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Nation Weekly June 6, 2004, Volume 1, Number 7 Upadhyay, Akhilesh 2004-06-06

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 FIRST CABLE INTERNET     MORE FOREIGN AIRLINES     UNPAID GURKHAS
JUNE 6. 2004 VOL. 1. NO. 7
www.nation.com.np
WEEKLY
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A Divided
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King Believes He Is The Solution
Maoists And Parties Say He Is The Problem
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 nation
JUNE 6, 2004
VOL. 1, NO. 7
COVER: Klshor Kayastha (98510 52778)
COVER STORY
20 A Divided House
By Akhilesh Upadhyay
King Gyanendra and his supporters seem to harbor the
belief that the monarchy is the only unifying force in this
diverse land, and that it is the only institution that can right
the present situation. But that is not how the political parties
and the Maoists view the situation
COLUMNS
11 Special Programs
For All
By Suman Pradhan
Some experts argue that October 4 has
been a blessing in disguise for the
political parties. But a year and a half
after that seminal event, there's precious
little sign of that blessing
30 A Letter to Sonia
By Swarnim Wagle
You are too mature to be fazed by
those doubts on your being less of an
Indian just because you were born in
Orbassano, and not Orissa. You've
already given them the perfect answer
34 Much Ado About
Nothing
ByAruna Uprety
By raising the issue of Sonia's foreign
origins, theBJP has shown that as a
political party it peddles petty issues.
36 Matrix Showdown
By Ujol Sherchan
Appointments of Anup Raj Sharma
and Balram K.C, none of them
Appellate Courtjudges, to the
Supreme Court Bench have come
under fire from the establishment.
But Sharma and K.C. both have solid
track records.
18 The Unknown
Soldiers
8 By Satishjung Shahi
Britain's decision to compensate Gurkhas who suffered at
- the hands of thejapanese
during World War II came a bit late
26 The Cable Guys
By Satishjung Shahi
Four young entrepreneurs will launch
their dream project—providing cable
Internet service
28 Inner Vision
^^^^h By Sushmajoshi
I At a time when leaders in
I Nepal seem to be groping for
h^^ n direction, there is a leader out
there who sees very clearly where he's
heading.
BUSINESS
32   Come Fly the
Friendly Skies
By Suresh Pradhan
More and more airlines are eyeing the
lucrative Kathmandu sector. Can
RNAC keep up with them?
ARTS & SOCIETY
34  The Timekeepers
By Sanjeev Uprety
Two poor watch repairmen wage a
courageous battle against bandas
36   Formulaic Masala
& Potent Spice
ByMeenaKaini
Farah Khan's "Main Hoon
Na" is the typical masala
I movie, but Mani Ratnam's
"Yuva" is a fresh take on youths
thinking their way through their lives
DEPARTMENTS
6 LETTERS
10 PICTURE OF THE WEEK
14 CAPSULES
39 CITY PAGE
44 KHULA MANCH: MANJUSHREETHAPA
45 BOOKS
46 LAST WORD
 Letters
nation
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2111102
he agitating students
are above 18. That makes
them legally recognized
political agents...
We prefer to receive letters via e-mail, without
attachments. Writers should disclose any connection
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Campus politics
SUMAN PRADHAN'S "UNCHAIN
May Education" (May 30), where he makes
a case for student keeping out of politics, is
off the mark This for exactly the same reason
he defends student politics during the
Panchayat Let me quote Pradhan,".. .during
the dark days ofthe Panchayat.. .the student
bodies and campus elections even served a
noble purpose: providing the only open
forum for competitive politics, albeit at the
college and university level. These [student]
unions became the tools ofthe banned
political parties to expand their
organizational and ideological base." There
you go. Has there been any outlet for
competitive politics since October 4,2002?
If you, to use you own word, "thank the
student unions" ofthe Panchayat days, why
not now?
PRACHIN SHARMA
GONGABHU
IT IS NOT THE FIRST TIME THAT
a view such as the one expressed by Pradhan
has been seen in English print. The litany is
the usual. Students are the pawns of political
leaders, active politics affects education,
education and not politics should be the
main activity in campuses. Such an oft-
repeated point of view demands an equally
weary response.
Students are citizens. All ofthe agitating
students are above the age of18. That makes
them legally recognized political agents.
Education does not exist in a vacuum.
Politics determines how much is allocated
to higher education, what is taught in the
universities and the conditions under which
students can attend their educational
institutions. The price of fuel may not matter
to your columnist, for example, but it does
to a student who is living on his own. It also
matters to the student whether the police
BHASKAR GAUTAM
can walk in and beat up and tear gas students
inside his campus, the kind of regime that
denies students (and other citizens) their
fundamental rights to walk talk assemble,
or rejoice. What constitution are you all
talking about? Which democratic practices
are allowed to exist, and where in Nepal is
this system of free political competition that
the columnist certifies into existence?
Besides, it is not clear in the present context
if the parties are leading the students, or it is
the other way round. And given the quality
of textbooks, classrooms, university
infrastructure, teacher attendance and
qualifications, perhaps the students get a
better education on the streets than they do
1    ^    fe.?
ft. riG? ^7j
- .
L *   ■       ■■
-
iii
in campuses. Let's be clear that no amount
of Oxford or Cambridge university degrees
or "quality education" by a select few can
lift Nepal out of its current "morass." We
have no dearth of "foreign advisers" "native
consultants" with fancy degrees and "good
education," and lookatthe mess they got us
into. Substantive transformation can only
be the outcome of a political process.
Look at student activity from another
angle. Involvement in student politics is a
baptism by tear gas, rubber bullets, lathis,
illegal detentions, an education in political
science, civics, political economy and
culture. It is an instant "life-skill" education
in confidence-building, leadership skills,
organizational capacity the ability to work
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 in a team, take on responsibility, fund raise,
plan logistics, mastermind campaigns, work
under extreme pressure, struggle long and
hard, bear untold physical and psychological
trauma and hardship for the job, speak for
oneself, stand up for others, communicate
effectively and acquire and hone all the other
skills that the globalized world values.
Students would have to pay oodles of hard
currency to gain even a proportion of these
wide talents through a formal process.
Student politics is empowering.
Agitating students are full owners of the
processes that shape their own lives. They
are the decision-makers, stakeholders, and
partners for their own social change. Their
movement is mass-based, enabling,
governing, and sustainable. It can be scaled
up or down depending on the moment. So
what's the problem?
Perhaps if your columnists had not
restricted themselves to learning from
books, we'd be spared from reading such
tiresome columns that are so out of step
with reality and unwittingly betray the
prejudices of a class that finds street-based
politics unaesthetic.
BHASKAR GAUTAM
THAPATHALI
I AGREE WITH PRADHAN'S
arguments: student politics has been
nothing but an easy platform for aspiring
politicians (I am deliberately using the word
"politicians" and not "leaders") to make their
early mark. Just come visit campuses and
ask students whether they like the frequent
disruptions of classes and their unions
issuing subtle and not-so-subtle threats
against those who vocally disagree with their
disruptive tactics? Sure, an overwhelming
majority of students voted in favor ofthe
student unions aligned to the parties in the
elections in February. But the victors,
unfortunately, mistook that support for a
license to do anything they choose. That's
just like the way their leaders in the parties
think. How very sad. The younger
generation of leaders is as hopelessly out of
touch with the mass as their predecessors.
How many students line up to hurl stones
outside Tri-Chandra or RR Campus? Count
your numbers and draw your own
conclusions.
A TRI-CHANDRACOLLEGE STUDENT
(NAME WITHHELD ON REQUEST)
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TOP OF THE WORLD:
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nw/Sagar Shrestha
 'Special Programs' For All
Some experts argue that October 4 has been a blessing in disguise for
the political parties. But a year and a half after that seminal event,
there's precious little sign of that blessing
BY SUMAN PRADHAN
Ask anyone who belongs to the five-party alliance and he or she
will probably tell you that October 4, 2002 is a black day in
Nepali history. It was the day when an elected government was
dismissed and power seized from the hands of the people's representatives.
That may be so, but some experts argue that the October 4 setback
and the resultant public apathy have compelled the parties to take a
deep look within. It has forced them to deal with issues that resonate
with the people, particularly the excluded communities who have been
left out of power and resource sharing for too long. In other words,
October 4 was a blessing in disguise.
Being a perennial optimist, I prefer to side with the experts. I have this
die-hard belief that things can't remain this bad forever. Something,
somewhere, must give at some point, and Nepal could well be on its way
out of the current morass.
But a year and a half after that seminal October event, there's
precious little sign of that blessing in disguise. This is because the parties,
who have the power to turn the setback into a boon, sadly don't seem
to be drawing the necessary lessons.
When you ask party leaders what they have learnt, they invariably
point to the 18-point common agenda forged by the five party alliance.
"These points came out of the lessons we learnt," they'll tell you. But a
cursory look at the agenda reveals that the parties' main focus is on the
hard-core political issues—things like winning power back from the monarch—and not the soft issues that resonate with the majority of the people today.
For instance, the five parties explicitly want the monarch's powers reduced
to a purely constitutional role. They want
the Parliament to control the Royal purse
strings. They would like the Royal Nepal
Army to be put under the command of
an elected government responsible to
Parliament. They want to change the national anthem, and limit the Royal title to
just three members ofthe Royal family.
All well and good. In a constitutional
democracy, these demands should not conflict with the role of a true
constitutional monarch. But then again, take a look at the other points in
the agenda. Nowhere do I see a specific plan to address the grievances
of Nepal's vast poor and excluded communities. In other words, the
points dealing with exclusion is couched in vague language that can
easily be abused, or worse, forgotten.
How do the parties aim to deal with women's issues? By introducing
"special laws and programs" to uplift women's lot. How do they plan to
uplift the lot ofthe dalits and other excluded and marginalized groups?
By implementing a "special system. "What does the agenda say about
addressing ethnic, regional and other grievances? By introducing "special laws and programs."
Ofthe 18 points in the agenda, the ones dealing with the monarchy
and the Royal Nepal Army are specific in their goals. But at least eight
points which seek to address socio-economic issues such as exclusion,
corruption control etc., are vaguely dealt with by "special programs." If
not special program then it is a special scheme, special plan, special
policy, special law, effective policy etc.,etc.,—nothing the parties haven't
said umpteen times before in their party documents and manifestoes.
Since this agenda was drawn nearly a year ago, it could be that the
parties may have put the task of refining them for later. But not only that
it hasn't happened yet, there's no talk about it at all. In my discussions
with party stalwarts, I want to hear about the specifics. Most can't tell.
The ones who can seem to think it's a pointless exercise because exclusion, perse, doesn't exist. "It's all the handiwork of social scientists and
journalists," one senior leader even accused.
With a mind-set like this, is there any guarantee that our politicians
won't forget the important issues that matter once they win back power?
This is a troubling question because the parties have not given us reasons to think otherwise. Witness their public squabbles over who becomes prime minister. And that too, when they are supposedly united
against a resurgent monarchy.
[Thankfully, the vast ma-
a  J»    jorityof party workers in the
%j-". _^fll     lower ranks, those who are
A      Jfc-l -L^fc. sS^M      connected to their villages
and communities, do realize
the problems. In my travels
to some districts in recent
weeks, I have come across
plenty of party functionaries
who know exactly why vot-
^^„^j«^_     erstoday feel a disconnect
with the parties. But unfor-
^     1   tunately, these men and
women are way down in the
pecking order, and they have next to no influence on the leadership.
If the parties are serious about finding why there has not been an
enthusiastic response to their anti-regression movement, they ought to
listen to their own grassroots. And they will know why vague-sounding
"special schemes" and "special programmes" emanating out of party
offices in Kathmandu fail to cut ice with the people.  □
suman66@hotmall.com
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
11
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In House Swimming Pool
Creative Language
"native Art
Vlusic J Dance
Science Discovery
Outdoor Activities
Indoor Activities
Pre-Maths Activities
•Computer Learning
•Fun-Cookery
iressing of Self • And Many Many More
Wsj bzWzvz Y/wr scich child jc a u/iirjus i/idiviud
w/w Iwc "r/12 p^rs/rricil "to bs fm bzsi 'that hz or chs can bz.
