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Nation Weekly September 19, 2004, Volume 1, Number 22 Upadhyay, Akhilesh 2004-09-19

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SEPTEMBER 19, 2004 VOL. I, NO. 22
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Problem Of Perception?
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 SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
VOL. I, NO. 22
21 Cautious Optimism
By Suman Pradhan in New Delhi
Prime Minister Deuba has already termed his Delhi visit a 'huge success.' That
will have to wait.
Difficult Ties
Nepal and India have a long history of friendship; the history of perceived
hostilities is just as long
11 The Iraq Trauma
By Pramod Mishra
30 Identity Crisis
ByAditya Adhikari
36 The Nader Factor
By Sushmajoshi
40 To The Spirit Of Us
ByKaruna Chhetri
42 Dream A Little Dream
44 Call Me Mother
By Dhriti Bhatta
Sumi Devkota has defied
the social stigma that
comes with artificial
49 Secondhand Prose
Books are still a luxury
for most Nepalis. Better
marketing of used books
could change that.
18 Delayed Justice
By Satishjung Shahi
The government has set up a probe
commission to look into the riots. But
it's just sorting out its preliminary
OPINION: A Royal Mess, by Purna
Basnet and Tolita Maya Magar
26 Elusive Peace
Byjohn Narayan Parajuli
Peace is increasingly becoming elusive.
Even the virtual parleys ofthe actors are
confusing and startling.
28 The Week After
Byjohn Narayan Parajuli
Nepali Muslims say the recent riots
were isolated incidents
32  All Protests, No
By Satishjung Shahi
Maoist-ordered business closures have
hurt poor workers
OPINION: Bad Business, by Bipul
38    Voices Of Nepal
ByAditya Adhikari, founded by four Nepalis
in the United States, provides a
platform for the literary and artistic
expressions of Nepalis around the
What happened
early this month
had shame and
failure writ large
on all fronts ■■
happened early this month had shame
and failure writ large on all fronts
("Shame!" Tast Word, September 12).
Yes, they all failed us—the state, the
international community, political parties, the Muslim and Hindu worlds
and our own government. But most
importantly, we, as a community, failed
ourselves. And big time. You mentioned all the above except the last one,
which, to me, was the most dire realization from the events of September
1. Regarding all other entities, I doubt
many of us had any expectations to begin with.
Definition demands a "state" to be a
centralized unit, to have a government
and autonomy to enter into relationships with other states. We knew, or
know for sure this time around, that we
did not have a government; we were
never truly centralized—the last few
years of civil war has shown that we are
anything but centralized—and do not
have the rest ofthe "stately" attributes.
We have now disintegrated to such a
point that we cannot even say if we have
a state at all. So why lament over the
failure of something that doesn't even
However, what was truly shameful
and saddening to me was that we failed
on a deeper level: We failed as a community. Black Wednesday showed that
our community values, that I used to
take pride in, have deteriorated simply to hatred, anger and fear. What we
saw was neighbors ushering goondas
into their neighbors' homes, or looking on quietly, almost with vengeance,
when the houses were burning. When
we were kids, if anybody was hurt, the
entire neighborhood would gather to
find the culprit. My house once caught
fire, and the whole town came out to
help. This is what I thought living in a
Nepali community was all about, what
foreigners mean when they say
"Nepalis are sweet and loving." Was
that tribal behavior? Have we now
modernized/urbanized to this sorry
Yes, we have shamed and failed ourselves to our core, because losing the
essence of a community is irreversible.
We may get our government and our state
back, but the sense of kinship among
community members once gone will
not return.
Exotic Nepal
exoticize and distort our living realities is a pedestrian truth; yet I still
read "De-exoticizing Nepal" (Perspective, September 12) with a lot of
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
 interest, hoping for fresh insights and
strategies for combating stereotypes,
as the title seemed to suggest. No such
luck. After the ritual scolding of the
big, bad western media and after inundating the reader with routine information (in that they further no new
arguments, provide no new insights),
the article concludes with a recommendation that we Nepalis exoticize
ourselves! Hey, Ram, with writings
like this, who needs western media?
