contribute
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 *   *SSKi
Rs. 300 to for the upkeep ofthe
local forests for every single
trip an elephant makes from
Sauraha to the national park.
Only four persons are permitted on the elephant at one time.
The total income generated
from one ride of four riders,
mahouts say, does not even
cover the cost of a day's meals
for the elephant. Meeting
medical expenses that recur
every three to six months, caretakers' salary and amortizing
the money spent to buy an elephant, which cost from Rs. 5
to 8 million, is impossible.
When tourism slowed, half
a dozen elephants were taken
from the roughly two dozen
elephants once kept for tourism purpose. If the tourists
don't return soon, other elephants may have to go too.
That's not the end to the
woes of the elephant owners.
These days elephants are not
allowed entry into the national
park, and the tourists they carry
have to make do by visiting the
nearby Kumroj and Baghmara community forests. "We have spoken time and
again to the related authorities, but nothing has been done so far," says Gopi
In such a predicament, it is a treat
to see any tourists in Sauraha. Sauraha
does not even attract domestic visitors
anymore. Last year, in an attempt to
revive tourism, the residents of
Ratnanagar planned a fair, the
Ratnanagar Mahotsav, in Sauraha, but
frequent and, often, unannounced curfews by the Army in Narayangarh eventually led to a further decline in the
number of tourists and discouraged
them from holding the fair. Orders
from the Army forbidding two persons
on one motorcycle have also put domestic tourists off from visiting
Chitwan, says Manish Khan of Unique
Elephant Booking.
The manmade problems are glaringly
evident, but if they aren't enough, natural
calamity has also struck Sauraha: Floods
have completely destroyed the town.
Frustrated businesspeople have nothing
left to do but to hope and pray. □
 The Essay
In 1994 the Supreme Court made an important decision regarding the right to information. Ten years later, Nepal still does not have a right to information act.
a right to information act.
About four years ago, there was a
lot of discussion regarding a draft act that
had been prepared by some media-related
organizations. However our parliamentarians never passed a bill on this theme
when they had a chance. In the absence of
such an act, a Supreme Court (SC) decision of 10 years ago provides legal guidelines for media practitioners and activists to secure information from the state.
This short essay highlights the Supreme
Court's guidelines and the draft act.
Certain Nepali activists and NGOs
have contributed to the legal and social
opening up of Nepali society by actively
searching for information about development projects that had been shrouded
in governmental secrecy and filing cases
of public interest litigation (PIL) that has
forced the apex court to make decisions
impacting the citizen's right to know. An
example of this would be the case between Gopal Siwakoti 'Chintan' and others versus the government, the Finance
Ministry and others filed in 1993.
This case is known in general parlance
as the Arun III case because it refers to a
hydroelectric project that was going to
be developed on the Arun River in eastern Nepal with the financial participation of the World Bank and some donor
countries. 'Chintan' and his colleagues
had asked for information regarding this
development project from the Ministry
of Water Resources and other relevant
government offices. When they were
stonewalled, they filed a PIL against the
concerned ministries by invoking Article
16 ofthe 1990 Constitution, which states
that "Every person shall have the right to
demand and receive information on any
matter of public importance."
By referring to the Directive Principles of the State as elaborated in Articles 24 through 26 ofthe Constitution,
the SC adjudged in 1994 that the particular project was of public interest and
hence it was a matter of public importance. In other words, the petitioners
were correct in seeking the SC's help in
exercising their right guaranteed by Article 16. But since there was no provision in the Constitution with respect to
the procedures regarding the exercise of
this right, the SC provided an eight-point
guideline to obtain information from
government offices until the Parliament
passed specific legislation on this subject. Since such legislation had not been
passed by the time the last Pratinidhi
Sabha was dismissed in May 2002, the
SC's guidelines are still valid today.
These guidelines are (in my rough translation from the original Nepali): (1) the interested individual can ask for a list of written documents (from any government office) related to the subject of interest; (2)
the office has to make available such a list
within seven days and the interested individual can then make a request to have a
look at the relevant documents; (3) if such
a request is received, the office has to,
within three days, inform the interested
individual the date, time and location
where such an inspection ofthe documents
can he held; (4) after such an inspection/
reading occurs, the interested individual
can note down points from the documents
or if s/he is interested in obtaining a duplicate ofthe documents concerned, a request
to that effect can be made to the designated
official; (5) if there are no rules regarding
how duplicates are to be made available,
then the office can charge the interested
individual the actual cost of preparing the
duplicate copies and certify them as such;
(6) if the office has reasons to not make
available either a partial or complete list of
relevant documents to the interested individual or has reasons to not make such
documents available for inspection/
reading and for duplication, it should
explain the reasons to the interested
individual within three days after receiving the initial request; (7) if the interested individual is not convinced by
such a denial or the reasons given for
them as per (6) above, s/he can approach
the Supreme Court within seven days
of receiving such a notice of denial of
access; and (8) the procedure to be applied to such requests will be according to the rules of the Supreme Court.
IGNORED: There has  '
been no follow-up on the
Supreme Court directive
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Gopal Siwakoti 'Chintan' says that he
and his colleagues have used these guidelines repeatedly to seek information
about other development projects they
have scrutinized since 1994. Given the
frequency of lamentation regarding the
unwillingness of government authorities
to provide needed information to the
public, it would be interesting to find
out how many other individuals (and
organizations) have used the same guidelines to ask for information from government sources in the past 10 years.
Now we move on to the second theme of
this essay, the draft right to information
act. One version was prepared about four
years ago by the NGO Nepal Press Institute (NPI), which offers various types of
training to potential and working journalists and the Federation of Nepalese
Journalists (FNJ), the largest elected body
of journalists in Nepal. After some public discussions with legal activists and
others, its initial text was revised and that
version has been published in NPI's bulletin Khabar (Vol. 5, No. 4, August 2003).
Looking at the published draft act, we
can say that there are many positive aspects in it. First, the definition of public
authorities as conceived by this draft act
is very broad and includes governmental
offices, councils, commissions, working
committees, political parties, non-gov
ernmental organizations and any other
institutions that influence public welfare.
Second, the draft act requires public authorities to publish, from time to time, a
whole variety of information of public
importance. It also requires such authorities to store information in an orderly
manner and make them available to those
who request them. Third, the draft act
requires public authorities to identify an
"information officer" who has the obligation to store and provide information
immediately to those who seek it. This
would prevent the "passing of the buck"
between officials in any given office as so
often happens. Fourth, the draft act contains a public interest override in the form
of Article 8 in which information officers are required to provide information
that would show negligence or illegality
on the part of public authorities or their
abuse of authority. Information officers
are also required to provide information
regarding possible harm to the health of
individuals and the public at large as well
as the environment. They are also required to divulge information regarding
the misuse of public funds. Fifth, the draft
act clearly spells out the process that needs
to be followed when an application seeking information is received.
However the draft act is still inadequate
in many ways. Article 7 ofthe draft act provides for a set of exceptions for public authorities who are not required to reveal,
among others, information that would adversely affect national security criminal investigation, and Nepal's sovereignty and integrity. Other exceptions include premature disclosure of information related to the
budget, customs, currency exchange rates,
interest rates and other taxes that could have
a negative effect on the national economy
or result in illegitimate profit or loss to any
individual or organization. Additional exceptions are also listed regarding the disclosure without consent of information related to the personal privacy of third parties
and also regarding their trade and commercial rights protected by other laws.