Child Development Centre
CAMBRIDGE
Child Development Centre
 Singapore	
"SHAH MAHAL' HOUSE NO-613, SAMA MARG, OPP-IGP HOUSE.GAIRIDHARA.NAXAL KATHMANDU, NEPAL PHONE: 4413928,4416539
 Moments of Bliss
By Ani Cnouing Dolma
Special Guest:
Nnuoo Bajracnarya
Tne ^ Annual Fund-raising
Concert of the
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Saturday., J June, 2004-
6:00 pm      5luestar Hote
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Tickets available at  Himalauan Java^ Tire &■ Ice^ Mike's Breakfast^ Nanglo Cafe &■ Pub (Durbar Marg^
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Por more information^ please contact tne Nuns' Welfare Foundation atA-^A-^8 or nwf@cnouing.com
www.cnouing.com
5RGANI5ED  IN  COLLAbORATION  Wl
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Every Monday.
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CROSSMEDIA C3UHUI
 Capsules
Mayor quits
After keeping everybody
guessing, Mayor Keshav
Sthapit finally resigned, and
with him went 35 ward chairmen of the city. Sthapit said
the city officials were repeatedly asked by the Maoist leaders to quit to make way for a
"political solution." The
tough-talking mayor had for
a long time defied the Maoist
pressure tactics but his aides
said the potential threat to his
life took a toll on the Mayor's
determination. The Maoists
have already made assassination bids on two high-profile
city mayors. The Butwal city
chief survived but the Birgunj
Mayor, Gopal Giri, didn't.
Sthapit's resignation came on
the heels of that of Lalitpur
Mayor Buddhiraj Bajracharya.
Border security
Nepal and China agreed to
spruce up border security
but they are still some time
away from an extradition
agreement. It has been re
ported that the Maoists have
used Chinese pistols. The
two governments also agreed
that the criminals—whether
Chinese and Nepali—would
be under the legal purview of
the country of arrest. A similar meeting was held in 2000.
Plane crash
A Lukla-bound Yeti Airlines
Twin Otter crashed on Tuesday. All three crew members
died in the ill-fated cargo
flight (9N-AFP). Bodies of
captain Prakash Shriwastav,
co-pilot Ravi Gurung and
steward Nawang Sherpa were
later recovered. Initial investigations showed that poor
weather conditions caused
the accident but the government has formed a fact-finding team to investigate the
crash, Yeti Airlines' first. It is
the 25th Nepali plane to
crash—13th to hit a mountain.
Silver for Renuka
Nepal's taekwondo star
Renuka Thapa Magar won a
Leaving behind a legacy
Film director Prakash
Thapa passed away at
the age of 73, leaving
behind a rich collection of his
movies such as "Man Ko
Baandh," "Sindoor" and
"Jiwanrekha." Thapa also acted
in a number of Hindi movies
14
with top Indian actors—
Jitendra and Amitabh
Bachchan. The last time he
made a media appearance,
Thapa had said he wanted to
make a movie on Baadi women
who are forced into prostitution by family traditions.
STARRY-EYED: Priyanka Basnet (L) took the crown at the Lux
Beauty Star Contest. Suchitra Acharya was voted runner-up
silver at the 16thAsian
Taekwondo Championship
held in South Korea. A gold
medalist at the South Asian
Games in Islamabad in April,
Renuka went on to beat China,
Jordan and Australia before
losing to Lebanon in the final
round.
Press ambush
Kanya Ras Gurung, the driver
of the vehicle that was carrying Annapurna Post to
Pokhara from Kathmandu,
died when the vehicle fell into
a Maoist ambush near
Damauli. Another passenger
was injured in the incident.
The Maoists attack came on
the second day of their two-
day banda in the Gandak Region. They were protesting
what they call the killing of
their leader Rajbikram
Bhurtel.
It's not regression
The Nepal Samata Youth
Council, the youth wing of
the Samata party headed by
former minister Narayan
Singh Pun, said the October 4
move is not regression as
termed by the protesting parties. "It is just that the parties
and the King have to come to
an agreement," said the
Council's president Sukumar
Lopchan. Pun, formerly an
Army colonel who went on to
join the Nepali Congress be
fore he started his own party,
has claimed recently that he
could resolve the Maoist insurgency if given another
chance. Pun had brokered
the last government-Maoist
peace talks.
Unfriendly fire
The Army shot at a police
vehicle (of SSP Man
Bahadur Rawal) when it entered the Kathmandu airport
to drop off the police
official's luggage. The Army
maintains it resorted to firing when the vehicle evaded
security barricades. The police say the Army was informed of the vehicle's arrival well in advance. An
Army press release later said
the driver was at large but
Head Constable Som Bhujel
said he was very much
around and available to face
questions, which he said
hadn't come his way. The Himalayan Times reported that
another Armed Police Force
officer's vehicle was held at
the airport by the Army for
evading security checks.
JUNE 6, 2004   | nation weekly
 Government's boycott
The faction within the
Rastriya Prajatantra Party now
in government under outgoing Prime Minister Surya
Bahadur Thapa decided to
stay away from festivities organized by the RPP. The
party's other luminaries,
however, attended the function organized on May 28 to
markRPP's 15th anniversary,
which was held at the party
office in Naxal. Also present
at the function were leaders
of the five-party alliance as
well as Speaker Taranath
Ranabhat, who is rumored to
be a prime prime ministerial
candidate. Relations between
the government and its own
party grew worse during the
first week of May after the
party central committee decided to take to the streets
demanding the resignation of
its own prime minister.
Chinese interest
Chinese Ambassador Sun
Heping hinted that China
would not be averse to the
idea of joining SAARC
should the member-countries welcome the trans-Himalayan neighbor. Heping
said China was interested in
contributing to the economic development of the
SAARC region. Already, the
Chinese are said to have received a nod of approval
from Nepal and Pakistan. It
remains to be seen how India, the most powerful member in the regional grouping,
reacts to the news.
Maoists conduct
The National Human Rights
Commission came out with a
13-point code-of-conduct for
the Maoists, calling for immediate cessation of attacks on
civilians, destructions of infrastructures and child recruitment. The Commission said
it had to make the code of
conduct public through the
press since it doesn't have
contact with the Maoists.
Commission Chairman
Nayan Bahadur Khatri didn't
spare the government either.
He said the Royal Nepal Army
hasn't been transparent in its
probes of Army personnel
guilty of abuses, and pointed
out the case of Raj iv Shrestha,
who was shot to death by an
army personnel in a road rage.
Khatri said the case should be
handed over to a civilian court.
Poor results
Despite all the talk about
bringing Nepal's education
standards up to a respectable
standard, SLC results, the
true litmus test to measure
educational successes, have
again come up dismal. According to the Regional Education Directorate, the national average for students
passing the SLC in government schools still stands at
around 30 percent. As for accountability, the buck's being
passed around in circles. The
students blame the teachers,
the teachers blame the management and the larger system, the educationists blames
the government and the government is nowhere nearer to
setting things right: over
200,000 government school
students fail every year.
Week in politics
May 23: Five-parties resume
their consultations at NC
President   Girija   Prasad
Koirala's residence; May 24:
CPN (UML) renews call to
name its chief Madhav Kumar
Nepal as new prime minister; May 25: The King meets
RPP President Pashupati
Shumsher Rana for the second time after Prime Minister Thapa's resignation;
Nepali Congress leader Ram
Sharan Mahat goes public in
saying five parties should reconsider Nepal's name as
next prime minister; May 26:
Parties, including UML,
bury their differences over the
question of new prime minister. UML says King
Gyanendra should correct
October 4 first; May 27: King
meets Speaker Taranath
Ranabhat at Narayanhity;
Ranabhat says he is ready to
become prime minister if offered but would not give up
his post as Speaker. He adds
the parties do not have a "consensus," and that has given rise
to this political stalemate;
May 28: NC, UML Chiefs
ask Ranabhat not to play
spoilsport; May 29: Five-parties announce additional
schedule for street protests.
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
 Biz Buz
More airlines
Philippine Airlines and Bangkok-based
Phuket Air want to start their operations
in Kathmandu. They said as much to the
visiting Nepali team comprising officials
from Nepal Tourism Board and Ministry
of Tourism who were touring South-East
Asia. Philippine Airlines has proposed
operations along the Manila-Delhi-
Kathmandu route and Phuket Air the
Bangkok-Kathmandu route, which has
been served well by the more illustrious
Thai Airways. "The initiative was taken
because the national flag carrier, RNAC
has failed to cater to a large number of
tourists who want to visit Nepal,"
Kantipur quotes a government official
as saying. According to a recent air
service agreement between Nepal and
Thailand, Thai airline companies can
run up to 22 Bangkok-Kathmandu-
Bangkok flights a week.
Contribution for cancer
Here's something for a social cause.
Photo Concern and Kodak are setting
examples: they have jointly donated Rs.
700,000 to the Nepal Cancer Relief
Society, which was preceded by another
major contribution—ofiRs. 500,000. Since
early May, Photo Concern has levied Rs.
2 on every roll developed and printed
there to contribute towards their efforts.
Harvesting herbs
Residents of Mugu stepped into their
fields this season to collect the herbal
plant, yarsa gumba that grows in
abundance in the district. The harvest
work will continue till mid-August.
The residents of Karnali make up to Rs.
50,000-60,000 for each kilo ofthe herb,
which is both exported and used inside
the country for medicinal purposes,
according to Nepal Samacharpatra.
Income increase
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics,
Nepal's per capita income is primed to go up
from last year's Rs.
18,799 to Rs. 20,002 this
year. It is said that the
growth in foreign employment and the sharp
I decline of the dollar
value are the main reasons for this increase. Nepal gets more
than $1 billion every year from remittances— and that influx has been growing at an annual rate of 30 percent. The
bureau also says that the economy will
grow by 3.64 per cent this year, a scaled
down figure from Nepal Rastra Bank's
projections of 4.5 percent.
Another round
Himalayan Distillery Limited will soon
be rolling out their latest product for the
markets, a triple distilled grain gin—
"Ultimate Nepal." The gin is made by
distilling cereals together with juniper
berries, coriander seeds, and orange and
lemon peels.
semiT nayalamiH ehT gnidaer evol I
Most people read their newspaper from the back
to the front. If you are one of them then don't
worry because we are great from either
end - front or back.
The Himalayan
T I M W E S
A   GREAT   N EWSPAPER
16
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 Dnondup ^TCAanqsar
J  Handicraft Center  J
INE     CARPETS     &     ANTIQUE     TIBETAN     FURNITURE
\\%\\^-
 Gurkhas
Britain's decision to compensate Gurkha veterans who
suffered at the hands of the Japanese during World War II
was long overdue. Still, the decision came a bit too late
BY SATISH JUNG SHAHI
The British Embassy in Lazimpat
is unusually busy at one end of its
newly opened wing for the former
Gurkhas. The office for the Far East Prisoners ofWar (FEPOW) is currently collecting applications from the veterans
who were held prisoners by the Japanese during World War II.
"Many of the veterans, who are in
their 80s and who survived the war, can
be seen here mostly between 9 to 11
o'clock in the mornings," says Mitra
Pariyar, political officer at the Embassy.
The office, which opens at 9 a.m. and
remains open till 4 p.m., has been distributing claim forms in person and
through e-mails.
All successful applicants will receive
10,000 pounds in compensation the Tony
Blair government promised for the war
veterans in November 2000. Interestingly, the Nepali Gurkhas were included
in the scheme only in November 2003, following a
ruling by the British court
that asked its government
to compensate the deserving Nepalis.
It was a gesture that
was long overdue. Most
Gurkhas who were in
Japanese   captivity   in
Burma and Singapore had to put up with
horrendous beating, starvation and even
execution. Many others were pushed
into forced labor.
Still, for many veterans, who are no
more, and to many others who didn't
survive the Japanese atrocities, the decision didn't do anything. The death rates
in Japanese camps in World War II were
as high as 27 percent as against four percent in the allied camps, according to an
Associated Press report filed in 2000 after the compensation scheme was announced.