If the recommendation was tongue-
in-cheek, then what exactly was the
point of the article, besides flogging a
long-dead horse and reiterating the
obvious? On a positive note, overall,
I think Nation has done a wonderful
job so far, and I intend to keep reading your magazine.
Helpless Nepalis
image of our national fate ("Helpless,"
Guest Column, September 12). It is a
bloody mess everyday. The rebels and
the security forces kill each other
through modern weapons; and there's
poverty, illiteracy, despair, corruption,
terror, listlessness and backwardness that
is bleeding all of Nepal. Indeed, violence
has become an integral part of our daily
lives. There are innocent deaths everywhere—of security forces, Maoist
rebels, political workers, civilians, journalists and social workers in the killing
In our bid for a brighter future, we
fight among ourselves, force schools
and colleges to close, teach our young
ones the art of battle and send them
through manpower agencies to work in
alien lands. We stop development
projects and destroy local infrastructures. Does such reckless abandonment
of the present secure us a better tomorrow?
Vincent Androsiglio best describes
the Nepali psyche, "This hopelessness
and seemingly endless journey of torture and uncertainty that has left the
psyche in a state of collapse." ("A Disguised Hurt," Cover Story, September
12). He then implores, "We must do
something to deal with this chronic de
pression that haunts the Nepali soul."
Indeed we must.
Congo" kind of exploitation by the
Kathmandu Valley of other parts of the
country is responsible for Nepal's misery ("The Curse Of The Blue Sea,"
Writing on the Wall, by Swarnim
Wagle, August 15). The curse in Nepal
is that everything in the country is centralized in the Kathmandu Valley,
whether it be politics, education,
health care or jobs, you name it. One
can also say that all the concentration
towards Kathmandu began with King
Prithvi Narayan Shah's unification of
Nepal. Before unification, Nepal was
made of many decentralized pockets
of tiny states; the decentralization then
helped these tiny states to prosper.
Kathmandu Valley's prosperity (say, in
terms of GDP per capita) of that period was probably not less than any of
the moderately developed European
countries of that time. Just look at the
richness of Newari architecture, food,
music and festivals, which developed
long before the unification. After unification, as rulers and elites moved to
the Kathmandu Valley, they did not
think beyond the Valley. For example,
did Prithvi Narayan Shah and his successors make any effort to develop
Gorkha, their place of origin? No, they
did not. The whole ofthe country stagnated for centuries.
■ The picture in Kunal Lama's
column "Massage Parlors" (August
22) was a mistake. The photo
belongs to Foot Fetish, Thamel.
■ Read "Top Bahadur Singh, former
Supreme Court justice and head of
the high-level committee, in
"Damage Control" (Cover Story,
September 12). We wrote Top
Bahadur Rayamajhi.
We regret the errors.
Nation Weekly, The Media House, Tripureshor,
Kathmandu, Nepal (Regd. 165/059-060).
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EDITOR: Akhilesh Upadhyay
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Nation Weekly is published every Monday by Tlie Mirror Media Pvt. Ltd.
All Rights Reserved. Tlie reproduction of the contents of this
publication, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the
prior consent of the publisher.
Vol.I,No. 22. For the week September 13-19, 2004, released on Septemberl3
■ •
We prefer to receive letters via e-mail, without
attachments. Writers should disclose any connection
or relationship with the subject of their comments.
All letters must include an address and daytime and
evening phone numbers. We reserve the right to edit
letters for clarity and space.
Fax: 4216281
Mail: Nation Weekly
The Media House, GPO 8975, EPC 5620
Tripureshor, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Nation Weekly, The Media House, GPO 8975
EPC 5620, Tripureshor, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 2111102, 4229825, 4261831, 4263098
Fax: 4216281
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
PLAY: Eleven-year-old Dhana
Bahadur Bhujel, who lost his
lower limbs In a Maoist
ambush, holds a pigeon at a
peace rally
nation weekly/Sagar Shrestha
The Iraq Trauma
The neglect of the hostages in Iraq tells a bigger story. It shows the callous disregard by the Nepali
ruling classes for the lives of common Nepalis.