Some analysts feel that the set of exceptions listed in the draft Act is too broad
and hence it can be misused to deny information rather than facilitate an environment of information flow to serve the
public interest. As journalist Shiva Gaunle
has noted, a bureaucracy noted for its ability to hide information can use the smallest of excuse (within the exceptions provided by Article 7 of the draft act) to not
provide information. Hence it is possible
that the "space" for the flow of information opened up by the 1994 decision of
the SC and its subsequent application
could be inadvertently diminished by this
set of exceptions. In addition, as in the
case of many other acts currently in use,
Article 7 of the draft act is non-specific
regarding the process of interpretation
that could lead to the conclusion that a
listed interest had been adversely affected.
For instance, how are the information officers to conclude that if the information
requested if disclosed would adversely
affect Nepal's national security or its sovereignty? Or what constitutes 'premature'
information about the budget?
In 2003, it was rumored that King
Gyanendra's government was going to
issue a right to information ordinance
that would be some revised version of
the draft act. Given the deficiencies noted
above and more importantly, given the
present political context, it would be
rather futile to issue such an ordinance
without further public debate on its contents. Nepal certainly needs a right to
information act but not one that is issued surreptitiously by a government
that is not accountable to the people of
Nepal. □
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
Chinese goods, traditionally cheap but now aiming for
quality too, have spread from sidewalk stalls to swishy
everywhere, from shoes and garments to watches, decorative
items and television sets, Kathmandu is
flooded with goods that are really cheap.
The "Made in China" label is ubiquitous. Decades ago, the trend started on
the footpaths of the old city areas in
places such as Mahabaudha and then the
bazaar at Brikhutimandap. Suddenly
Chinese goods are everywhere.
"Earlier, the supermarkets thought
they would be losing their good name
by selling Chinese goods. Now they have
been forced to by market demand," says
Kesav Bahadur Rayamajhi, general secretary at Nepal Trans Himalaya Border
Trade Association. Rayamajhi also runs
Chandrasurya International, a company
that imports Chinese electrical goods.
He says that 60-70 percent of the items
in the supermarkets are now Chinese
and that wholesalers like him are enjoying the benefits.
The main factor that makes Chinese
goods so inexpensive is economy of
scale, say business analysts. Goods made
in China have flooded the whole world,
now that the once-isolated communist
nation has encouraged capitalism and
adopted "economic diplomacy." The
huge volume China produces makes
each item less expensive than the same
goods made elsewhere in lower volumes.
"China's strategy is to produce goods
according to the market," says Durga
Bahadur Shrestha, president of Nepal
Trans Himalaya Border Trade Association. "You can get the same goods ranging from a price of Rs. 600 up to Rs. 3,000
depending on the quality. Some of the
Chinese goods are as good as those made
in Japan or anywhere else, if you are willing to pay the right price."
For some consumers, price is all that
matters. Shoppers told Nation Weekly
some Chinese goods presently available
in the market were so cheap that it would
cost less to get a new one than to get an
old one fixed. And many Nepalis have
no choice but to buy cheaply.
"A lot of Nepalis would have died
during winters hadn't it been for the influx of cheap Chinese garments that are
warm enough to keep away the bitter
Kathmandu cold," says Sandhya
Shrestha, who was shopping in China
Town Shopping Centre in Sundhara. She
had a pair of jeans for her young son in
her hands. They cost Rs. 200; making a
pair of cotton trousers in Nepal would
cost at least Rs. 250.
The prices of even electronic
goods are pretty low. A DVD player
costs around Rs. 3,200 and a VCD
player between Rs. 1,900 to Rs. 2,200.
An additional Rs. 5,000 could even get
you a full surround-sound system
with five speakers. A telephone set
with caller ID is just Rs. 525. But there
are also goods that have a claim to top
quality while still remaining inexpensive.
Rayamajhi's company for example,
sells television sets from Conic in Hong
Kong that come with a three-year warranty. A 21-inch flat-screen set costs
about Rs. 18,000. A similar Japanese TV
costs Rs. 5,000-10,000 more. "Plus, Conies come with 200 channels. You can even
check time, date and temperature while
you're watching TV," says a salesperson
at Rayamajhi's showroom in the China
Market. There are at least a dozen Chinese television brands available currently
in the Valley.
Despite the increasing demand for
Chinese goods, businesses fear the future.
"There are rumors that India could
be opening its business transit point with
China through Sikkim, and then there's
the ongoing Maoist insurgency at home
that is affecting everybody including
businesses like ours," says Rayamajhi.
That would mean new competitors with
floods of Chinese goods coming in
 through more accessible Indian transit
points even as a large part of Nepal remains cut off. Local commerce is in ruins and when it is not, the villages aren't
always accessible for business expansion.
Rayamajhi says his association is constantly trying to raise this issue with the
government and unite importers to prevent their market share from decreasing. The Maoists have shut the Tatopani
border crossing with China at least three
times over the years, most recently for
18 days in May.
Another problem importers
are increasingly facing, says
Rayamajhi, is the extremely bad
condition of the Bahrabise-
Tatopani section ofthe 114-km
Arniko Highway "There's the constant threat that heavy trucks bringing in goods could skid into the
Bhotekoshi," he says. "It's high time
the government realized the increasing revenues businessmen
like us are making for the country"
Last fiscal year the Customs Department
made at least Rs. 3.98 billion in revenues at
the Tatopani checkpoint alone. Readymade
garments, shoes, electronic goods and fabrics are the major Chinese imports.
Businessmen are positive that
Nepalis want more. Importers of Chinese goods opened the China Town
Shopping Centre in March 2002—it's
supposed to be the "all under one roof"
market for Chinese goods. The four-
story building next to the Kathmandu
Metropolitan City offices has about 50
percent occupancy, with 112 shops open.
Stalls sell goods ranging from cosmetics, readymade garments and consumer
goods to snacks and TVs. The Chinese
government built a gate at the premises
recently at a cost of around $20,000 as a
token of friendship.
"The response we have received so
far is tremendous," says Nilendra Man
Pradhanang, office secretary at the shopping center. It will launch the Dashain
Festival 2061 next month. "We
will  also  be  holding fashion
shows, musical concerts and various food stalls to attract more customers."
"With the onset of Dashain the
shopping season is beginning, and
businesses are highly optimistic
that sales will boom once again,"
says Pradhanang. To tens of thousands of Valley's two million residents, it will be more of Made in
China come this Dashain. Q
 Arts   Societ
As Always A Novelty
Contemporary Indian paintings are a rich banquet of delight. An exhibit at the Siddhartha Gallery offers a tiny taste.
A familiar refrain in the Nepali art
circles goes like this: Nepali art is
stuck at a point. Some interesting
works do come up but few and far between. So whenever an international exhibition travels to Nepal, we invariably
find it refreshing and novel. "Contemporary Expressions from India," an exhibition of paintings from India on display at
the Siddhartha Art Gallery, Babar Mahal
Revisited is a case in point.
The show ends Monday, $
August 30. 1
The gallery is instrumental in bringing paintings from other countries
for the benefit of Nepali
artists and viewers. This
time    around    it    has
work she has on display, wild buffaloes
and other animals gallop in the foreground. The background is done in
shades of yellow with hieroglyphic signs
scattered here and there.
Ananda Mali's paintings are impressionistic renditions of landscapes, but they
look more like abstract paintings. Her
subtle gradations of colors create depth and
fuzzy effects, giving her paintings an aura
of the abstract. She seems to paint what
she experiences at the spur ofthe moment,
but she says the moment
that she experiences
doesn't reflect her art, but
rather the art itself becomes the moment.
Beena Pradhan's painting captures powerfully a
woman with a child in a
moment of fear.   One
brought 44 artworks of 20 contemporary artists from India in association with
the Gallery Beyond of Mumbai. The artists and their works vary widely to emphasize the vibrancy of contemporary
Indian art.