"This decision came
a bit too late," says
Mahendra Lai Rai, secretary of Gurkha Army
Ex-Servicemen Organization (GAESO), which
filed a lawsuit against
the British government
in a London court in August 2002 on behalf of
three former Gurkhas—Pahalman
Gurung, 82, Gaurisor Thapa, 83, and
Hukumsing Pun, 85—who were held
prisoners-of-war by the Japanese. The
18
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 GAESO lawsuit in 2002 was instrumental in getting the Gurkhas their
dues through the 2003 court ruling.
Gurkha recruitment began in 1815
and peaked during the World Wars. In
World War II, 255,000 Gurkhas fought
for Britain, according to GAESO. The
total number of Gurkha casualties in
the two world wars stand
at   anywhere   between
" Gurkha Welfare Centers across the
country are receiving applications," says
British Embassy official, Pariyar, in reference to the interest the scheme has
generated among the Gurkha veterans.
"In case the applicants are unable to
travel, a living relative can make the registration on behalf of the applicant."
60,000 to 70,000.
"The war happened
more than 57 years ago and
many of those deserving
Gurkhas have already
died," adds Rai. The
GAESO claims when it
filed the London suit in
2002, it listed over 900 contacts of those who had
been held as captives during World War II. Its
records show around 3,000
Gurkhas were held in
prison by the Japanese and
that nearly half of them had
died in captivity.
The British Embassy,
however, estimates the figure could be much lower—
around 350.
According to historians the
total number of Gurkha
casualties in the two world
wars stand at anywhere
between 60,000 to 70,000
All Work And No Pay
M;
Iaj. N. B. Chhetri,
83, is one of few
surviving Gurkha soldiers who fought in the
frontlines in Burma in
World War II. But sadly,
he says, his loyal service
to the British Empire
hasn't served him right
after his retirement. After 24 years of service,
Maj. Chhetri returned to
Nepal in 1965. He says
he hasn't been paid his
pension till now—for 34
years.
The reason: he was
part ofthe three Gurkha
battalions that were left
behind in newly independent
Burma in 1947 to take over
"internal security" from the al-
lied forces and to train Burmese soldiers. Though all his
paper work was complete, he
was later to learn that
the British had handed
over Gurkhas like him to
Burma.
"I regularly corresponded with Burmese
authorities for 12 years
after my retirement,"
says Chhetri. "All they
said was that as per existing rules they could not
pay me in hard currency
and that the money
could not be paid outside their country. I was
promised pension transfer during my retirement.
Even the British and Indian authorities ignored
the issue saying I was supposed to request my own government..."  Q
A committee under a British officer, and comprising both British
officers and former Nepali
Gurkhas, has been assigned to the
Far Easter Prisoners of War office.
The payments will be made directly
to the applicant's bank account by
the British government's Veteran's
Agency on behalf of the Britain's
Ministry of Defense after verification.
But there are strings attached to
the compensation package.
The scheme is applicable only
to those war veterans who were
Nepali citizens when a peace treaty
was signed between Japan and Britain in 1951. And even though a
soldier's widow or an immediate
successor can lay claim to the 2000
Ex-Gratia Far East Prisoner of War
Scheme in case ofthe death ofthe
war veteran, the veteran or the
widow should have been living in
2000, the year Britain announced
the compensation scheme.
"It (the compensation to
Gurkhas) is another illustration of
the high regard in which both the
government and the people of the
UK hold the Gurkha soldier," said
the British Ambassador in
Kathmandu, Keith Bloomfield,
through a statement after the 2002
court ruling that went in favor ofthe
Gurkhas. Before that, Britain used
to maintain that the Gurkhas were
not eligible for compensations as
their regiments were part ofthe Indian Army during World War II.
The British Army currently has
nearly 3,600 Gurkhas who in recent
years have served in Bosnia, Kosovo,
Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq.
In May 2002, GAESO filed another
case of discrimination in the British
High Court. But a February 2003 hearing didn't exactly turn out in favor of
the 30,000 ex-servicemen the GAESO
said were affected by what it calls
Britain's discriminatory pension
scheme.
'We are re-appealing the case," says
Rai of GAESO. "In case ofthe POWs,
it took more than 50 years for the Court
to decide in our favor. At least this (the
demand for pension parity) should
come early." n
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
19
 Story
A Divided
HOUSE
Three years after his ascent to throne, King Gyanendra's
supporters seem to harbor the belief that the monarchy
is the only unifying force. But that is not how the
Maoists and increasingly the parties view the situation
BY AKHILESH UPADHYAY
^■k     ^^^^^^^^^ a Press conference
^^^  * that  marked  its
a    ^^ fourth anniversary last
^^i^^^k week, the National
M ^^L        I      Human Rights Com-
ft^k ^iH^^^flk^fe mission offered a laundry list of rights abuses committed by
both the security forces and Maoists. It
I also issued a chilling reminder that the
state presence in a number of districts is
limited to the headquarters, and that the
rights of those living outside urban centers are in peril.
This is nothing new to those who
have traveled outside Kathmandu's relative safety, to the rural districts and hinterlands where the conflict has been
raging for years. That Nepal is no longer
a peaceful country is not in doubt any
more, but it is only now that Nepalis
I have begun to realize the extent ofthe
conflict's costs: Nepal is the most violent country in Asia. Amnesty International says Nepal in the last one year
has recorded the most number of disappearances in the world.
How did it come to this? How did a
low-intensity insurgency suddenly grip
the nation's jugular? There is no clear
answer to this question, but a cursory
look at events over the last few years
shows that rights abuses and violence
grew exponentially after emergency rule
was imposed in November 2001. It then
jumped by leaps and bounds under two
20
governments appointed by King
Gyanendra, though a surprise ceasefire
last year led to near-cessation of hostilitis
for seven months. During that period, a
two-way conflict turned into a three-way
affair, with the government fighting on
two fronts: with the Maosits and the parties.
Today, many view Nepal has a pariah
state where a resurgent monarchy seemingly continues to focus single-mindedly
on winning back most ofthe powers it
lost in April 1990. That single-
mindedness has come at a price for the
nation. The impunity which has led to
most rights abuses comes notjust from
our culture.
This brings us to a key issue: what is
the standing of the monarchy today?
The question is relevant, for this week
marks the third anniversary of King
Birendra's murder,
along with that of his
entire family, by the
then Crown Prince
Dipendra.
It is no secret how
the monarch himself
sees the monarchy,
however. King Gyanendra and his supporters seem to harbor the belief that
the monarchy is the only unifying force
in this diverse land, and that it is the only
institution that can right the present situation. But that is not how the Maaoists
►
,.e King and the parties(bel.
A   ^
Maoists
brought the issue
of the monarchy to
the realm of public
debate
and increasingly the political parties approach the problem.
"As much as the monarchy sees itself
as the saving grace of today's Nepal, the
fact is it has lost much of its shine in the
last three years precisely because it sees
itself as the sole savior," says Hari Sharma,
a Cornell graduate, who was the principal secretary at the prime minister's office (PMO) during Girija Prasad Koirala's
tenure. "This has polarized society like
never before. As much as the Maoist rebellion, it is the role ofthe monarchy
that is being hotly debated today across
Nepal."
The Royal Massacre, Sharma argues,
forced Nepalis into revisiting the monarchy and question age-old text-book claims
that the monarchy has been Nepal's most
stable political institution. If anything,
since the days of
the Great Prithvi
Narayan Shah, monarchy has remained
an extremely volatile
institution marked by
court intrigues and a
number of massacres,
he says. "The monarchy on the whole
doesn't have a particularly dazzling history
of stability. The recent Royal Massacre is a
case in point."
King Gyanendra's October 4 move
and subsequent actions is an attempt to
point at the monarchy's glorious past that
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 doesn't exist, he argues.
"While such tactics worked
well in the Panchayat days,
they are looked at more and
more skeptically now in
Nepal which has changed
drastically in the last 10 years
or so."
There is a certain degree
of truth in this observation.
The reason that the Maoists want a constituent assembly and the parties want to
push their 18-point agenda (which basically wants to bring the monarchy under
a set of guidelines) is because they view
the role of the monarchy in its active
form as anachronistic and that seems to
resonate with the public. Right across
the political spectrum (except with the
pro-RPP groups), republicanism was the
buzzword during the college elections
in February.
But it may be unfair to pin the blame
solely on King Gyanendra. Even before
he ascended to the throne in June 2001,
the Maoists had already brought the issue ofthe monarchy to the realm of public debate. But the political parties, the
bulwark against creeping republicanism,
stood firm in their belief in a constitutional monarchy. Things changed in a
hurry after the King took over executive
powers.
The combination of an ambitious
King, a short-sighted prime minister
(Sher Bahadur Deuba), and an over-eager Royal Nepal Army kicking its heels
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
to avenge defeat at the Maoist hands in
Dang, opened the path to today's deep
polarization. In the end, Deuba managed
to dissolve the Parliament and split his
own Nepali Congress party over the
question of military action against the
Maoists—before he was unceremoniously dumped by the monarch.
The slide since has been swift and precipitous. A constitutional monarch who
is supposed to act only on the advice of
the cabinet has assumed full powers. The
parties, who once served as the monarchy's
shield, have as a result become its most
vociferous critics. The initial divide created by the Maoists was made complete
when the King, in July 2003, refused to
reconcile with the parties by putting in
office yet another hand-picked government—of Surya Bahadur Thapa.
Whatever the daily spin in the media, the question of sovereignty lies at
the heart of the current standoff between the King and the parties. That the
King has refused to call the parties to
form a new government three weeks
after his last nominee resigned speaks
into
Padmaratna Tuladhar, a left
leaning intellectual and a
former lawmaker. "Sooner
the better."
Interestingly, the divide so
evident in Nepal's polity today is not just limited to the
political parties, the monarchy and the Maoists. Even the
civil society seems polarized.
The NGO sector and a large
section ofthe private media are
at loggerheads with the post-
October 4 regime. Even during the emergency period in
2001-02, the polarization
' o wasn't this deep: the political
parties, human rights workers
and the media did look at each other skeptically but still enjoyed some kinship. With
all its flaws, Sher Bahadur Deuba's government was still the people's government.
This polarization hasn't spared
Nepal's powerful donors either. At the
biennial Nepal Development Forum last
month, the United States sided with the
governmentwhile the Europeans and the
United Nations came out openly in favor ofthe parties.
Does it all mean that Nepal is gradually turning into a failing state where the
state has little legitimacy or
control? Parallels can be drawn with
Colombia, another deeply polarized
country which has been wracked by insurgency. The South American nation
has seen an average of more than 25,000
deaths each year and two million refugees have fled their homes. According
to Latin American scholars, Eduardo
Pizarro and Ana Maria Bjarano, massacres are carried out by both extreme left-
wing groups or by criminal groups of
the extreme right. Nepal isn't very far
behind. In the last eight years, 10,000
people have died—2,500 of them since
the ceasefire collapsed last year. One estimate puts the displaced population to
close to half a million and Kathmandu's
crowded streets tell a sad story.
"This downward spiral will continue
as long as there is an attempt to undermine popular forces," says Sharma. "I fear
things are going to get far worse before
they start getting any better." □
21
 After the imposition of
Panchayat, media owned by
the government were
turned into the service of
the regime. If today they are
busy eulogizing the post-4
October 2002 'constructive
dispensation' of our current
leadership, then we need
not be surprised
BY PRATYOUSH ONTA
When King Gyanendra's minister Kamal Thapa was admonishing our media not too long
ago for being "too sympathetic towards
the Maoists and too critical ofthe government," I was reading about how the
Panchayat government had dealt with the
media in the early 1960s.
After King Mahendra usurped all
political control from the hands ofthe
elected representatives ofthe people in
1960, he set out to control the available
means of communication and establish
offices that could be used to disseminate government messages favorable to
his regime and censor items that could
damage its interests. Private Nepali
newspapers and their editors who were
critical ofthe King's regime were variously punished. During 1961, several
newspapers such as Dainik Nepal,
Kalpana, Samaj, Halkhabar and Swatantra
Samachar were banned for various periods of time. Correspondents from some
foreign newspapers were thrown out of
Nepal and foreign newspapers were sub-
ject to censorship (from November
1961) before they were allowed to be sold
in Kathmandu. In 1962, two independent news agencies were nationalized
and merged into one to form the government-controlled agency, Rastriya
Samachar Samiti.