Tie riot and arson of September 1 has driven a message home. It
is, however, not necessarily what the media pundits and politicians have said—antisocial elements, communal forces, the Palace or any other easy theory of national conspiracy or an international
Despite their hard work at home or courage to venture abroad from
their blood-stained terraces or exhausted plains, ordinary Nepalis do not
matter in the eyes of their rulers. Only when such men take the law into
their hands do the rulers hear their sentiments and apply the cosmetics
of stock phrases and political jargons.
Ordinary Nepalis have paid with their blood on both sides of the
Maoist conflict. Some village youthsjoined the rebellion out of fear or
frustration. Others filled the sudden vacancies in the security forces for
economic reasons—positions that in times of normalcy required much
"source-and-force," even then were beyond the reach of many communities, regions and classes. Those needing better money for their
family orunwilling to participate in the national gore fled for the towns
and cities in Nepal as well as India. Among these, those with wherewithal
registered with the manpower agencies, paid them exorbitant fees and
followed their leads to go wherever their able bodies and meager skills
were needed in the global labor market. Those lacking any resources
made do in the streets of Nepali towns, particularly Kathmandu.
The slaughter of hostages in Iraq exposed to these men their
government's culture of neglect and disconnection. It made them feel
unwanted both here and abroad. Otherwise, why didn't the government
investigate the exploitative manpower agencies long before people's
anger came to a boil? Certainly, one had heard stories of how many of
these agencies demanded high fees and even bribes in order for an
overseas passage. And we are talking about a government that claims
to represent democracy. On the other hand, the security forces and the
Maoists either recruit the
youths on their side or else
treat them as criminals.
After all, why didn't the
government respond effectively to appeals made by
the 12 young men in Iraq?
Why did it let so much time
lapse? Why didn't the government send a team of
ministers, say, led by
Mohammed Mohsin to Iraq,
as the Indian government
had done? Success or failure wouldn't have mattered—genuine effort would
have evinced good faith and
sincerity. Even after the bes
tial killings, why didn't the government take measures to safeguard Muslim property and, yes, even the manpower agencies in order to assert
rule of law? Doesn't the government now appear complicit in using the
riot and vengeance as a means of channeling people's shock and anger? Didn't it think that people would ignore their brethren's inhuman
slaughter in distant lands? Certainly, the 12 hostages were not on its
priority list despite the millions of rupees of monthly remittances by
migrant workers. The hewing and hawing bythe government ministers
won't do; they surely lacked the capacity to feel the frail nerves ofthe
nation already frayed bythe blood letting of the past few years.
Thus, the neglect ofthe hostages in Iraq tells a bigger story than just
what the minister of state for foreign affairs or his ambassadors were
able or unable to do—make phone calls and appear on television. It
shows the callous disregard bythe Nepali ruling classes for the lives of
common Nepali people, here and abroad. Take-no-prisoner attitude of
the security forces and the gruesome death sentences ofthe Maoist
kangaroo courts demonstrate the same cynicism of Nepali rulers.potential
or real, for ordinary Nepali lives. Unfortunately, even the media houses
have come to be identified not so much with Nepali democracy, as it
should be, but with power, privilege and big money bythe semi-literate
But this is not to idolize the common Nepali men as saints, for
they are not. They are just ordinary Nepali folks with potential virtues
and manifest vices. After witnessing the vandalism and arson on
the streets of Kathmandu on black Wednesday, especially the bonfire of a Muslim butcher's household goods in front of his hovel in
Sundhara or the destruction of media property, one can only conclude that a crowd of common men can easily turn into a destructive
mob—a mass of blind energy and prejudice led by lumps of unwanted, uncared for flesh and blood. After all, in the absence of any
productive channeling of their manpower, what could the young
men who escaped the security forces and the Maoists in the villages
and came to Kathmandu
to remain unemployed, or
those who grew up in the
streets and remained
there, do if not become a
rioting mob at the slightest provocation?