Shoba Ghare infuses elements of
primitive art in her work. In the single
doesn't know the source of her fear, but
the unmistakable expression seems
etched on her eyes. The background done
in swathes of yellow, red and white
heightens the effect.
In her two paintings, Hema Upadhyay
creates dreamscapes. In one of her paintings she uses two photographs of awoman
(perhaps herself?) sleeping on a couch.
One image is in a corner of the painting,
and the other on a mysterious floating
space, creating a scene of a woman in the
midst of a dream. In her other painting,
she has herself perching on a thin tendril
in a vast space. As a critic wrote, she writes
herself into paintings in the shape of
photo cutouts. This is her way of making
herself the subject and protagonist of her
paintings—paintings in which she seems
to invoke conversations with multiple
aspects of herself.
Sheila Makhijani and Chintan
Upadhyay are technically different than
the others. Sheila's paintings look like
etchings but are mixed media paintings,
intricately done. Upadhyay's paintings
are digital prints on red paper. Both of
these artists prefer to use minimum
space and have left most of the field of
their painting untouched, perhaps in an
attempt to focus the attention of the
viewer directly on their subject.
Pramod Kumar's watercolor landscapes are excellent. His command over
lines, color and forms are immaculate.
His touches are quick and deft. And he
seems to paint with playful ease. His landscapes of buffaloes grazing by the river,
people around the temple on the
other side ofthe river and clouds
opening up after the summer
rains all vibrate with life.
Anand Panchal's and Dipali
Bhattacharya's paintings to me
are the best of the lot. Panchal
has three small paintings of
human figures. These are
drawn with childish simplicity, yet they bear an unmistakable stamp of Indian-ness.
Bhattacharya looks assured
about the way she handles her
colors. Her paintings of someone, perhaps a princess, decked
in gold and livery are remarkable for their balanced tones.
The exhibition pooled together too many artists. That
would have been good had the artists
been adequately represented. Unfortunately they were not. Some of the artists
had only one painting on display; I didn't
quite feel I had enough of them. After
seeing this exhibition I felt like I had
tasted an array of delicacies but returned
home with an empty stomach.  □
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Species of the fabric as unlimited as fish in the sea,
from the daringly different, to the timeless tradition.
Unexplored colours unexpected co-ordinates you
will find unlimited possibility for your limited budget.
Spread your net at the Tex-World and spend some
quite hours fishing through our collection you will go
home with a great catch.
Opp. N. B. Bank, New Baneshwor, Kathmandu, Nepal Tel: 4780395
Comedy TV
Comedians are finally stealing primetime TV slots
Actor and comedian Deepak Raj Giri
starts the day catching up with
news and current affairs from
newspapers, radio and television. It's not
a hobby. He is hard at work, collecting
material for his regular comedy satire
"Tito Satya" (The Bitter Truth), which
airs Thursdays at 8:40 p.m. on Nepal
"It is all for the daily bread and butter," says Giri, whose show dominates
the Thursday primetime slot. Having
major market share is an experience
Nepali TV producers have almost forgotten since Kathmandu households
tuned into satellite channels and were
captivated by Indian television serials
such as "Kusum," "Kasauti Jindagi Ki"
and "Kyu Ki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi."
"At least selling laughter has suddenly
started to be good business here," says
Giri, who adds that he has been making
a decent living by making people laugh.
That's good news, especially at a time
when the movie industry is complaining that Nepali cinema has literally gone
down the drain. Suddenly, Nepali humor is starting to steal television
primetime. Why?
"The quality of most Nepali TV serials has come down drastically, as most
of them have been copied from India,"
says Santosh Silwal Giri, not related to
comedian Giri, who is chief of the entertainment department at Nepal 1 Television. "Comedy has now become a major crowd puller as
the next best alternative [to
the serials],"
he says. According to
him, there is a
demand in the
television market
for more comedies and satirical serials. They
are will
ing to pay almost any amount, depending on the quality of the content and the
popularity of the comedians involved.
Nepal 1 had been airing Santosh Pant's
"Jan Gunaso" (People's Grievances) and
is now on the lookout for more.
State-run Nepal TV also has a
primetime winner in the 8:40 timeslot
on Fridays, Santosh Pant's "Hijo Aja Ka
Kura" (Talk ofthe Town). It has a record
for being the longest running comedy
serial in Nepal. Nepal TV also has "Tipan
Tapan" (Bits and Pieces), which airs on
Sundays at 1:30 p.m. Not far behind are
the private stations, also aiming to use
humor to win more viewers. Kantipur
Television has at least three programs
scheduled in primetime: comedian
Prakash Ojha's "Tite Kareli," (Bitter
Gourd), on Fridays at 8 p.m.; comedian
and singer Narad Khatiwada's "Post
Mortem" on Mondays at 7:30 p.m.; and
"Pothi Bashyo" (The Hen Crows), on
Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Luniva Tuladhar of "Pothi Bashyo"
says she wanted women to enter the comedy scene: Tuladhar and Deepanjali Lama
host the program. Channel Nepal had
actor and comedian Gopal Raj Mainali's
"Foo Mantar" (Abracadabra) until recently. They now have the reality-comedy series, "Fifty-Fifty" on Sundays at 7
p.m. Image Metro Television has "Khota
Baji" in Newari at 10:30 p.m. every Tuesday.
"The television is providing a huge
platform for satirical comedies by
extending  our  reach  to  the
people," say Madan Krishna
Shrestha and Haribansha Acharya
of MA-HA, legendary comedians who are celebrating 25 years
of working together this year and
have produced more than half a dozen
big television hits. "Even the returns
for the comedians have now become
commercially better," they say.
Though most comedians refused to divulge their earnings, industry insiders told us each episode earns them between Rs.
10,000 to Rs. 60,000, if the televi
sion stations have outsourced the serials.
The top rated shows are NTV's "Tito
Satya" and "Hijo Aja Ka Kura," and KTVs
"Tite Kareli."
"These comedies on TV are a good
time pass," says Sharmila Karmacharya, a
housewife who lives in Maharajgunj.
"Some of them are so good that they
nicely reflect the current state of the nation." But increasing competition has
also kept actors and comedians on their
toes to focus more on quality. "People
don't laugh at funny faces and scenes
where someone slips on a banana peel
any more," says Khatiwada, who is also
popular for his humorous songs. "Comedy script-writers like us have to do substantial research, and the humor now has
to be more content oriented."
There's a lot to poke fun at just now
and plenty of reasons why we need a
laugh.  □
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Socrates Square
New Road's Pipal Bot is both an open-air editorial office for freelance writers and penniless editors of
little literary magazines. It's here you meet most of the members of Nepal's literary family: from
Krishna Chandra Singh Pradhan, Bimal Nibha, Shailendra Sakar to very young writers like Chunky
Shrestha, Mani Lohani and Buddhi Sagar Cheppain.
In the early 80s when I first visited New Road I came across a
strange scene. Beneath the Pipal tree I saw about half a dozen
decent looking, well-dressed men begging. On an inquiry I learned
that these men were Nepali poets begging to save the life of an ailing
fellow poet, Mohan Koirala, who lay on his deathbed and needed urgent
medical treatment abroad. Moved bythe emergency call of these unknown poets I had stepped ahead to drop my meager contribution and
moved on.
Little did I know that day that these poets would become my best
friends and active partners in several literary ventures in the years to
come. How could I have known that this fanciful New Road was in fact a
grand place of power, an irresistible temptation for poets, politicians and
political activists?