According to a study published by the
political scientist Lok Raj Baral in Contributions to Nepalese Studies in 1975,
King Mahendra's ministers asked the
press to be "useful" and avoid "unhelpful" criticisms of the government (in
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 other words, be "constructive"). Since
too many small newspapers in existence
purveyed "confusion and controversies,"
Minister Vishwabandhu Thapa suggested in early 1961 that there was no
need for many newspapers in Nepal. He
invited the editors of the dailies published from Kathmandu and told them
that the government wanted to start a
"standard" newspaper. He told them that
the government would own majority
shares in this new newspaper and asked
them to buy some percentage ofthe remaining ownership. The threat of closure of their newspapers was explicit but
the editors refused to comply with the
government's request. Subsequently,
private newspapers were subject to censorship by a government authority before being sold in the market.
In 1962, Eng Mahendra promulgated
the constitution of what was called
"Partyless Panchayat Democracy." Arguing that multi-party politics was not
"suited to the soil of Nepal," the
Panchayat system tried to project the
monarchy as the sole institution that
could 'unify' all Nepalis and rally them
to the cause ofthe development ofthe
country. Sovereignty of Nepal was
vested not with the people of Nepal but
with the monarch. The Panchayat Constitution conceived of a multi-tier political set-up. It put village communities
(panchayats) at the bottom of this system, showcasing this feature as the
proof of the decentralization of power, and deployed notions of community-led mobilization
as being central to the
system's political logic.
The Panchayat Constitution committed itself "to end all forms of exploitation—
social, political or economic—through
class co-ordination and harmony." It
guaranteed freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to assemble
peacefully and without arms but it did
not guarantee the right to form unions
and association (this was later included
after the first amendment in 1967). Political parties were ruled out by the preamble of the constitution. Several restrictions were also placed on the exer-
The government
newspaper's
circulation was
artificially
propped up
cise of fundamental rights for the "sake
of public good."
A new Press and Publication Act was
brought into existence in 1963. Its Article
30 stated: "His Majesty's Government
may issue an order directing the suspension of any news, criticism, or publication in case it is deemed reasonable to do
so in the public interest. No appeal or
complaint shall be entertained against
such order." According to Baral, this section was described by some sections of
the oppositional press "as a screen for all
evils, notably the growing list of power,
anti-popular measures, corruption and so
on." As the relationship between the
Panchayat government and journalists
working for oppositional
newspapers became increasingly strained, the
former tried to impose a
"code of conduct" on the
journalists to tame them
and bring them "in line
with the Principles ofthe
Panchayat System." According to late L.S. Baral,
a political historian and
critic who has published
an article on the subject in
International Studies in 1974, many private sector newspapers survived by printing "monotonous eulogies of every official policy and every action ofthe King
on every conceivable occasion."
After the imposition of Panchayat
System, media owned by the government
such as the newspaper, Gorkhapatra and
the only radio station in Nepal, Radio
Nepal were turned into the service of
the regime. Gorkhapatra (which was
erstwhile being published only three
times a week) was converted
into a big-size daily from February 1961. According to L.S.
Baral, its bigger size and eight
pages allowed more room for
official propaganda. Since the
state's notices and advertisements were published mostly
in this newspaper, its circulation was also artificially
propped up.
To try to showcase to the international community both
how 'indigenously democratic'
the Panchayat System was and
how much progress Nepal was
making under it, the government started
two publications in English in the mid-
1960s. In October 1964, the Panchayat
government started a weekly magazine
called The Nepalese Perspective, whose
editors were some ofthe biggest apologists for the system. Its founding editor-
in-chief was Dr Mohammad Mohsin,
the foreign and economic editor was Mr
Pashupati SJB Rana, and the copy editor
was Mr T R. Tuladhar. Mohsin and Rana
used the pages ofthe weekly to elaborate on various aspects ofthe Panchayat
system. After they graduated to become
larger philosophers ofthe Panchayat System, The Nepalese Perspective was subsequently edited by Mr Tuladhar and
later by Barun Shumsher Rana. In late
1965, the government started an English
daily, The Rising Nepal. These two periodicals along with dozens of other
booklets published in English by the
publicity department ofthe Panchayat
government sold the System's 'partyless'
and 'exploitation-less' image to the international community.
Given the high illiteracy rate ofthe
population and the difficulties of transporting newspapers over an unforgiving
terrain, Radio Nepal, was by far the more
attractive among the media used by the
Panchayat state for its own purposes. It
was used to serve both the state's ideological needs and its nation-building imperatives. On the one hand, gate-keeping practices that were consistent with
the ideological underpinnings of the
Panchayat regime meant that only programs consistent with the overall ideological cultural matrix ofthe Panchayat
regime were broadcast and only Nepali
language was allowed over Radio Nepal
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
23
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 Story
after 1965 in its current affairs and educational programming. News broadcast
in Hindi and Newari was stopped. The
policing of the Panchayat-inspired
Nepali identity also influenced its entertainment programs, where even
though songs in other languages of Nepal, and in
Hindi and English were
broadcast, in the main only
certain kinds of music and
songs were promoted in
the   name   of serving
Nepalipan. On the other
hand, as part of what the
Panchayat propagandist
T.B. Khatri has called its
role in "arousing development     consciousness
among the masses," Radio
Nepal broadcast programs related to
farming, education, family planning,
health and a whole host of other development themes.
In the six-month period after the disbanding of multiparty democracy in
December 1960, Radio Nepal dedicated
much of its politically 'educational' air-
time to rubbishing the multiparty democratic experiments ofthe 1950s and rationalizing King Mahendra's coup. It
broadcast many essays by well-known
writers highlighting the failure of the
many political experiments ofthe 1950s
and justified the ending of multiparty democracy in the name of saving the country Words used by King Mahendra to describe the characteristic ofthe incoming
political system—adharbhut prajatantra
(Basic Democracy) and des suhaundo
prajatantra (democracy suitable to the country)—had already found their way into
these writings. King Mahendra's leadership in "every facet of Nepali life" was
cherished in several items broadcast during this period. Others eulogized the poet
Ma. Bi. Bi. Shah (pen name of King
Mahendra) through a reading of poems
published in his collection, "Usaiko
Lagi."
During 1961-62, many essays were
broadcast on the theme of Nepali nationalism as expressed in the fields of
literature, art and culture. Other essays
were dedicated to elaborations of
Panchayat democracy. During 1962-63,
as can be expected following the promulgation ofthe Panchayat Constitu-
The East-West
Highway
became one of
the main bikas
items of
discussion
tion, much ofthe political broadcasting
was dedicated to elaborations of different aspects ofthe Panchayat System. According to a report filed by the then director of Radio Nepal, during the one-
year period after 20 Chait 2018 B. S. (mid-
March 1962), Radio
Nepal broadcast 558 interviews or discussions
related to Panchayat Philosophy, Panchayat System, its class organizations and other contemporary topics. It also
broadcast 46 radio plays
related to Panchayat and
225 new rastriya (national) songs, among
other items. To celebrate
King Mahendra's 43rd
birthday (29Jeth 2019 B.S.), Radio Nepal
put up a musical called Nepalko
Phulbari (written and directed by
Janardan Sama, son of the Balkrishna
Sama) and a live seminar on the 'Grand
Personality of Shree 5 Mahendra.' The
proceedings of this seminar were later
published as a book. To celebrate the
Queen's birthday, it broadcast a radio play
called 'The Commitment of the Pancha.'
During 1963-64, the trend to focus
on elaborations ofthe Panchayat system,
ofthe leadership and the benevolence of
the monarch, and of nationalism continued. Indications ofthe more severe policing ofthe Nepali-language based national identity and culture are to be found
in the items broadcast during this year
and this particular trend seemed to get
further emphasized in the later years of
the decade. Direct elaborations of Panchayat philosophy seemed to decrease in number as the
decade wore off, reflecting perhaps the gradual
strengthening of the
Panchayat state apparatus.
In the development
front, in the two-year period after the demolition of
multiparty democracy, the
East-West Highway became one ofthe main bikas
items of discussion and
elaboration over Radio
Nepal. Several commentators focused on this theme
as a proof of King Mahendra's commitment toward improving the economic
conditions of Nepalis, not forgetting to
emphasize that elevated levels of intercourse between people from various parts
ofthe country that the road will make possible will contribute to arobust feeling of
Nepaliness and national integration. In
the later years ofthe decade, community
development, education, tourism, land
reforms, and industries were some ofthe
themes of programs broadcast over Radio Nepal. Some other programs focused
on administrative decentralization and
on Panchayat themes such as the Back-
to-the-Village National Campaign.
To sum up then, the government-
controlled media's message in the 1960s
was clear: developing Nepal is only possible via the Panchayat System and the
Pancha as citizen was the ideal agent for
the social transformation of Nepali society. And those Nepalis who refused to
become Panchas were condemned as
arastriya tatyas, anti-national elements. Oppositional media was continuously harassed with censorship, cancellation of
registration of newspapers and the seizure of printed materials and press hardware.
If today's Gorkhapatra, The Rising
Nepal, and Radio Nepal are busy eulogizing the post-4 October 2002 'constructive dispensation' of our current leadership, then we need not be surprised. As
far as the independent media.'sateripan of
the diktats emerging from this dispensation is concerned, I am sure its ministers wish they were ruling Nepal ofthe
early 1960s. □
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
 Inter
THE CABLE GUYS
Four young entrepreneurs will be launching their dream
business project—cable Internet service—the first of its
kind in the country
BY SATISH JUNG SHAHI
The front office at SUBISU
Cable Television Network
in Baluwatar looks relatively busy
in the evenings, when people elsewhere
usually leave for home.
"What's wrong, we haven't received
any complaints yet," says a cable technician sitting beside the phone and channel surfing on the television set placed
in the reception area. A few other technicians are sharing their day's experiences in the garden outside, where
rolls of cables are twined around
huge spindles beside four dish antennas.
Upstairs in a room, SUBISU's
four big bosses, seated in between
the computers and peripheral devices, discuss the launch of their
dream business project—cable
Internet service. If launched as
planned this week, the service will
be the first of its kind in the country. The cost for SUBISU's net services will be Rs. 2,400 per month
for a single-computer user, who'll
be able get TV channels and a connection to the Internet through the
same cable. Along with SUBISU,
there are two other cable operators, Space Time Network and
another company in Pokhara, that
have been granted licenses to relay the Internet over their cable
lines. But SUBISU is expecting
to be the first market entrant.
"It is four and a half years of
research bearing fruit," says
Sudhir Parajuli, Chief Executive
Officer of SUBISU Cablenet,
who teamed up with his friends,
Binaya Man Saud, Surendra
Shrestha and Amit Thapa Chhetri
26
to start the company. All of them are in
their early 30's. Three of them, Saud,
Shrestha and Chhetri are childhood buddies who have been together since their
primary school days at St. Xavier's,
Godavari. Other than Shrestha, who
opted for the commerce stream in his
Bachelors level, the two others went on
to study electrical engineering degrees
in Bangalore, where they met Parajuli.
'We had never thought of starting up
with cable television back in the first
place," says Binaya Saud, who along with
Parajuli looks after the company's marketing and public relations. The company took up cable television in January
2001, only after Nepal Telecom Authority refused their first proposal, in 2000,
to start a cable Internet service because
the government did not have any policies outlined regarding cable Internet.
Back then cable Internet was still finding its footing around the world, and one
rarely heard ofthe technology in Nepal.
The network finally obtained the license
on its third attempt in 2003. By then cable
Internet technology had already become
a household name globally.
"Nepalis who would browse the
Internet in their offices back in 1999 were
mostly above the age of 25," says Amit
who looks after operations. "Now more
 /
\
I
THE INFORMATION AUTOBAHN IS HERE
s
and more people below that age are
entering the job market and literally
swearing by the Internet. Back in college when we were studying electronics, cable Internet was hi-fi technology. We hardly got to see it for real," he
adds.
The time couldn't be better for the
launch of this new venture: the company ranks in the top three among the
25-something cable television providers in the country, and the cables to relay Internet information to its customers already exists. The network's reach
extends up to Dhapasi-Basundhara in
the north, Jyatha-Thamel-Darbarmarg
in the south, Baudha and Chahabhil in
the east, and Maipi-Gongabu-Balaju in
the west. The company's next plan is
to penetrate New Road, Teku and Patan.