And the murder of Nepali
hostages in Iraq was not a
small provocation; the entire nation identified with their
fate. Therefore, better take
note ofthe destructive wrath
ofthe common man on the
street, and don't always lay
off the blame on some con-
spi racy or other for whatever
happens in Nepal. □
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Embassy security
Pakistan has tightened security
at the Royal Nepal Embassy in
Islamabad following reports in
the Pakistani media about threats
from Islamic groups. Newspapers
reported that some extremist
groups were planning to target
the Nepali embassy in retaliation
to the attacks on mosques in
Kathmandu. Rioters had also targeted manpower agencies and
offices of general sales agents of
some international airlines following the execution of 12
Nepali youths by the Islamic extremist group, Ansar al-Sunna,
in Iraq. Kantipur daily quoted the
Nepali ambassador in Pakistan,
Puskarman Singh Rajbhandari,
as saying that he had not received
any threats in ■writing or over the
telephone. He said some half a
dozen members of parliament
from the Jamat-e-Islamic party
had called on him and inquired
about attacks on mosques in
Kathmandu. During the week
of the riots, the Pakistani government had provided security
to the embassy upon the
embassy's request.
Closure threat
The All Nepal Trade Union
Federation, the trade union affiliated to the Maoists, called for
the indefinite closure of 35 more
businesses across the country
beginning Friday, September 10.
The trade union has demanded
that the whereabouts of their
cadres arrested by the security
forces be made public. Suspected
Maoists hurled bombs into the
premises ofthe Hotel Malla, one
of the 35 businesses on the
Maoist list. Twelve other large
businesses, with alleged American or Indian investments, have
already pulled down their shutters following a Maoist threat
early this month.
CIAA enquiry
Former police chiefs Achyut
Krishna Kharel, Pradeep Samsher
Rana and Moti Lai Bohara have
refuted claims that they were evading the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. The CIAA never came to arrest them, the IGPs said. The
CIAA had filed cases against the
former police top guns on charges
of corruption on August 13 in the
Special Court. It then reported that
To Gulf
A government team, led by Information and Communication
Minister Mohammed Mohsin,
is to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia,
the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Kuwait. This comes
after protests against the killing
of 12 Nepalis in Iraq turned violent and led to random attacks
on Muslim establishments and
mosques, manpower companies
and media houses. It is feared
that the attack against Muslims
they had fled. The three said that
the CIAA never approached them
or sent any message regarding the
filing ofthe cases.
Maoist casualties
Two central committee members
ofthe CPN-Maoist were among
six people killed by the security
forces in Lahan, according to the
government. The two, Sherman
Kunwar, alias Bishal, and Kumar
Poudel, were killed in an action
at Dhanchhabar, Laxmipur
VDC in Siraha. Kunwar was the
vice commander ofthe sixth brigade of Eastern region, and
Poudel was in-charge of
Ramechhap, Dolakha and
Sindhupalchowk. Poudel's six-
year-old daughter was also killed
in the encounter.
School closure
Graduate-level students in
Chitwan, Rupendehi and
Pokhara were not able to attend
their first year exams after the
ANNFSU-R the Maoist student wing, locked the examination centers. The heads of the
examination centers resigned after failing to hold examinations
on time. The schools in Gandak
region also remained closed after
the ANNFSU-R called for an
indefinite closure of schools from
August 16. They have demanded
the release of their cadres from
in Nepal could invite a backlash
against Nepalis in the Gulf. The
Gulf region is host to more than
half a million Nepali workers. The
the Army custody. Meanwhile,
the Private Association of
Boarding Schools of Nepal has
decided to keep their schools in
operation despite the Maoist
Load shedding
Load shedding is a clear possibility as the Kali Gandaki A hy-
dropower project, the largest in
the country, shuts down later
this month for repair and maintenance. The Syanja-based
plant is slated to close from the
third week of September for two
weeks. Kali Gandaki A produces
144 megawatts of electricity out
of the just above 600 MW installed capacity of the central
grid. The current 10th Five-^fear
Plan aims to increase the installed capacity to 842 MW
Burning tires
The local district administrations of Kathmandu, Lalitpur
and Bhaktapur have banned
the burning of tires during the
public protests. The step was
taken to reduce air pollution in
the Valley, the district administrations said. The ban comes at
a time when tire-burning has
become a common mode of
protest in recent months. The
administrations said severe action would be taken against
anyone defying the ban.