With the passage of time I learnt that like the coffee houses of
Calcutta or restaurants of Paris the place with its small Kavi Kunateashops
possesses a dynamism that speaks ofthe tumults of this nation's democratic struggle to usher modernity into this once sequestered medieval
The origins of New Road go back to 1934 earthquake that rocked
Nepal, killing many, turning the area into rubble. "The then Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher was off to the western Nepal, hunting," says
historian Kamal Raj Singh Rathaur. "When he came back he was shocked
to see the ravages ofthe quake and soon decided to build a new world
out ofthe debris, symbolically putting Nepal on the path of urbanization
and modernization."
Juddha Shumsher named this once-narrow path New Road. Rathaur
believes Juddha Shumsher built Bhugol Park to assert that there existed
another world beyond the cloistered Nepal. "These buildings you see
from here, they all belonged to Hanuman Dhoka complex," points out
senior poet Upendra Shrestha as he discloses the forgotten chapters of
history while sharing the long bench on the Kavi Kuna teashop along the
pavement." This Photo Concern building, they used to have sheds for
Army horses here. The long line of shops beginning with the Juddha
Shumsher's Square and ending at Indra Chowk, all the area had been
a heap of wreckage during the earthquake."
Today Juddha Shumsher's statue stands staring into the long row of
fancy shops and plazas displaying various riches. But there's more to
this place than a cursory glance can assess. After 1950 democratic
revolution the political significance ofthe place gradually started becoming conspicuous. During the one-party Panchayat it became an influential platform for political activism. "The place was a virtual dread," says
novelist Nararayan Dhakal. "In that autocratic system the scene was
volatile. Imagine how in the bustling crowd someone would raise his
voice, furl a handful of pamphlets or start a speech holding the bars of
the plinth that circles the historic banyan tree. Or all of a sudden a leader,
say, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai would come up, bringing every thing to a
"The place used to be infested with spies," recalls Upendra Shrestha,
"the moment anyone raised his voice, they would grab him." Interestingly the place holds great romance for writers. In fact Nepali literature
owes a great deal to this illustrious place. It's from here great poet Gopal
Prasad Rimal used to initiate his evening walks to the temple of Mahankaal
to utter a prayer of rebellion to topple the autocratic Rana regime. Literary giants like Bal Krishna Sama, Laxmi Prasad Devkota, Hridya Chandra
Singh Pradhan, Bhawani Bhikshu, Siddhi Charan Shrestha, Vijay Malla
Gothaleand Kedar Man Vyathit, all used to visit this place. "This was the
only place you could get a newspaper in Nepal," discloses Upendra
Shrestha. "In addition to Gorkhapatra, one could find Indian newspapers in English here"
Shrestha tells how itwas Hridyachandra Singh Pradhan who registered New Sandesh Griha. Later, he handed it over to Maskey Brothers.
"It'sjust part of history, you see," Upendra Shrestha emphasizes.
During those days they had restaurant called Tripti where several
significant writers would gather. It's here they launched the famous literary movement "Amlekh." Krishna Bhakta Shrestha, Poshan Pandey,
Bhupi Sherchan, Basu Shashi, Tana Sharma, Upendra Shrestha, Hari
Bhakta Katuwal, Madan Regmi, Dwarika Shrestha and scores of other
writers used to gather to exchange their views and works. Several populist movements like Sadak Kavita Kranti (Poetry ofthe Road) and Boot
Polish Movement rocked the streets and squares of New Road. Bhawani
Ghimire and Sakar remained the main voice behind this movement.
Meanwhile, Boot Polish Movement and AswikritSmaj, the movement of
the discarded communities, were launched to raise voices against
Panchayat hegemony over media and freedom of speech on the streets
of New Road.
I've found New Road's Pipal Bot both an open-air editorial office for
freelance writers and penniless editors of little literary magazines like
myself. It's here that the exchange of manuscripts takes place. It's here
you meet the most ofthe members of Nepal's literary family. It's here
you meet almost everybody who matters in the literary scenario from
Krishna Chandra Singh Pradhan, Bimal Nibha, Shailendra Sakar to very
young writers like Chunky Shrestha, Mani Lohani and Buddhi Sagar
It's an honest literary wrestling ring as well. Here you have to be
honest. You have to be ready to face the worst blows of blatant criticism.
That's why those who have joined power and are corrupted in the corridors of power often shun this place. The place appears to be a democratic alternative to the conventional places of establishment like the
Royal Nepal Academy or a university campus. It represents everything
urgent, candid, ongoing, honest and modem. It's Socrates' square in
the polis ofthe Himalayan kingdom, n
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
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END 01
52 Issue
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By Ani Choying
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Unblock The Block
With the blockade lifted, Kathmanduites have lost a great opportunity to relearn the tricks of survival
I was not amused to read the headline, "Maoists call off their 'block
ade' for a month." There are number of reasons.
First, I am a Virgo, and, as aficionados of Linda Goodman can rattle
off immediately, Virgos are organized to the point of being obsessively
anal. Consequently, predictably, I have a hoard of edibles and inedibles
stored in various nooks and crannies of my tiny flat, not to mention every
cubic centimeter of my cupboard, wardrobe and the refrigerator. Having
paid inflated prices for all these items, I look rather a fool now. There is
no telling if the blockade of Kathmandu really will be re-imposed in a
month's time. In these wavering times, who can be trusted to keep their
word? Looking—in no particular order—at the pile of Wai-Wai Instant
Noodles (chicken is my favorite flavor); several Tetra Paks of Today UHT
Milk, undrinkable but could be useful; sacks of sugar the color of sand
on the beaches of Bangladesh's monsoon-inundated coastline; liters
of kerosene from my local dealer who is an ace in hiding his
goods for the benefit of his customers; Dove soaps and
shampoos; bottles of Shilajit capsules (I could have
lost my youthful vigor in a prolonged blockade);
rolls and rolls of loo paper; Nebico biscuits (I
still eat them and so does my puppy); tins of
tuna-in-olive-oil; DVDs from Khasa Bazaar;
boxes of "mineral" water; a chestful of antibiotics (all of us would be dead by now if we
are not prescribed these at least twice a
month, even if the complaint is only about
a few sleepless nights); oh, the list is endless, and it makes me sick to see them.
All this IN ADDITION to the earthquake
kit I have hidden in the comer of my
garden, almost away from the
shadow of the 7-foot-wide, 7-
storey building built in 7 weeks of
loose bricks and powder/ cement
not too long ago.
Second, I have no excuse
now to give for the non-delivery
of all the deadlines and work
that I am supposed to do but didn't really want to do even though I
expect to get paid for them nonetheless because that is what my
contract says. Now you know why this column is appearing as it is
supposed to; if the blockade were on, it wouldn't have.
Third, Kathmanduites have lost a great opportunity to relearn the
tricks of survival without having to be rescued by our friendly neighbor's
excessive offer to bread-bomb us, just because the Maoists decided to
listen "to the requests made by general public, civil society and human
rights community." Why, now, did they have to be so darned humanitarian and complying and concerned for the welfare ofthe citizens ofthe
Valley? Blockade or no blockade, life was normal in the city, in spite of all
the hyped-up reports the foreign press were having a field day reporting.
Routes to Kathmandu were not totally cut-off, neither were the highways
captured; there was ample food stock—well, at least in my house there
certainly is—to last for more than just a few days. Kathmanduites were
not gasping or dying, even though it did not seem to have occurred to
some of them that one sure way out ofthe Valley would have been to
commandeer a rubber dinghy and float out on the Bagmati, straight into
the Ganges eventually. If the blockade had extended beyond the week,
indefinitely, perhaps, Kathmanduites would have lazily stirred out of their
complacency to delve into the ski lis that their countrymen away from the
checkpoints in Sanga, Nagdhunga and Mudkhu have to over-exercise
every minute of their existence, while we express shock and horror at
Space Time's audacity to beam at us Italian and Russian channels
instead ofthe beloved ZEE English and HBO Movies. Gobar-gas instead
of LPG; vegetable patches instead of eco-unfriendly hectares of slippery,
concreted, brick-paved driveways and courtyards; walking and cycling
instead of gas-guzzling in foreign-exchange-wasting motorcycles and motor
vehicles. Kathmandu, wake up before Nepal is gone!