Although users will have to make a
one-time investment of Rs. 8,800 for a
cable modem, they will not be saddled
with extra telephone bills as is the case
with dial-up deals. And even at its minimum speed of 64 kbps, cable is still
much faster than conventional dial-up.
For cable-Internet users who need
more speed, the modem's bandwidth
can be increased.
"Cable Internet is a better option
than the wireless broadband service that
some Internet service providers have
started," says Sudhir. "This is because
the cable modem is much cheaper; a
wireless modem costs between Rs. 40-
80,000. Besides, since the frequency of
2.4 or 5.8 giga hertz used by the wireless services is also shared by most other
electronic utilities such as cordless
phones, and the interference can be
bothersome."
Even though the company hasn't advertised much, word has got around
and SUBISU's telephone lines these
days are clogged by inquisitive calls
asking about their yet to be launched
service. A few trial installations have
already been made and the response,
the young entrepreneurs at SUBISU
say, is extremely positive so far.
"Our focus right from the start has
been on quality" says Binaya, "but given
the present demand (for cable net), we
are afraid we might not be able to fulfill all of them. And that's our only
fear." □
<
\
27
 Educati
INNER VISION
At a time when leaders in Nepal seem to be groping
for direction, there is a leader out there who sees
very clearly where he's heading. Narbahadur Limbu,
chairman ofthe Nepal Association for the Blind (NAB),
MISSION POSSIBLE:
Narbahadur Limbu
envisions a better future
for the blind
has a smile on his face as he says: "When
there's awill, there's away." Limbu wants
to be the first blind man in Nepal to get a
PhD. He's attempting this challenge, he
says, notjust because it would be an individual achievement for him, but because
it is a visible first step for an entire community of people who remain unable to
access education at the higher level.
"I am one of the blind who should
not have been blind," says Limbu, a charismatic man with a soft smile. Limbu
was born in a village in Terhathum in
1963. At the age of 7, he caught typhoid.
'We did not even have cetamol in the
village." Due to the high fever, he lost
his eyesight. Then, two years later, he
lost his widowed mother and became an
orphan.
Destiny came in the form ofthe Queen
Mother, Ratna Rajya Laxmi Shah, who
came to visit Tehrathum when Limbu was
13. After the Pradhan Pancha presented
the blind orphan to her, she took him
under her wing. He started to attend the
Khagendra Navajeevan Kendra, after
which he joined Laboratory School.
"There were no braille books when I was
in school," says Limbu. 'We used to write
the texts in braille ourselves, and then type
it on typewriters and print it out in lithos."
In 1983, Limbu passed the SLC exams in
the first division.
Only seven days after passing his exams, he got a job as a teacher at a newly
opened school in Dhangadi. "Luck favored me," he says. Even though he
started to teach, Limbu's odyssey as a student was not over. He did his intermediate studies from Kailali Campus, and
then he took his BA exams privately from
Kathmandu. At the age of 30, he joined
Tribhuvan University to get his masters
degree. "I had financial constraints, but
some friends helped me to get the funds
together, and I was finally able to attend."
His thesis was on "The Rebellion of
Bhimsen Panta - 2010". The title refers
to a movement very similar to the Maoist
movement conducted in Doti and
Dadeldhura half a century ago, he says.
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 The idea to get a PhD occurred to
Limbu after he started running into many
blind "doctors"—individuals holding
doctorates—in India and other foreign
countries. Limbu, who has traveled extensively in foreign countries, including Sweden, Australia, Thailand, Japan,
Bahrain, UAE and others, says that the
educational system and services are far
advanced in these places, allowing them
to be much more productive. "Education for the blind is very advanced in Japan and Sweden," he says. "They have
free computers and printers for the blind.
Everything from living expenses to a stipend is paid for by the government."
And now, says Limbu, his dream of
getting a PhD might be coming true.
"There are no books or databases on the
educational history of people with disabilities in Nepal," he says. That's why
he chose this topic and submitted it to
Tribhuvan University as a potential research topic. Suraj Dahal, former president ofthe Society of Ex-Budanilkantha
Students (SEBS), arranged a meeting
with an American friend who contacted
Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind man
to climb Everest. Weihenmayer was
strongly supportive of Limbu's project,
and has agreed to fund 50 percent ofthe
cost towards his PhD.
Not all blind people in Nepal are as
lucky. Ofthe more than 3.5 lakh blind
and partially sighted people in Nepal,
only 350 of them have passed their SLC;
49 have their bachelors degrees, and 18
of them have masters degrees. Of the
47,000 blind children of school-going
age, only 1,900 are currently getting an
education.
The director of NAB, Amrit Rai, sits
on the threshold, counting braille books
recently published by their press. "The
Ministry of Education put out that tender for 4,000 books. We won the tender
to publish them," he says, as he places
the books, bound in blue, inside sacks.
A group of men and women gather
around, putting the books together in
piles. The pitifully inadequate number
of books will be distributed to schools
across the country. Schools with more
than one blind student will have to share
their resources.
But even the blind with an education
have found that a degree does not necessarily lead to employment. In 1990, they
protested by laying down their SLC certificates on the grounds of Ratna Park.
This protest led to 21 teaching positions
to be put aside for the blind. "Currently,
there are 90 teachers, and approximately
45 other people working in the nonprofit sector," says Rai. "This still leaves
the rest of the 282 people with SLC
qualifications without a job."
The NAB advocates and lobbies for
the blind in all sectors: education, employment and human rights. They also
run schools, savings and credit groups,
and rehabilitation programs
in Dang and Chitwan. NAB
is also involved in promoting the productive re-integration ofthe blind into society. "The software we
have," says Chana Shrestha,
one ofthe instructors at the
computer lab where the
blind are taught new digital
technology, "allows files
typed into a floppy to be
printed out in braille."
Dhruba Gyawali, a sighted
software engineer based in
Butwal, has already developed a software that changes
Nepali writing to Braille.
He is now at work on a
speech-recognition software that will allow computers to recognize the
Nepali language.
Harisharan Bista, project
manager ofthe donor organization, Norwegian Association of the Blind, says:
"The Maoists have never
stopped our work. We go all
over the country, and hold
camps in many districts.
They know what we do.
They only go after an organization if they are corrupt
and are exploiting funds."
Besides lobbying for people with
different disabilities ,NAB has also been
able to affect national policies. But for
an organization that does high-level national level advocacy, it still remains resource-poor: it does not, for instance,
have its own building. Although the government granted it some land in the past,
the land has been mired in legal disputes
and not yet released. "A building would
help to consolidate our women's hostel,
music training building and publishing
press," says Limbu. "Also, lots of our
branches don't have offices. But our first
priority is to work like a union, and to
unify the blind."
Without a doubt, Limbu's PhD program would help towards this goal.
Tribhuvan University, which has yet to
include people with disabilities in its programs, would have to start thinking about
new ways to include differently-abled
people. Unlike many people who decide
READY TO GO;
Binding braille
books for
Nepal's blind
to leave Nepal after higher education,
Limbu has different plans. He has never
wanted to remain behind in a foreign
country, he says. "If I stayed behind, it
would just benefit me as an individual. I
work for common and collective rights.
There is too much to do here." With such
a leader at the helm, the path towards integrating the blind in Nepal is straighter
than any roadmap out there.  □
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
29
 Writin
mthi
A LETTER TO SONIA
BYSWARNIMWAGLE
Sonia M. Gandhi, MP
10 Janapath, New Delhi
31 May 2004.
Dear Sonia,
Let me just say, that was the week
that was. Someone remarked on
your gesture being "Mahatma
Gandhian in scope." No family has resorted to destiny as frequently as ours to
explain the inexplicable, so I know that
you think I know why you did what you
did. In fact, I do, and I also understand
the force of your conviction that you
poignantly requested your peers to grasp.
Good biographers who spend years researching their subject end up admitting
a quaint form of paranoia, where they
feel that their subject's ghost is living
with them all the time. Judith Brown
has said this about me, William Duiker
about Ho Chi Minh, Robert Skidelsky
about Maynard Keynes, David
McCullough about John Adams, the list
goes on. You've edited and published
hundreds of my letters, and that alone
makes our bond intimate in emotion as
well as intellect.
But we, of course, never met. When
you first saw Rajiv at that Greek restaurant in Cambridge, I'd already been dead
for one year. As a dead man, it's hard to
forgetwhen one died. Itwas 27 May 1964.
Don't read too much into this, but your
finest hour in politics coincides with the
week when both Rajiv and I celebrated
our birthdays in Heaven — it was my
fortieth, and Rajiv's thirteenth. Indira,
though, is surprisingly no longer interested in politics. I have a feeling that this
is because she has finally accepted three
truths: i) Heaven is not India, ii) God is
a democrat, and iii) Churchill will never
quit the Chair ofthe Heaven Debating
Club, the closest thing we have here to a
raucous Lok Sabha. She has turned 20,
and has just re-united with Feroze. "I
will make it work this time," she says,
"second marriages are a triumph of hope
over experience."
I know you are too mature to be fazed
by those doubts on your being less of an
Indian just because you were born in
Orbassano, and not Orissa. You've already given them the perfect answer. If
it's any comfort, I too was never spared
such slurs. They used to say I was the
last Englishman to rule India - that I was
English by education, Muslim by culture, and Hindu by accident. I went on
to run the continent for 17 straight years
anyway. At the Harrow Old Boys Society, Winston still repeats his claim about
India being no more a single nation than
the Equator. But what people forget is
that our country has always been much
more than geography. As I wrote in The
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 Discovery of India, it is the idea and the
myth of India that is more important -
"some kind of a dream of unity has occupied our mind since the dawn ofthe
civilization. That unity was not conceived
as something imposed from outside, but
it was deeper, and within its fold, the widest tolerance of belief and custom was
practiced and every variety acknowledged
and even encouraged." Thus, when newspapers note that a Roman Catholic gave
way for a Muslim President to swear in a
Sikh Prime Minister to lead a nation of
800 million Hindus, I feel secure about
the secular foundation I laid for India, its
absolute strength to withstand petty sectarian assaults.
In chronicling Manmohan's ascent,
much has been written about the reforms
he initiated in 1991. Many also now say
that I led India on the wrong economic
path after Independence. People forget
that the economic corollary of political
independence was a protectionist model
of self-sufficiency As a socialist of the
Fabian kind, not Marxist, that was the
right thing to do for a Lefty. Sure, if I
knew those benign intentions would
create a hideous License Raj that shackled our prospects for three long decades,
I'd have acted differently. Thankfully
Rajiv saw what his mother didn't, and it
is a mark of Manmohan's intellectual
honesty to credit reforms ofthe 80s for
placing India on a path of high growth,
before he opened up the economy in the
90s. Speaking of reforms with a "human
face," Manmohan also connects with the
toiling masses who have put faith in you
and the Congress yet again, against all
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
odds and punditry You shall never let
them down.
On our neighbours, the conflict with
Pakistan must somehow be resolved
within the life ofthe 14th Lok Sabha. This
can't drag any longer. As you know, we
actually have personal attachments to the
Valley. We derive our cosmopolitan aura
from our roots as Kashmiri Brahmins -
the Kauls who read modern books and
ate meat against convention. As India
negotiates peace, we have to lend our full
weight to the process. A smaller neighbor, Nepal, is also going through tough
times. Especially after the tragic Royal
Massacre of exactly three years ago. It's a
pity we have not done enough to help —
a result, I believe, of our over zealous
bureaucracy running amok in the absence
of wise political signals. Foreign policies are too important to be left to the
Foreign Ministry alone.
King Tribhuvan hosted a sombre
evening here the other day to mark that
tragic royal event of June 1. I'd read a curious note by Kuldip Nayar in the 1970s
about the king having "offered" his kingdom to me. Sardar Patel, our self-styled
Bismarck, would have loved to hear
something as subversive as that, but I personally don't recall the occasion. When I
asked, Tribhuwan didn't either, although
he said he had fond memories ofthe time
I hosted him at Hyderabad House after
he fled his country. Anyway, I'd like you
to take a sympathetic interest in helping
solve Nepal's woes that originate from
our apathy. If we can't make 24 million of
our closest neighbors admire us, what
right do we have to demand respect from
the rest ofthe world?