team is expected to raise the issue of security of Nepalis employed in the region with the
officials there.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Normalcy returns
Life in Ham returned to normal
as the threat of a major Maoist
attack subsided. Security had
been beefed up. Hundreds of
people who had fled the district
headquarters following a Maoist
evacuation decree issued a month
ago have started returning to
their homes. Educational institutions, industries and shops reopened. Vehicle traffic also resumed last week. The Maoists
had claimed that they would
launch a major raid on September 8. Security forces said that
they foiled the attacks by using
aerial surveillance and deploying
a large number of troops on the
More mobiles
State-owned telecommunications service provider Nepal
Telecom has decided to issue an
additional 58,000 pre-paid mobile lines before Nepal's national
festival, Dashain. Nepal
Telecom is also likely to cut the
charges for the post-paid mobile
services. The company issued
41,500 pre-paid mobile phones
in the beginning of July. So far
Nepal Telecom has issued about
120,000 pre-paid lines and about
75,000 post-paid lines.
Norwegian offer
The new Norwegian ambassador to Nepal, Tore Toreng,
said that Norway was willing
to consider mediating between
the government and Maoists
if both sides could come to an
agreement. Norway is open to
any role, Toreng was quoted
by Kantipur as saying. Toreng
said he was coming to Nepal
with a positive outlook and
looking forward to making the
31-year-old Nepal-Norway
diplomatic relationship more
Maoist attack
Maoists attacked a party meeting of their former ally
Janamorcha Nepal, injuring 24
members including five central
leaders in Dullu village in
Dailekh. Party General Secretary and ex-Parliamentarian
Navaraj Subedi was among
those injured in the attack by a
group of 150 Maoists, reports
said, citing sources in
Janmorcha Nepal. Janmorcha
was once a close ally of the
CPN-Maoist. Yamuna
Bhushal, central member of
the party, sustained injuries
and is said to be in critical condition. The Maoists used
khukuris, stones, batons and
guns while attacking the party
workers and also looted the
party workers' belongings, the
party said.
Chamber call
The Federation of Nepalese
Chambers of Commerce and
Industries called on all concerned
for negotiation to resume operations of the 47 businesses that
have been closed following the
pro-Maoist All Nepal Trade
Union Federation threats. The
FNCCI said that the country's
was losing billions in revenues
due to the closure.
Indo-Nepal pipeline
Nepal and India signed a memorandum of understanding on
setting up a 35-km petroleum
pipeline from Raxaul to
Amlekhganj. The estimated cost
of laying the pipeline is Rs. 330
million. It is expected to be
complete within 24 months.
The Indian Oil Corporation,
the IOC, supplies about 60 percent of Nepal's requirement for
petroleum products from its
Raxaul depot via the
Amlekhganj depot ofthe Nepal
Oil Corporation, the NOC.
The new pipeline is expected to
ensure an uninterrupted supply
of petroleum products to Nepal
through an environment-
friendly mode of transportation,
effecting savings in freight besides reduction in stockloss. The
two oil corporations have had a
relationship going back three
Riots probe
The Cabinet has decided to elevate the status ofthe committee formed to investigate the loss
of property during the riots following the killing of 12 Nepalis
in Iraq to that of a "high-level
commission." The commission
headed by former Supreme
Court Justice Top Bahadur Singh
has been given a month to submit its findings. The
commission's task is to name the
culprits behind the riots and recommend actions to be taken
against them, and recommend
compensation to those who suffered losses in the riots.
SECURITY ALERT: Five members of Industrial Security Group—Britain, France,
Germany, India and the United States—held a press meet at the British
Embassy to voice concerns about the Maoist closure of businesses
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
 Biz Buz
Annapurna Development Bank has started
banking transactions at its head office at
Banepa in Kavre district. It has an authorized
capital of Rs. 40 million and aims to invest in
agriculture, industries, commerce, hire purchase
and other fields. The bank will provide up to
eight percent interest to depositors and charge
borrowers 12-13 percent interest on loans.