Fourth and finally, the blockade has ended before the Olympic games.
There is every chance now that I will miss Sangina Baidya's gold-medal-
winningfight. And I might also miss that long-awaited Olympic moment:
a glittering synchronized-swimming contestant emerging spluttering and
embarrassed from disturbed blue waters, all aquatic elegance lost, because her nose-clip decided to dislocate, and descend to the bottom of
the pool! MyWaiWais are waiting. I must go and start eating. Nebicos
next, n
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 irst Time in Nep
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Birendra International Convention < fenter
New Baneshwor, Kathmandu
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The Ad
If you're flipping through the pages of
a magazine and an arresting picture
and caption makes you grin, chances
are it's the creation of the Battisputali-
based Business Advantage. Remember the
hilarious The Himalayan Times adverts:
A shirtless, pot-bellied man reclining on a
rickshaw ("Didn't make it to the Olympics?") or the one with
two children pointing at each other in accusation in front of a
parent ("There are two sides to a story")?
Business Advantage has emerged as a trendsetter in some
areas of advertising. "In the past, for example, all advertisements that colleges put out were notices that declared
admission was open and listed the facilities offered at the
college," says Subu Shrestha, one of the directors. "Young
people now who are exposed to the international media are
not going to be attracted by such ads." It all started with
taking a more creative approach with an ad for Ace
Institute of Management. Now there's keen competition
among the colleges to do it better.
Not many years ago advertisements were mere notices,
like the ones that still
dominate the pages of
Gorkhapatra—no graphics,
heavy on text. Since the advent
of color and innovative
designs, glossy ads featuring a
variety of eye-catching
pictures and punchlines have
replaced the old genre.
Manufacturers now
realize that a product must
have an image that separates it
from its competitors and also
resonates with the target
audience. Business Advantage
has been specializing in
creating quirky adverts for
such manufacturers for the
past five years.
The agency is the
brainchild of the tall and
d2i   S-W
expansive Subu Shrestha and the goateed, contemplative
Deependra Tandon. Though they are both involved in every
aspect of the firm, Shrestha primarily heads the creative team,
and Tandon focuses on managerial and financial responsibilities. They operate with a team of 18 people; everyone is under
the age of 30.
In a country where hierarchies are prevalent in all areas of
society, there is a remarkable egalitarianism about Business
Advantage. Creative dissent and irreverence are encouraged.
Conscious efforts are made to keep the atmosphere light.
They believe that genuinely original ideas can arise in only
such conditions. Little importance is given to work experience in prospective employees because, as Shrestha says,
"with experience, often comes conformity as well."
Shrestha has a warm, welcoming presence. He warms
up readily and is quick to answer questions thrown at him.
Tandon cuts a more sober figure. There is always a pause before he
starts speaking, and he speaks slowly and precisely It is not too
difficult to see how they complement each other. Often when
Shrestha discusses a theme Tandon steps in to add a comment or
qualify it. Shrestha begins: "Most agencies in Kathmandu have at
least one Indian member on their team. Some clients are surprised, sometimes even disappointed, that we have none." Tandon
adds: "But sometimes this works to our advantage. Some people
like that. We are a small, all-Nepali team."
The two have known each other since 1993, when they
studied B.Com in Delhi together and also shared an apartment. Later, they moved to Kathmandu and both did their
Masters in Marketing at Kathmandu University. By that time,
another commonality had emerged: They shared an aesthetic
interest in advertising. "We used to follow various ad campaigns that would interest us, and discuss them," says
Shrestha. But as Kathmandu University did not offer an
independent advertising major, they never thought beyond
admiring ads in the foreign media.
They still haven't stopped doing that. Just the approach
has changed. They follow campaigns they admire and spend
much time on the Internet looking up ads. "We have always
really liked Nike ads," Shrestha says. "They still inspire us."
The inspiration started early. A turning point in their
career came when they devised a marketing campaign for
Wimpy's as part of their course requirements for
Kathmandu University. A prominent advertising executive
who was teaching them was so impressed that he suggested
that they try to sell the approach to Wimpy's directly. They
began to think they possibly had a flair for advertising.
After graduation they parted ways. Shrestha got a job with
Buddha Air; Tandon joined the House of Rajkarnikar and
then moved to Toyota. In 1998 they both called it quits and
decided to go into business on their own. Business Advantage at that time was an agency meant to conduct market
research for businesses. They operated from a small room in
Tandon's house in Baneshwore, without any employees.
Their only possession was a computer.
Early days were tough: No one would even approach the
young and inexperienced designers. "The first year and a half
we just pretended we had a job," says Shrestha with a laugh.
"Basically we were just hanging out full time." It was
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
somewhat of an accident that pushed
them into the advertising world, full
Trying various ways of attracting
clients, they approached Necon Air,
the largest domestic airline then, with
a detailed proposal to create an inflight magazine. Anup Rana, the
managing director of Necon Air, did
not need such a magazine. But he was
mighty impressed with the work they had
put in. Rana hired them. They were asked to create an advertising campaign.
Their first major commercial break came when the Khetan Group approached them for an ad campaign for a new product, Mayos Noodles.
Deependra and Subu hired four people and devoted themselves with passion
towards creating an aggressive campaign. "We came up with 250 names for the
product and 100 package designs," recalls Subu with enthusiasm. Business
Advantage's proposal was selected. They had edged out a number of established names in the game.
That was in 2000. Since then they have created many ad
campaigns. From their early area of expertise, the print media, they have
now branched out to offer full services in the electronic media as well. And
they continue to hit headlines. The advert they created for Shakalaka Boom
noodles for the Khetan Group was named best TV advert at the 2061 Crity
awards from a field of 23 ads.
Different approaches are needed to create ads for different clients. "Some
clients hand us a portfolio with detailed specifications of what they want.
Others simply tell us the basics, like the audience they are targeting, so we
have a lot of freedom to follow our inclinations," says Shrestha. He
explains how the work is formed within the framework of the client's
expectations. "We have assignments where we are continually thinking of
the client, while in others we think only of the
audience. The ones that
come out the best are
those where the focus
is the audience."
When it comes to
,   questions about the
situation, Shrestha
turns to Tandon, who is
in control of the facts and
figures. "Two years ago
businesses stopped advertising
because of the insurgency," he says with
a pensive look on his face. "They felt they had
to keep a low profile. Now they have realized that the
Maoists are not going to go away, and so advertising is on the
rise again, even though it hasn't regained the growth of the mid-
The advertising market is growing at a rate of 10 percent
annually. Business Advantage has done better: It has grown
100 percent in the past five years. "But that doesn't mean that
our growth is satisfactory," says Tandon. "Our problem is that
we are not aggressive in going out and getting clients."    Still,
they have not done too bad for themselves as figures show.
And with the ad pie growing, their own share can only grow
larger. □
 CHY TTiisWeek
Gai Jatre Sur Taal
Gai Jatre Sur Taal is a culture
specific event designed bearing in mind the cultural importance of Gai Jatra to the peple
of Nepal and Kathmandu in
One of the most popular festivals of Nepal, Gai Jatra has its
roots in the ancient age when
people feared and worshipped
Yamaraj—the god of death.
However the most famous tale
relating to this cultural feast still
remains the endeavoring story
dated back to Pratap Malla's
reign. When Pratap Malla's son
died, his queen was in a state of
shock and couldn't get over it
for long. Considering her state,
the king summoned all those
families who had lost a loved
one to start    a procession
through the streets led by a cow.