That day in 1968, when you wore the
cotton sari I'd woven with my own hands
in prison, I thought you were not only
getting married to my grandson, but also
the Republic of India. I witness today
that quiet thought maturing into dignified fact, and I couldn't be prouder.
All my love,
Jawaharlal Nehru, Anand Heaven.
P S. Two small requests, i) Tell Rahul
to settle down soon, these things should
not be delayed. And, ii) Try to rein in
Laloo a little. Instead ofthe Railways
Ministry, he could have been exiled to
Washington. "Patna on the Potomac,"
he'd fancy the idea, don't you think? □
31
 Busin
The good news is more and more airlines are eyeing the
lucrative Kathmandu sector. Can RNAC keep up?
BY SURESH PRADHAN
The road leading to Tribhuvan
airport, the country's only international airport, remains backed up
with cars, jeeps, taxis and little tourist
coaches these days. It's 12:30 p.m., time
for Thai International to land. The parking lot outside the International Terminal is teeming with passengers who've
just arrived, and passengers who are fast
checking in. It's also time to check-in for
the Thai flight to Bangkok, Jet Airways
and Indian Airlines flights to New Delhi,
and, occasionally flights to other destinations like Kolkata, Dhaka and Karachi.
From Kathmandu airport, there's no
dearth of passengers or flights to South
and East Asia, the Gulf and even China,
Japan and Europe as another monsoon,
considered the start of the tourist season, draws nearer.
The good news is this: more and
more airlines are eyeing the lucrative
Kathmandu sector as the Asia Pacific
tourism market shows signs of recovery
after the fallout from 9/11, SARS outbreak and Indo-Pak tensions. The airlines range from private Indian airlines
like Jet Airways and Sahara, to Sri Lankan
Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Philippine Airlines and Phuket Air.
In Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan,
tourism entrepreneurs are upbeat. Tourism, the bread and butter for several
hundred thousands, is showing signs of
recovery.
Ironically, these airlines are eyeing
Kathmandu because Nepal's national airline, the Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation (RNAC), has failed to cater to the
rising demand for flights across the region and beyond. The airlines are aim
ing to grab a bigger share ofthe the regional tourism market pie.
RNAC, thanks to years of government meddling, has been in a decline at
a time when the aviation industry in the
region has recorded a strong growth. Established in 1958 with only a Dakota
(DC-3) aircraft, RNAC went on to expand its fleet of domestic planes to nearly
a dozen, and international fleet of to two
Boeings 727s in the early 1970s.
Thirty years on, it looks like time has
stood still for RNAC; today it's hardly
got anything more than what it had when
it started off. Of its two aging Boeing
757s, only one is currently up and running—the other has gone to East Asia
for C-Check, meaning a complete overhaul that takes at least two months. Of
its seven Twin Otters, ideal for Short-
Take- Off-and-Landing, RNAC has plans
to operate only four and sell the rest.
"More private airlines and international
airlines are eyeing Kathmandu because we
have been weak," Mohan Khanal, Managing Director of RNAC told Nation
32
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 Weekly. "Naturally, unlike our national
airline, they are on the lookout for greener
pastures."
Kathmandu is emerging as an
attractive sector for two reasons: Nepal
is a famous destination
for East Asian
holidaymakers as well as
exclusive European and
American tourists, and,
equally important, it is the
gateway to Tibet and
Bhutan, the last remaining Shangri-Las. In the first quarter of
2004, tourism arrivals registered a growth
of an impressive 42 percent, a far cry from
2002, considered the worst year for
Nepal's tourism. And that trend is continuing according to the Nepal Tourism
Board. And post-9/11 there appears to
have been a paradigm shift, says one
NTB official. "We have more regional
tourists now." This new brand of tourists is mostly comprised of travelers and
holidaymakers from East Asia and our
two giant neighbors: India and China.
While  RNAC is on
the brink, its contemporary,
Thai International Airways, has
grown into one of the world's
leading airlines with more
than 100 jets in its fleet. Thai,
which has been operating its
Bangkok-Kathmandu-Bangkok
flights for two decades, is now
considering doubling its regular
flights between the two regional
hubs (With SAARC Secretariat
and many regional headquarters,
Kathmandu is vaguely referred
to as a South Asian regional center). Last year, Thai carried
80,000 passengers into Nepal, an
impressive 33 percent rise from
2002.
Europe's Martin Air, which
connects Kathmanduwith Vienna,
is also considering doubling its
flights between Europe and
Kathmandu. For its part, RNAC
is looking into the possibility of
getting two wide-bodied jets on
lease. That way, it can regularize
its existing flights to nine destinations in seven countries—
New Delhi, Bangalore,
Mumbai, Shanghai, Osaka,
Singapore,   Kuala  Lumpur,
RNAC hopes to
lease two wide-
bodied jets
Bangkok and Hong Kong. "It will take a
while for us to get new planes," says
Khanal, "after which we can regularize
our flights and open new sectors"—such
as RNAC's old connections to Frankfurt and London. 'We'll
buy a new Boeing within
two years and everything
will be alright. We can
then also regain our lost
international image."
That looks like a good
plan but with the competition hotting up, RNAC needs to
shift gears fast. At least 12 international
airlines fly in and out of Tribhuvan airport every day—despite the fact that
Nepal's civil aviation policy is not
friendly to international carriers opting to use Kathmandu as a stopover destination; New Delhi in the
neighbourhood is. One airline that has
been able to make hay is Qatar Airways.
It flies 15 flights a week to Kathmandu;
11 between Kathmandu and Doha and
four between Kuala Lumpur and
Kathmandu. "The government is kind
of broke and can't afford to have its own
planes," said Jay Devan, Qatar Airways'
agent to Nepal. He is also associated
with India's Air Sahara which is set to
start regular flights between Delhi and
Kathmandu. "So, the more international
flights we can have, the better for a landlocked country like ours."
Optimists hope that RNAC can get
over its "Royal-Nepal-Always-Cancelled" image and get on the bandwagon
too. Last year, a committee recommended privatisation of the national
flag carrier. Today, it seems to be heading in that direction. In June, a team of
officials from the International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) are arriving in Nepal to study that possibility
and make recommendations. "We'll
base our future actions on those recommendations," Khanal retorts, arguing: "It is still not too late for RNAC,
we have a ready market here, and we
can bounce back. We still have an operating surplus."  □
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
 Socie
The Timekeepers
As our nation's clock comes to a complete stop, two poor
watch repairmen wage a courageous battle at the Old
Baneshwore Chowk, defying the government, the
Maoists and the political parties
BY SANJEEV UPRETY
Near the Old Baneshwore Chowk
there are two tiny watch repair
shops at a walking distance from
each other. The first, occupying a small
four-by-three-feet space is run by Arjun
Lama. About 25 years of age and married
recently, Arjun came to Kathmandu
from Dhadhing seven years ago and
trained to become a watch repairman
by attending a crash course at Bhotahity
Arjun keeps his shop open even during
bandas, when the strikes called by either the Maoists or the five agitating
political parties brings Kathmandu's life
to a grinding halt. Arjun has braved the
wrath ofthe party cadres time and again,
to open his shop. "I have no option but
to open my shop," he says, "otherwise
my wife and I will starve."
Wristwatches, lithium batteries and
instruments of repair are scattered all
over Arjun's tiny shop. A number of Indian and Chinese wall clocks with
names like Xinxiu, Prince, Siok, and
Quartz Faleda hang on the walls. Some
of them show different hours ofthe day:
some are stuck at 1 o'clock and some at
3:15, while others tick merrily at 12:30
and 9:00.
Arjun Lama and his uncle Raju Lama,
the owner of the second shop on the
other side ofthe chowk, talk about the
obstacles that they face in their chosen
profession. "Those who are rich prefer to buy expensive watches like Rolex
and Rado, watches that we cannot afford to sell," says Arjun Lama. "And
those who are poor like us only buy
dirt cheap watches that you see here,"
he says, pointing to the Princes and
Xiaxias in the shop. "These Indian and
Chinese watches are so cheap that once
they break down their owners simply
throw them into trash bins and buy new
watches rather than repair them. Very
few people come to our shops to repair
their watches these days," Raju Lama,
the uncle, explains. "I can't understand
why I am destined to live such a
wretched, unappreciated life." Raju
Lama reflects further, "After coming to
Kathmandu I worked extremely hard at
a number of jobs. I painted houses,
worked in a restaurant and then in a factory making kettles and pans. I even
worked for a butcher at Chahabil cutting slabs of meat for him. I had hoped
that the profession of a watch repairman would bring me riches, love,
friendship. Once a chain smoker and a
heavy drinker, I quit both cigarettes and
While Arjun Lama remains circumspect and restrained in criticizing the
authorities, his more extrovert uncle is
much more outspoken in his tirade
against the municipality and the political forces. "The Maoists and the political parties force us to close our shops,"
he complains bitterly, "and when I try to
spread my wares upon the street and try
to get some business going, the goondas
from the municipality threaten me and
sometimes even manhandle me. Tell me
how on earth are people like me and my
newly married nephew to survive?"
While the reserved, gentle nephew
with added marital responsibility seems
to have made peace with the pitfalls that
come with his profession, Raju Lama's
wrath is not easily dispelled. "See how
the life in the city has come to a total
stop," he says, pointing to the empty
streets and closed shutters, "these are bad
times." The nation's clock, like the broken clocks in Arjun and Raju Lama's
shops too seems to be signifying different times to different people. The
nation's clock has come to a complete
stop—or in some cases, seem to be ticking backwards. But these two poor watch
LAMA HHI V.f
CENTER
alcohol to become a follower of the
Buddha. What did I get back from life?
I am as poor and as lonely and unloved
as I was five years before. My nephew
here was at least able to find a girl for
himself and might soon begin having
kids."
repairmen are waging a courageous battle
at the Old Baneshwore Chowk, defying
the government, the Maoists and the political parties. In their own little ways
they seem to be trying to set right the
time of this neurotic, uneasy period that
has gone out ofjoint.  □
34
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
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Shah Rukh Khan today is in a position to
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Shah Rukh Khan, who plays the role
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man with a devil-may-care attitude who
wants to go to the United States, even
though his father would rather see him
become an IAS officer.
Life changes drastically for Arjun after that collision on Howrah Bridge.
The collision leads on to Michael and
Arjun becoming friends, and inspired
by Michael, Arjun dumps his dreams
about the United States, and later goes
on to contest the Assembly elections.
The star-cast trio's love interests are
played by Isha Deol, Rani Mukherjee
and Kareena Kapoor. Of them, Rani
stands out in her role as the battered
wife of Bachchan. Despite minor
quirks, like the fact that almost two-
thirds ofthe movie is devoted to character sketching through flashbacks,
there are plenty of reasons why this
movie should be watched. Here are the
top five:
One: Because it's a Mani Ratnam
movie. Enough said on Ratnam.
Two: Abhishekh Bachchan—he has
portrayed his scruffy character to perfection.
Three: Ajay Devgan in his role as
Michael, though he sometimes looks
to every other. He is there to fulfill the
last wishes of his dying dad, he is there
to protect an army general's (Kabir Bedi)
daughter, Sanjana, (Amrita Rao) and even
get her a makeover; he is there to save
his half-brother Laxman (Zayed Khan),
when he is falling off the roof; he is the
reason behind Laxman finally getting his
graduation after failing for three years;
and he is there to romance Chandani
(Sushmita Sen). Most of all Maj. Ram is
there to make sure that the army's mission "Milaap" is successful. Thankfully
Shah Rukh Khan lightens up the overkill of seeing his face featured on every
shot by carrying off his role with panache.
The only other character who manages some screen presence is former -
armyman-turned-terrorist, Raghavan
(Sunil Shetty). Viewers also might want
more from Sushmita Sen than just her
Bachchan and Vivek Oberoi) and one
not so young man (Ajay Devgan)
whose lives collide on the famous
Howrah Bridge in Kolkata, and then
take totally new turns.
Ajay Devgan plays Michael
Mukherjee, a brilliant student who forgoes an opportunity to study in the United
like our Nepali student leaders who get
enrolled in college as a first step to the
parliamentary elections, does a good job
as a get-in-the-system-to-change-it character.
Four: Brilliant cinematography.
Five: Great music (as usual) by AR
Rahman.   □
36
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 Viewpoi
By raising the issue of Sonia's foreign origins, BJP has shown that as a political party
it peddles petty issues. When people voted for Congress Party they knew Sonia was
a strong contender to be the prime minister and they were aware of her Italian origin
#**«*£
BY ARUNA UPRETY
No one in India uttered a word about Mother Teresa's foreign
origin when she was nominated for the Nobel Prize. Everyone
kept repeating that she was a saint who had showed the world
that "India was a great country. "And everyone, including the media kept
the accolades coming: "She has shown us that all the peoples are
related to each other (basudhaiva kutumbakam.)"
But the day Sonia Gandhi was to become prime minister through
popular vote, the Bharatiya Janata Party and people like Sushma Swaraj
(the high-profile BJP spokesperson) raised the issue of Sonia's "foreign
origin." They threatened to resign from the Raj Sabha and boycott the
swearing-in session if Sonia became the prime minister. BJP leaders started
talking about "sanskriti and values," arguing that Sonia's elevation to the
country's most important position would mean a death knell to Indian
values and traditions. While saying all this, BJP leaders had tears in their
eyes, and some had their eyes swollen. Clearly, they had not been sleeping well for some time. This was especially evident on the face of Sushma
Swaraj.
The day the election results were announced, I was at New Delhi airport.
When I boarded a taxi, the first thing the
driver told me (with a smile) was, "You
know the Congress has won and Sonia
Gandhi will be our next prime minister."
I was surprised myself. During the whole
trip from the airport to the city, the driver
talked about nothing but Sonia and the
Congress Party. "We will have a new
Bharat in five years'time," he said.
On reaching my cousin's house,
however, I got to see a different set of
reactions brought about by the election
results. My cousin's husband looked
pale and, for a moment, I thought he
was sick. I asked if he was.
"No, he has been in mourning for
the last 24 hours," said my cousin. "He
has not eaten anything and has refused
to watch the news on TV because the
BJP has lost." He had been so sure that
the BJP would win that he had not even
bothered to vote for his party.
Just like him, there had been many
other BJP supporters who thought that
the BJP would sweep the elections.
"Many ofthe officers have gone out ofthe city on a three-day holiday.
They are mourning now," my cousin said. I suddenly had a flashback of
the day when Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, the then prime minister, had lost
the elections in Kathmandu. The talk then was that most of his supporters were overconfident and had spent their time feasting on "raksi and
masu over paplu." And that they all cried when KP lost.
After the results ofthe Indian elections were out, the BJP thought
about calling for a Kal Divas (Black Day) if Sonia was sworn in. That bit
seemed a bit off. If the BJP really did not want a foreign-born as the
prime minister, why did it not change the electoral laws while it was still in
power? Why didn't it raise the issue with the Election Commission when
Sonia filed her nomination to be a member of the Lok Sabha? It is very
strange that her Italian origin became a hot issue only after the Congress
triumphed.
The Hindutva says that "A wife is an inseparable part of her husband and as soon as she marries she is the member of his family and
mingles as a river to an Ocean." But why was Sonia singled out? She
has lived in India for more than 35 years—ever since her marriage.
These people who are now decrying
her foreign origin are the same ones
who make political capital every time
an Indian-born is nominated to important positions, or for an award in
the United States or Britain. They write
^^^^ long articles eulogizing the successes
|W^^ft ofthe NRIs, saying "India is proud" of
them. Why can't the BJP say with simi-
__^^^^B lar pride, "Look, we have embraced
the idea of 'basudhaiva kutumbakam'
and we will continue to do so."
More importantly, now that Sonia
has declined the power and become
a "queen" what other agenda does the
BJP have against her? By raising the
issue of Sonia's foreign origins, the BJP
has shown that as a political party it
peddles petty issues. When people
voted for Congress Party they knew
Sonia was a strong contender to be
the prime minister and they were well
aware of her Italian origin as well. It is
the same BJP that made much ofthe
people's mandate in the 1999 elections, why did it then have such a hard
time accepting the people's mandate
in 2004? □
38
JUNE 6, 2004   | nation weekly
 For insertions: 2111102
or editorial ©nation.com.np
Page
CITY This Week
tvtRPS
New Tourism
Products Promotion
May 3-5 at Nepal TourismBoard,
Bhrikutimandap. For information:
4269768, 4269770
Monsoon Wine Festival
June 1 to August. Kilroys of
Kathmandu, Thamel. For
information: 250440, 250441
Blithe Spirit
Blithe Spirit: A dark comedy by
Noel Coward, about an evening in
the life of a middle aged writer who
calls a seance only to invite more
than he bargained for. Organized
by Nepal-Britain society. Proceeds
will go to educational charities. June
1 and 3. Time: 7 p.m. Soaltee
Crowne Plaza, Tahachal. For information: 5534713, 4410583
Infinity's
Journey
Collage, mixed-media and water color
by Gaurav Shrestha, Suman Shrestha,
Ramesh K.C. and Binod Gupta.
At the Park Gallery, Lazimpat.
Till June 10
Moments of Bliss
fundraismg concert featuring special
quests Nhyoo Bairacharya and Chris-
:urope.  Lho,  an album th;
:sin 1997, re
ceived rave reviews in ms
like Guitar Player, Pulse
Kathman
are Foundation of Nepal
6 p.m., June 5. Bluestar Hotel
For information: 4354918
Four young artists came together in
2001 to create the Infinity group. They
held their first exhibition in 2002 and
have subsequently participated in a
number of national and international
exhibitions. Their works primarily depict the Nepali culture through different perspectives on varied media.
Suman, Ramesh and Binod are art
students at the Lalitkala College while
Gaurav is a self-taught artist. Suman
paints balanced spreads with enchanting colors. Ramesh's displays
feature a series of bells to signify the
need for peace. Binod captures traditional festivals like the Kumari Jatra
and Samyak Puja in his watercolors.
Gaurav creates collages patched together from found objects and magazine clippings.
BOOK LAUNCHED
Birds in Nepal
A comprehensive book on birds of
Nepal, published by RK Shrestha,
Director of the Central Zoo, was
recently released in Kathmandu.
Originally written by Richard
Grimmett, and Carol and Tim
Inskipp the book was translated
by Dr.Hem Sagar Baral. The book
will be available free to various libraries, schools and colleges.
ONGOING
Jawlakhel Bakery Cafe live
Band Full Circle. The Bakery Cafe,
Jawalakhel. Time: 7 p.m. Every Friday
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
Electronic Open Air Party
At the Funky Buddha. House,
Hard, Progressive and Psychedelic
Trance. Every Friday night
7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. Free Entrance.
For Information: 4411991
Fantastic Fridays
The Club, Bhatbhateni. Fridays
7 p.m. Entrance Free.
Shangri-la Summer Special
Shambala Garden Lunch with
swimming and soft drink. Rs. 500
ART
EXHIBITIONS
Secret Moments
An exhibition of paintings by
Bhairaj Shrestha. Siddhartha Art
Gallery. Till June 1 2. For information: 4414607
Finland in Nepal 1985-2004
Gallery Moksh. Till June 5.
Photographs from Finland.
For information: 211 3339
39
 Through thi
Looking Glass J9j
Matrix, The Showdown
BY UJOL SHERCHAN
It is a growing truism that when the Palace issues a stick, political parties unite;
when it offers the carrot, this unity tends to come apart, especially when leaders
of the parties go it alone for dialogue with the King. The parties have so far been
reacting to the Palace's actions: co-operating with one another when it comes to
"regression" (stick) and competing in anticipation of the "carrot." Leaving aside the
Maoist movement, geopolitics, and parties loyal to the Palace, allows for
a generalized matrix analysis ofthe great showdown between the five-
party alliance and the Palace.
Under B, the situation in the early days ofthe alliance's protests
against "regression" and which still continue, the heavy-handed behavior of the Palace-appointed government backfired for the reasons cited
in cell B. Just as Christina Rocca, assistant U.S. secretary of state for
South Asian affairs, advised there can be no military solution to the
Maoist insurgency, there can be no police solution to the ongoing protest
either.
How long the street protest will drag on without the mass support of
the Newar communities of Kathmandu Valley—a potential clinching factor— remains to be seen. However, the King's summoning ofthe leaders
ofthe alliance for consultations did offer a momentary respite, and set
the stage for scenarioA. The parties' agenda didn't figure in the two-and I
a half hour meeting. Clearly, the
outcome of the Jana Andolan
suits the King fine as the balance of power rests with him.
The only sticking point for the
political parties with this is: whenever he sneezes, they catch the
cold.
How long the alliance will last
is anybody's guess. Now that
the King is looking for a "spotless" prime minister, the stage
for scenario C is being set.
Competition for the post may
divide the alliance. Girija Prasad
Koirala's statement (in cell C)
doesn't bode well for the alliance. Amik Sherchan's rejoinder is telling (see cell C). Moreover, whoever becomes the PM under this
scenario will have it tough since the other parties may not extend their
cooperation. The next PM must therefore come from the alliance through
consensus, which has also been the position ofthe coalition all along.
Either way, if the all-party government headed by whoever from the
coalition doesn't deliver (no guarantee it will), the Palace may be vindicated and its argument for a "constructive role" for the monarch strengthened. The alliance knows this, which explains the pre-condition: the King
PALACE
LU
1—
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1—
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o
Q.
CARROT
STICK
LU
<
Qi
LU
Q_
O
O
o
Ideal Outcome:
Minimum understanding reached
between the Palace and the alliance through a dialog on the parties' 18-point agenda and the
King's roadmap as a basis for restoring democracy
■ Increasi
demonstra
■ Increasi
student lee
■ Increasi
on the go
man rights
ig support of the parties'
tions against 'regression'
ig cries for a republic from
ders and politicized youth
ng international pressure
rernment to respect hu-
LU
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Q_
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■ "If His Majesty deems consultations for further clarification necessary, we are also prepared to
come separately."
-Girija Prasad Koirala
■ "It is possible that there is conspiracy to break the five parties by
calling (us) separately."
-Amik Sherchan
Most unlikely see
nario
must first restore people's sovereign rights before any talks of prime
ministership or all-party government. With this one move the coalition
has played its last hand: the 18-point agenda. It remains to be seen
how this will be watered down in the protracted standoff.
As the standoff continues, everybody concerned would do well to
remember the matrix: that the Palace is better off offering the carrot, and
the alliance maintaining unity against all odds, if they both desire legitimate and durable outcomes.
Stepping out of the shadowy matrix world into broad daylight brings
the relative positions into sharper focus:
■ the Palace is keen to restore the status quo ofthe Jana Andolan
but may be tempted to slide further back, if the last two hand-picked
governments are any indication:
■ the alliance wants to go beyond the status quo ofthe Jana Andolan
by trimming the powers of the
constitutional monarch, which
they think is the best way to restore people's sovereign rights
for good.
Surely, such polar positions
must in time polarize the country more visibly even more as
the cost of standoff between the
Palace and the coalition mounts.
The question staring us is: are
the polity and people prepared
to make sacrifices—if it ever
comes to that—for a more legitimate and durable outcome
outlined in cell A, or will they
settle for an outcome that may
be no outcome at all? In short,
what price are they willing to pay for peace in the marketplace of politics?