Finally, this procession made
the grief -stricken queen realize that it wasn't only her who
had lost her loved one, and was
back to her senses. Ever since
then, Gai Jatra has become an
annual practice.
Gai Jatre Sur Taal will incorporate various elements of Gai
Jatra such as humor and music. Musical performance by
Kutumba at Basantapur, appearance of Khyalaas (jokers)
at various points and art exhibitions will be the major events
to look out. Venue: Basantapur
Durbar Square, Gai Jatra route:
Basantapur. Date: August 31.
Time: 2 p.m. onwards. For information: 4434350.
Journalist, critic, and filmmaker Shekhar Kharel comes up with the latest in
his series of photo exhibition "Samyak Dristi." "Samyak Dristi" (Rightfold
Vision) is one among the eight principles propounded by Lord Buddha.
Shekhar is the recipient ofthe first prize in a nationwide photography
contest that marked the Visit Nepal 1998 campaign. He is currently
working with Nepal Weekly. Shekhar has dedicated this exhibition to his
son, Samyak. He says, "For me, photography is the juxtaposition of
beauty and technology. It is a new age art."
Cine Club
Movie: Josephine etles gitans
st/ang(1995). Director:
Vincent Ravalec. Starring:
Miou Miou. At Alliance
Francaise, Tripureshwor.
Free admission. Date: September 5. Time: 2 p.m. For
information: 4241163.
IT Exhibition
Dristikon Nepal invites everyone associated and interested in Information Technology to participate at its 2nd
IT Exhibition-2004. Venue:
Birendra International Convention Hall. Date: September 3 to 5. Ticket: Rs. 25/-
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 For insertions: 2111102
and Rs. 10/- (for students
Play @ Gurukal
Gurukul is showing
"Khuma," a play directed by
Anup Baral. The play is based
on the story by Mohan
Bikram Shah. Showing from:
Sep 1 onwards. For information: 4466956.
Martin Chautari
Open discussions at Martin
Chautari, Prasuti Griha Marga
509, Thapathali. Participation
is open to all. For information:
This Week At
Martin Chautari
Topic: How to improve the
quality of air service?
Pundit: Birendra Bahadur
Basnet, managing director,
Buddha Air. Time: 5 p.m.
Open discussion on the activities of Martin Chautari,
Time: 3 p.m.
Topic: What is the Film
Development Board
(FDB) doing?, Pundits:
Sambhujit Baskota, president of FDB and Ashok
Sharma, member of FDB.
Time: 3 p.m.
Films @ Lazimpat
Gallery Cafe
The film explores the emotionally and physically
charged existences of three
characters: Christina
(Naomi Watts), Paul (Sean
Penn) and Jack (Benicio Del
Toro). Initially not even acquainted, the trio and their
destinies become irrevocably intertwined in a fusion
of love, redemption, and obsession. Date: August 31.
Commodus, son of the aging
emperor Marcus Aurelius is
angered when his father announces Maximus (Russell
Crowe) as his successor. Power-
hungry Commodus kills his father and orders the death of
Maximus. But the latter flees to
become a gladiator. Eventually
Maximus journeys back to
Rome to confront his archrival.
Date: September 2.
Time: 7 p.m. For information:
Sekuwa Saanjh
At the Dwarika's Hotel every Friday
from 7 p.m. onwards @ Rs. 555/-
plus tax per person. Includes BBQ
dinner, a can of beer or soft drink.
Live music by Abhaya and The
Steam Injuns playing blues, jazz
and more. Drop your visiting cards
or BBQ coupons for a "Lucky Draw".
For information: 4479488.
Spin And Jive With DJ
Raju And The Cloud
DJ Raju spins out the beats catering
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nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
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Venue: Birendra International Convention Hall
Date : 18-20 Bhadra 2060
Rs. 10/- (For Student)
Ticket available on the spot of exhibition
Gai Jatra is an opportunity
say whatever they want,
opportunity every year.
for people to come out and
Too bad we pass up the
It's that time ofthe year again. A time
for merriment, a time for people to
poke fun at our own shortcomings
and a time for society as a whole to laugh
at itself It's time for Gai Jatra, The Festival ofthe Cow.
Gai Jatra is a rich and colorful annual
festival, initiated, folklore says, by Pratap
Malla. His original festival, a procession
of bereaved households followed by a
day of merriment, was hardly about free
expression. But Gai Jatra gained importance as a forum for expressing dissent
during the Rana years and then again during the Panchayat, when political expression was considered unpatriotic, famously labeled "anti-political."
The severe restrictions on freedom
of speech could be bypassed, briefly, at
Gai Jatra. Over the years, the idea of Gai
Jatra changed to a festival where you had
license to say whatever you wanted. Well,
just about whatever you wanted.
Before 1990, Gai Jatra meant a sophisticated forum for satirists, writers, stage
actors and cartoonists. "During the
Panchayat, Gai Jatra was a big event," says
Khagendra Sangroula, a prominent
writer and columnist, well known for
his sharply critical satire. "One rarely got
the opportunity to criticize people in
high places," he adds.
After 1990, though, Gai Jatra seems to
have lost much of its sting. Not many
people really look forward to the Gai
Jatra publications that used to be the talk
of the town—at chowks, bus stops, colleges, you name it. So why has this colorful festival lost it luster?
Some reasons are obvious. One is that
the after 1990, freedom of expression is
no longer restricted to Gai Jatra, an annual event. Another is that there has been
so much "Gai Jatra" in our society lately
that we seem to have lost our capacity to
be shocked. Bandas, blockades, and
bombs are an everyday occurrence. Pity
that the mother-of-all-laugh-fests now
fails to invoke more than a passing
It wasn't always this way. Sangroula
recalls how Gai Jatra was the time for
people to speak their mind during the
Panchayat. In his essay "The Panchayat
Media," Pratyoush Onta observes: "Private Nepali newspapers and their editors who were critical of the King's regime were variously punished... During
1961, several newspapers...were banned
for various periods of time." The government actively restricted freedom of
expression. Gorkhapatra and The Rising
Nepal became mouthpieces of the government; so did Radio Nepal. No criticism was allowed, be it of the government, the system or the people involved.
The pent up frustrations ofthe people
needed an outlet. Gai Jatra became the
ideal occasion for people to let off steam.
There were outrageous publications,
performances at City Hall, the Royal
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
 Nepal Academy's "Gai Jatra
Mahotsab" and more. Satire
took center-stage, as people
came out and spoke their
minds, poking fun at everything and everyone, though
the royalties were still untouchables. There were other
restrictions too. The government would step in from time
to time to ban magazines—the
special Gai Jatra issue of
Samikshya was banned in 1980
for being a bit too bold.
Now that we do have freedom of expression, a sensational media
that exercises very little self-restraint says
all there is to be said, every day, over and
over again. "I think there is little left to
say during Gai Jatra now," says Sangroula.
It's Gai Jatra in the newspapers and on
TV every day.
One Gai Jatra tradition, special publications for the event, survives, but does
not necessarily thrive. The publications
that come out during Gai Jatra attract little
attention, that too mostly for the wrong
reasons. The thrust ofthe humor in these
magazines is crude, at best, and, at worst,
it's plainly pornographic. Publishers
would like to disagree, shake off such
charges lightly. Kushal Gautam, editor
of Kamana, which brought out a special
issue for the festival, maintains: "We've
tried to bring out a magazine that people
can take home. "Some readers may find
something offensive, but from our side,
we've tried our best to remain within
social norms." But not many people are
buying their claims, or
their publications. Booksellers admit that there isn't
much enthusiasm for these
magazines anymore.