This is not an easy question to answer in a country that is increasingly
ruled by guns and which is militarizing quickly. This is, however, a good
question to ask, for what kind of peace is achievable depends very much
on the earnestness of their replies to this question, for the ground reality
is you only get what you pay for. This question must be asked, for who
knows if the solution to both the current standoff and the Maoist problem
is not already kicking in its womb.  □
40
JUNE 6, 2004   | nation weekly
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Announcement
The International Committee ofthe Red Cross (ICRC), an
independent humanitarian organization whose mandate is to
provide protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict
and internal disturbances has regularly vacancies for:
EXPATRIATE   NEPALI   INTERPRETERS/TRANSLATORS
Your tasks
■ Oral interpretation: from Nepali to English, and English to
Nepali during confidential interviews with persons detained
in prisons, ICRC institutional dissemination and visits to
families of detainees
■ Written translation: translation of written Nepali (newspaper
articles, correspondence, etc.) into written English
■ Analysis and reporting: analysis of conditions of detention,
general situation and other matters relating to the ICRC's
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Selection requirements
■ Ideal age: 25 to 35
■ Either single or prepared to accept an unaccompanied
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■ An opportunity to help the victims of conflict
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■ Ample support in integrating into the new working
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How to apply
Interested candidates are invited to send their CV with a cover
letter, a recent photograph, copy of certificates, a contact
telephone number and the ICRC application form (available on
the website www.icrc.org ) to the following address:
Laurent GISEL
Deputy Head of Delegation
International Committee ofthe Red Cross
Meen Bhawan, Naya Baneshwor
G.P.O Box21225, Kathmandu
Phone: 4482 285/4492 679
e-mail:katmandu.kat@ icrc.org; www.icrc.org
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nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
 Beyond The Batons
And The Barricades
anjushree Thapa should have been a classic
split-personality case. After all, she grew up
mostly in America, while her books are about
Nepal. She's primarily an English author, and yet she's
known in media circles for her translations of Nepali
works. Brought up in an upper-middle-
class family, she's documented the
plight of working-class victims caught
in the crossfire of Nepal's civil
conflict. Born into a Hindu family,
she's an avowed Buddhist. But the
events in her life, last month, probably
highlighted best the fault lines she
constantly has to straddle. While her
father, Bhek Bahadur Thapa, was
traveling around the world defending
the government's human rights record,
Manjushree Thapa made headlines for
a radically different reason. She had
taken part in the five-party protest
against "regression,"—against the
government that included her father—
and during the course of events she was
beaten by the police. She later sued the
government for the police's actions.
The case has not yet been resolved.
Tiku Gauchan of Nation Weekly talked
with Thapa about her participation in
the street protests, her political
differences with her father and about
her work as a writer.
How has your anti-government stance
affected your relation with your father?
We are used to having different politics.
We still have a very close personal
relationship and we've always openly
discussed our views.
What are the reasons behind suing the
government?
I got hit on the head by the police
during the demonstrations on April 4.
After that, for a long time, I didn't think
about doing anything about it. But
when I talked to human rights lawyers,
they wanted to see if the issue could
be  taken  forward.  We   sued  the
government because we wanted to set
a precedent.
What kind of a precedent?
There's no law in place to address a
situation like this. For example, in the
Torture Compensation Act, they only
define a fracture incurred as something
that happens to people in custody. We
are in the habit of accepting everything.
We have to be more active in making the
government accountable. We have to put
an end to their acts of impunity.
Do you feel that for public figures like
you, getting hit and hospitalized, and
now suing the government, are
symbols for having "arrived"
politically?
If the crackdown on the protests hadn't
been so violent, then maybe people
could say that. I have been writing about
human rights victims, many who have
been raped etc. But this incident made
me realize how vulnerable people really
are. The same day that I got hit, another
person got riddled with 14 rubber
bullets. That person could have been me.
It's easy to empathize with victims but
that's not the same as living the
experience.
When did you become an activist?
I don't consider myself an activist. My
main interest is writing. And writing is
an internal, isolated activity. Writers need
some form of social engagement.
What are you writing these days?
I've just finished writing a non-fiction
account based on a travel journal to
Maoist areas—Kalikot, Jumla and
Dailekh.
How was it there?
Most ofthe Maoists were very young,
12 to 17-year-olds. They seemed very
idealistic and naive. I could understand
why they were involved in the
movement but I could never understand
the violence. But the people who make
the decisions for them(the area
secretaries), seemed smarter, politically
savvy and calculating. It feels like these
kids are being used. The overwhelming
feeling I had was, how young these
people are. The revolution seems to be
literally fueled by young blood.
You were mostly educated in the west
but you translate Nepali works into
English. How hard is that?
I had to relearn Nepali when I came back
to Nepal in 1989.1 made a conscious effort
to learn the language from 1995.1 took
lessons. I also wanted to learn to write in
Nepali. The English-speaking world here
is different from the Nepali speaking one.
The Nepali-speaking world is more
politically and intellectually engaged.
How hard is it for sub-continental
English writers to make their mark?
The challenge for English writers is to
be as good as the regional writers writing
in the vernacular. A lot of times the
English writing is fluffier. This may be
because most of the writers writing in
English here come from the comfortable
class. There isn't the same kind of
involvement with the community.
Who are your favorite writers?
JM Coetzee, Mahasweta Devi(a
Bangladeshi writer), Don DeLillo, Toni
Morrison, David Grossman and Amitav
Ghosh(non-fictiononly).     □
44
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 Love Changes Everything
BY MARK LIECHTY
Why should anyone be inter
ested in love letters written
by young people in an out of
the way village in the hills of Nepal? In
"Invitations to Love: Literacy, Love Letters, and Social Change in Nepal," Laura
M Ahearn conducts a unique study of
literacy practices and love-letters in
Junigau, a small Magar community in
West Central Nepal. Ahearn makes it
clear that these seemingly-trivial romantic missives in fact offer insights into
fundamental changes not only in courtship and marriage practices, but also understandings of the self and agency. As
the result of Nepali state and internationally-sponsored development initiatives most men in the village are literate
but only recently has the same been true
of women. Ahearn shows how female
literacy rates have leaped from
only about 5 percent for
women born before 1951, to
91 percent for those born after 1963. Paralleling this shift
is an equally dramatic trend
away from arranged and "capture" marriages that accounted for almost 9 out of 10
unions before 1960, toward
elopements that are the basis
for more than half of the marriages in the village since the
1980s. Linking these two remarkable
changes are new "development"-in-
spired values of self-sufficiency,
progress, and romance.
Ahearn explains how literacy opens
up new ways of looking at oneself and
the role of people, groups, and "fate" in
social processes. People come to understand themselves as dynamic individuals with the ability to transform themselves. As a result, young people increasingly interpret events, or express hopes
for the future, through notions of individual choice, direct action, planning,
and so on, rather than as matters of fate
or karma.
The combination of these new development-inspired values with ideals
of romantic love is one ofthe unanticipated outcomes of this transformation
in ideas of self and agency. Ahearn shows
how individual consent to marriage by
both woman and man—often the result
of lengthy negotiations via love letters—
has come to be the expected norm even
though until only recently arranged (and
even "capture") marriages were unquestionably valid. Ahearn's analysis of
hundreds of love letters allows her to demonstrate how young people increasingly
premise the possibility of future "life success" on the basis of relationships between
freely-consenting "life friends" united in
marriage (following elopement). Young
people understood romantic love in an
ironic way: even while describing love as
something that happens to people in uncontrollable, fate-driven ways, once established, this new love is experienced as an
empowering force, one that gives them a
sense of independence and the
ability to actively overcome future obstacles.
As unusual as the topic of
this study is the author's depth
of research experience. Between stints as a Peace Corp
volunteer and anthropology
researcher, Ahearn lived in
Junigau for 6 years over an 18-
year period. The result is a
study in which Ahearn was
able to follow the lives of many
people from elementary school through
courtship and marriage.
Ahearn takes literacy and its outcomes—including exposure to development programs, reading film magazines
and pulp novels, and writing love letters—and shows how these changes
transform common sense. She describes
how "development" is appropriated by
people in unforeseen ways, producing
unforeseen outcomes that in some ways
transform social practices, and in other
ways reinforce old ones. Ahearn's analysis ofthe social consequences of literacy
is a valuable contribution to our understandings ofthe modernization of rural
lives in Nepal, and elsewhere.
(Liechty is an associate professor of anthropology and history at the University of Illinois at
Chicago.) D
Twenty-nine-year-old television celebrity
Santosh Silawal-Giri, popularly known
as San-T among close friends, loves
reading. Because of his job as a program presenter and producer for Kantipur Television,
Giri spends most of his time learning the art of
videography and working on the intricacies of
film production, but he finds reading time nonetheless. Giri, the presenter and producer of
Nepal's first car show, "License to Drive," is
also known for his role in the UNICEF-spon-
sored television serial Catmando and as a
model featured in the Peudora car ads and
2PM noodles' "Hunger, no longer" campaigns.
This famous son of famous parents, (father:
politician PradipGiri, mother: Bharati Silwal Giri,
Assistant Resident Representative at UNDP,
Nepal) says his father instilled in him a love for
books. Santosh's favorite book as a child was
"The Count of Monte Cristo," by Alexandre
Dumas; and the book that's had the most
influence on him is Winston Groom's "Forest
Gump." He likes "Forest Gump" because of
its positive outlook on life. Giri's bookshelf is
lined with John Grisham's fictional works. The
book that he'd like to read but hasn't yet got
his hands on, is Salman Rushdie's "The
Ground Beneath her Feet." □
nation weekly |  JUNE 6, 2004
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Not one to mince his words, Chief
Secretary Bimal Koirala probably spoke for many of us when
he said last week that the absence of national government should not continue
anymore. "While this hasn't necessarily
affected the day to day functioning ofthe
bureaucracy," he told reporters, "the civil
servants do not take decisions that may
have far-reaching consequences." For that,
you need a government and hopefully a
more representative government than the
current one. We have already said this in
the past but we want to say it again. Until
a fresh mandate is possible, the logical
step would be to give the parties in the
last Parliament the right to decide who
should become
the new prime
minister for the
simple reason
that they represented the sovereign people's
will the last
time it was exercised.
It is not too
difficult to
grasp the gravity of Secretary
Koirala's plea
for a government. The security situation has hit a new low. So
much is evident. Even in the Valley. Last
week, Army personnel shot at a police
car heading for Kathmandu airport. What
followed was typical of a country in
chaos, a radarless state slowly drifting
towards anarchy. The Army said the police vehicle had blatantly driven past the
Army personnel at the Airport gate. For
their part, the police claimed, the vehicle
which was carrying a senior officer's luggage, had been cleared well in advance.
An ugly shouting match followed and we
were not particularly enlightened as to
who was the real culprit.
There are more ominous signs. Not
for the first time has Amnesty said that
Nepal is currently the world's leading
nation when it comes to "disappearances." Since the ceasefire collapsed last
August, 225 individuals have disappeared
and their whereabouts remain unknown. Both the security forces and
Maoists are responsible for the disappearances. Every single day, networks
and newspapers report stories of coldblooded murders, abductions, bandas
and economic blockades. Hapless parents rue over school days lost to bandas.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
Three weeks ago, we welcomed Surya
Bahadur Thapa's resignation with cautious optimism. The thinking was that
his departure, though belated, would finally pave the way for a representative
government and that the country would
make a fresh start. The brief spurt of
optimism that
followed Thapa's
resignation has
gradually been
replaced by skepticism, suspicion
and now anger.
With each
passing day of inaction, Nepalis
lose that much
more hope. They
deserve something more than
three weeks of
paralysis. There
can be different
approaches and styles but the fact ofthe
matter is, in the long run, there is no
alternative to reviving the peace process.
If the security situation continues to
worsen, we fear that Nepal will join the
ranks of failing states where the central
government's control doesn't extend
beyond a handful of urban centers. Every single thing—education, commercial activities, and development activities—is tied up with security Since legitimacy remains the key for effective
governance, making way for a representative government would at least mark a
good beginning. We have lost enough
time and a new government has to start,
and start quickly.
Editor
JUNE 6, 2004  |  nation weekly
 SURYA
LUXURY KINGS
INSPIRED BY NEPAL
STATUTORY DIRECTIVE: SMOKING IS INJURIOUS TO HEALTH.
 Club
Himalaya
r ~~
"C»-»**^*
W'Ss
IPS
■
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i
The Rebcn, V»«4y HUs,
NagarkM, BneMapur. Mep*
T*6680M5-'irfflo«j i Fwt.asaoMa
E-mail. '3'jtigrncK coni.np
Hole* Ambassador, Lamrpat
Kafirnandu, Nepal
1W: 4414432,-WCW Si
CLUB HIMALAYA
Nagarkot   ReSOrt       E-mM.amtB33ad0f$anit»s»d(r.min.np

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