It's saddening that the
prospects that Gai Jatra
provides go wasted. Gai
Jatra is to Nepali society
what the jester is to the
court. The court jester was
considered a madman, not
bounded by norms. He was
given the liberty to say anything. Gai Jatra is a platform
for all-out expression; it's an opportunity for people to say and do things that
would otherwise be considered deviant.
But instead of a sharp festival on satire,
we end up with a sorry display of vulgarity and pornography.
Gai Jatra is an opportunity for
people to come out and say whatever
they want. It provides a platform for
"meaningful and artistic" expression.
Too bad we pass up the opportunity every year. □
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 There are two sides
to every story.
There are always two sides to every story. Who's right
and who's wrong does not depend on which side you're
on. To a third person, there may not even be a right or
wrong, just a difference of opinion.
The important thing is to move on, change and adapt
while keeping your goals intact.
The Himalayan Times is not about taking sides. It is
about positively expressing the view of both sides.
The Himalayan
Only A Game?
For better or for worse, the Olympic Games are a political
as well as sporting event, with enormous stakes for winners
and losers
With the Olympic Games over
and talk about the victories and
losses of individuals and nations
done with, conversation turns to more
philosophical matters. Often someone
will express dissatisfaction with the
modern Games, and say they no longer
reflect the true values of the Olympics.
Those true values are, presumably, the
values of the Games during their re-establishment in the last years ofthe nineteenth century: International trust and
understanding, and amateurs participating in the true spirit of sportsmanship.
In those years, athletes were not nationally chosen but came at their own expense and wore their athletic club's uniform instead of their country's. Even
tourists who happened to be in the vicinity of the Games could participate.
All this seems now to have been a golden
period, before the dominance of nationalistic fervor and the influence of large
Few remember, however, that the
games as practiced now are close to the
original Olympics ofthe ancient Greeks.
Though the scale was much smaller, the
objectives were the same. Huge numbers
of visitors came to Olympia as spectators.
Every participant was fighting for the glory
of his hometown. Many athletes employed professional trainers to coach
them, and they adhered to training and
dietary routines much like athletes today.
Cheating, bribes and match fixing were
common. Athletes were professionals in
the sense that they lived off the glory of
their accomplishments for the rest of
their lives. Their hometowns
awarded them cash, free meals
for life, tax breaks and even
leadership positions in their
community. Sometimes
they were immortalized
through statues and poems.
For better or for worse,
the Olympic Games have become more like they were dur
ing the time of the ancients, a
political as well as sporting
event, with enormous stakes for
winners and losers.
What is different is the
scale. Due to the global market and inter
national participation, the Games have
grown to proportions inconceivable two
thousand years ago. No wonder that the
games are now viewed less as an opportunity for mutual understanding and
peace than as an arena to display the
strength and superiority of nations.
That view of the games is common
to all countries, and to spectators as well
as participants. Now that the novelty of
mere participation has worn off, it is increasingly important for Nepalis that we
win a medal. Failure to do so feels like
an international humiliation. Though
there is cynicism about the bureaucracy
of the Nepal Olympic Committee,
Nepalis invested much hope and anxiety into the performance of our only
medal chance, Sangina Baidya. The support provided by private sector to her
and, to a lesser degree, the other athletes
reflected the nation's pride. The Himalayan Times announced that it would be
awarding lakhs to Baidya if she won a
medal. This was welcome in a nation
where state support is minimal, and it
demonstrates the importance that
Baidya's performance had in our minds.
But it may also have had the adverse effect of putting undue pressure on her.
Without Nepali participants to cheer
for in most televised events, we seemed
to support China and other Asian nations.
China was the most visible and significant competitor to the United States, a
nation well liked in other areas but perceived to be too powerful. China's proximity allows us to harbor brotherly feelings towards them, while the differences
in our cultures provide enough distance
for us not to feel too much rivalry toward
them. "I like China because I
think they are well disciplined and work hard
from an early age," says
one television viewer
watching a badminton match in a cafe
in Thamel. In con-
trast, India's abysmal performance
at the Games was
source of satisfaction to many
Nepalis already
insecure about
Nepal's own performance. □
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
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much more than just rock the airwaves? A
poet, a writer, a television personality and
an artist: He is all of these. "It's all my
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We 'CAN'
What is the mantra for a triumphant venture? AskBIPLAV
MAN SINGH—the newly elected president of the
Computer Association Nepal, which is better known to
computer enthusiasts as CAN. "Together we CAN," says
Singh. His vision? To bridge the huge digital divide that
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Bagmati Boy
You can't pass by the Bagmati and not feel helpless about its
sorry state. But some decide to go one better. SUNIL
TIMILSINHA—or the Bagmati Boy—geared up for the rescue
around a decade ago. Since starting a door-to-door waste
collection campaign in Sinamangal, Timilsinha has come a long
way. Last Saturday, as the coordinator of the 4th Bagmati River
Festival, he tried hard to make the residents of Kathmandu
realize one more time the poor state of the river. "In the
beginning I just started out to keep myself busy," says
Timilsinha, recalling his early association with the
Bagmati campaign. "Now it's my dream to see a clean
Bagmati." We hope, for our own sake, that he succeds.
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nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
 Khula Manch
Around The World
In 25 Years
Comedian duo Madan Krishna
Shrestha (MA) and Haribansha Acharya
(HA), popularly known as MA-HA, need
no introduction. Ever since their first performance
"Bankeshwore," marking the silver jubilee of the
Rastriya Banijya Bank, the duo have been a major
crowd puller. Shrestha and Acharya, first introduced
as colleagues working at the bank, have
become best friends. MA-HA will be on
stage at the capital's Birendra International Convention Hall with MA-HA
Gaijatra from August 28 to September 6.
The performance marks their 25th anniversary together. Dhriti Bhatta pieced
together this conversation about their
comeback, life on the stage and their take
on the state of the nation, where one of
them would begin and the other would
Your program in Kathmandu at the Convention Hall comes after a long gap.
What have you been doing all this time?
Well, Nepal is not only Kathmandu. We
have got to please our fans from all over
the country and those living abroad as
well. Most of the time we were busy
performing out of station. Last year alone
we did more than 100 shows, most of
them outside the Valley and abroad. On
our foreign performances, almost 80
percent of the crowd is Nepali.
Both of you are natural at work. Are
you both funny in real life as well?
We are just normal Nepalis when we are
off the screen. This means we are loyal
citizens concerned about the state of affairs in the country and desperate to make
some positive changes. It is only when
we start writing our scripts that we come
up with insane ideas. It's like we're under the spell of some deity. Otherwise,
like any other person, we are husbands,
sons and dads.
How do you manage your family
life with your busy schedule?
We do manage. We take our families
along during long tours. Last year we
were away for four months. It was fun.
When in Kathmandu there's always time
for family despite our performances.
What is the state of freedom of expression now compared to 25 years ago?
Certainly it is a lot different now. During the Panchayat, it was not very easy to
speak your mind. We stepped forward
to generate awareness among the general public even then. Our performance
was the best medium of information.
Our viewers ranged from young children to the elderly. Then we were fighting for democracy. Today we are more
or less doing the same, but rather to protect democracy
During the Panchayat,
it was not very easy to
speak your mind
Are you two joining politics?
No, not as of now, though most of our
plays are closely related to politics. Do
not bind us to any political party. We are
the voices of the people and our ideas
reflect what they want. We are doing the
same job as any politician. But we think
we are doing a lot better.
Both of you are now also into singing...
MA: I started singing even before acting, more than 38 years ago. My first
song was on Radio Nepal. But more
than Nepali songs, I have a long list of
Newari songs to my credit. Though I
later went more into acting, singing
is something I always want to continue.
HA: I thought I too could sing, after hearing others sing. I was a little shy at first. I
wrote the lyrics and started humming
the tune to myself. Eventually they became complete songs. Later, I hear the
songs became instant hits.
We heard Madan-ji never
combs his hair. Is that true?
MA: I guess my hair has its own style. I
don't need a comb, my hands act as one.
I don't have much hair to use a comb on
Which work of MA-HA has
been your favorite so far?
Naming just one out would be totally
unfair. Each of them required a lot of
hard work. But the message-oriented
serials we made that were telecast by
Nepal Television have contributed a lot
to the society. We are proud to have
worked on those.
Is the present state of
country just like Gaijatra?
The country has fallen into a deep pit.
The smiles of the innocent citizens have
been snatched away and terror is everywhere. It's high time politicians and philosophers made the country their top
priority. There should be no more fighting for power. Let's end this conflict and
bring back smiles to the faces of all
Nepalis.  □
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
 How They See Us
Onta's book is an engaging account of how social science
research about Nepal has developed in the U.K. and where
it is headed
Pratyoush Onta's "Nepal Studies
in the UK" is a collection of interviews with 19 scholars based
mostly in the U.K. who have been or are
engaged in research on different aspects
of Nepal. An introduction by Onta precedes the interviews. In it he discusses
the history of British scholarly interest
in Nepal and presents short analyses of
themes common to the interviews that
follow. The interviews are arranged in a chronological   order
yurv< ■
according    to
when the
interviewees received their doctorates, the first in
1966 and the last
whose thesis is still
to be published.
As the focus is the
research these academics have done concerning Nepal, there are
themes and preoccupations that are shared by
many of them. It is thus
possible to read the book
not as separate accounts of the works of
different practitioners but as a single,
connected narrative. Moreover, Onta
asks each of the interviewees the same
questions, an approach that suggests that
the purpose of the book is to reveal general trends of social science research and
not to provide accounts of the individual
works of the people involved. What results is an engaging account of how social science research concerning Nepal
has developed in the U.K. in the last fifty
or so years, the problems it has faced and
faces today and the directions in which
it is going.
Since the 70s and 80s, we learn, most
western academic research in Nepal has
been in the field of social anthropology.
This is partly because of the influence of
the anthropologist Christoph von Furer-
Haimendorf, who was, among other
things, Dor Bahadur Bista's mentor, and
partly because anthropology departments receive more funding than history or literature departments. But the
most important reason is because most
researchers were not interested in Nepal
as such; they were more interested in
the theoretical constructs behind
their findings, which could be abstracted and used in analyses of
other societies. In the 70s and 80s
Nepal Studies in the UK:
Conversations with Practitioners
AUTHOR: Pratyoush Onta
Martin Chautari (Chautari book series)
PRICE: Rs. 950
PAGES: 210
most anthropologists
were concerned with
the societies of single
tribal groups.
Since the 90s, however, anthropologists have been interested in other themes, such as public
health, the media and the effects of globalization. Academics are also getting increasingly involved in viewing Nepal
through other lenses than those of anthropology. Michael Hutt, who teaches
Nepali language, among other things, at
the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, is a prominent figure. He
is often viewed as a central figure in British social science research about Nepal
today because he is connected to many
British and Nepali academics and often
acts as an intermediary between them.
In addition he is the only academic in
the U.K. with the word Nepali in his
job title. He has been responsible for inspiring a younger generation of research
ers. Hutt says, "The new generation's interest in Nepal probably converges with
Nepali concerns rather more closely
than that of earlier generations." Mark
Turin agrees: "Studying in Nepal can no
longer just be working with 'one people'
without taking into account the functioning ofthe modern nation state."
These researchers face problems in
disseminating their work in Nepal. Most
of them are forced, particularly because
of their interest in advancing their careers, to publish with western publishing houses. Because of the high costs of
the books, they become available to the
Nepali audience only years after their
initial publication, when the original
publisher agrees to have the book published in cheaper editions in India and
Nepal. Also many academics are uncomfortable about how Nepali audiences
respond to and use their writings. David
Gellner comments that Newari activists
distorted the findings of his book on
Newari ethnicity as a defense for
Newari culture. Similarly Mark Turin
writes, "I know that I am being consciously and willfully manipulated by the
various Thangmi ethnic communities
when they ask me to come to their meetings."
Nevertheless many interviewees,
including Turin, are keen that Nepalis
read their works, and they remain deeply
engaged with the Nepali public. They
find current intellectual circles in
Nepal much more congenial and stimulating than in the past, they are much
better acquainted with Nepali languages
and literature and they are deeply dedicated to their professions. However,
Onta bemoans how "embarrassingly ignorant" we are regarding "the institutional and disciplinary dynamics that
generate and constrain scholarship
about Nepal."
Foreign scholars have tackled subjects that still lie outside the ken of traditional Nepali scholarship, which is
still concerned mostly with modern
political history and they have revealed
important truths about our nation. Only
by engaging with their works can we
reach a mutual level of understanding
where, in Michael Hutt's words, "the
kuire-puja" will cease, but at the same
time will "not give way to indiscriminate fewire-bashing." □
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 5, 2004
 Last Word
We're endlessly efficient 365 days.
The blockade ended last week after
seven days of confusion before the
Valley's million-plus residents had
quite felt the pain that's become an everyday occurrence to those outside.
When the blockade ended with a joint
statement from Maoist commanders in
"ring" districts bordering the capital,
most motorists still had their tanks full
and their households were still stocked
up with essentials. The Maoists said they
had    withdrawn
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the blockade in view of the "requests
made by the civil society."
There are two stories behind their
withdrawal. First, theyjust didn't have
the military capability to face dangers
attendant to continuing with an indefinite blockade of Nepal's most fortified city. It became evident that both
the government and its foreign allies
were willing to go far should the need
arise. Second, the Maoists didn't want
to continue the blockade at the cost of
completely losing face with civil society.
We are inclined to believe the answer
lies somewhere in between. Some 30,000
security forces were deployed to keep
the highways open. Though the Maoists
could still severely paralyze traffic with
stray attacks, the fact that they didn't do
so is meaningful. After eight years, their
"people's war" has come far, but the scale
still hasn't tipped in their favor yet; their
"strategic offensive" will still have to
wait. The question then comes: Why did
the Maoists withdraw the blockade
when they did?
Emii wo^U-y
We think that their central leadership
still believes in a negotiated settlement,
though they are under strong pressure
from the middle ranks and downwards
to continue with the war. They still care
about how the civil society views them.
As much was once again evident last
week. They haven't reached a point of
no return yet.
But that's not the whole story. There
are fears that the CPN-Maoist command and control is under severe strain
from a fast-expanding party base that
seems to have lately developed along eth-
nic lines. The Madhesi Swayetta
Chhetra, Magarat Swayetta Chhetra,
Kirat Swayetta Chhetra, Tharuwan
Swayetta Chhetra and Tamuwan
Swayetta Chhetra have certainly not organized along
ideological lines.
We fear warlords
running amok,
should the central
leadership lose its
Much like the Maoist leadership, the
government also still believes in talks and
has done substantial groundwork for peace
lately But just as with the Maoists, a section within the government—or the
state—is facing a strong militarist pull.
Pressure to announce an election schedule when the country is barely discussing
peace again is a dangerous proposition. It's
just not common sense. There is another
interesting dynamic emerging. Along with
the Maoist ranks that see war as the only
solution here on, ranking security officials seem to be hardening their position
against the talks. That's disturbing.
We urge both the sides to the conflict to scale down their rhetoric and
military activities and talk peace seriously. Failure to do so could push us into
a full-blown civil war and make foreign
intervention inevitable.
Akhilesh Upadhyay, Editor
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
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