The initial public offering of the National Hydro
Power Company has opened for residents of
the Kathmand Valley from September 6. The
public offering worth Rs. 140 million is the first
hydropower sector IPO in Nepal. Sales of shares
will be closed on September 29 at the earliest. The company was established in 1996
by N.B. Group to develop small and medium
size hydropower projects. Their Indrawati III
plant with a capacity of 7.5 megawatts produces 51 million kilowatt-hours of electricity in
a normal year.
Gulf Air, the national carrier ofthe Emirate of
Abu Dhabi, Kingdom of Bahrain and Sultanate
of Oman, has been announced as the winner
ofthe Middle East and North African Platinum
Best Airline Travel Award 2004. Gulf Air has
also been awarded Most Improved Airline Award
2004, Best First Class Onboard Food 2004
and Best Business Class Check-in 2004 by
independent aviation quality monitor, Skytrax.
Gulf Air announced a $10 million investment in
new first and business class sky beds, for comfortable seating and sleeping
environment in the skies. The
configuration offers a private
"cabin" space for each passenger, which can transform
into a fully functional bed, of-
feringa unique combination of
comfort and privacy. Another
unique feature to be incorporated in the re-fit will beadedi-
cated changing room; enabling
passengers on night flights to
comfortably change into their
Gulf Air sleep suits or other attire to further enhance the
quality of sleep. The first refurbished aircraft will be in operation from March, serving desti-
nations including London, Frankfurt and Paris.
The full refit program will be complete by July
Lumbini Bank distributed shares through a lottery system in the presence of bankers, central
bank officials, shareholders and journalists.
There were a total of 58,819 applicants who
applied for shares ofthe bank, out of which
30,233 received shares. Issue manager ofthe
LBL's shares are CIT and NIDC Capital Markets.
Binod Bahadur Shrestha, president ofthe Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce
and Industry, is leading the Nepali private sector team during Prime Minister Sher Bahadur
Deuba's official visit to India. The business entrepreneurs' team consists of people from the
banking, insurance and commerce, health,
education, garments, real estates, investors,
export and import and tourism sectors.
The standing committee meeting held under
Binod Bahadur Shrestha, president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce
and Industry, has desired to postpone the 38th
annual general meeting of the federation. The
meeting was scheduled for September 15-
The residents of Bhaisipankha VDC-5 in
Bhojpur district have generated power on
their own. Ten houses in the ward will benefit from the power generated bythe plant,
which was constructed at a total cost of Rs.
Readymade garment exports to the United
States in August dropped by 26 percent compared to the corresponding period last year.
This is the eighth straight month that Nepali
garment exports to the U.S., which absorbs
about 85 percent ofthe country's total exports,
experienced a dip. Unlike the export figure to
the U.S., garments exports to Canada, though
small by comparison, continues to register
growth. According to industry figures, exports to
Canada soared by 33 percent in August compared to export figures during the same period
in 2003. When the multi-fiber arrangement is
phased out starting on January 1, 2005, Nepali
exports have to face cutthroat competition in
the international market, as quota-free access
to the U.S. will be lost.
The Airline Operators Association of Nepal decided on September 8 to hike fares on all domestic routes. The operators say that a Rs. 13
per liter increase in the price of aviation fuel in
July has put them in the red. They say the
increase, which will average Rs. 4.20 per person per minute of flying time is less than their
losses due to the fuel cost increase. The fare
increase went into effect on September 10.
Qatar Airways has announced that it will be
flying to the Seychelles Islands from December
1. The airline plans to launch four flights a week
during the busy periods for holidays. The
Seychelles comprise 115 islands scattered over
1 million square kilometers in the Indian Ocean.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
 He was, many said, destined to be the prime
minister one day. But now he is on the frontline
of a court battle against corruption charges labeled against him while in office. The Supreme
Court last week ruled that Chiranjivi Wagle—
former minister, senior NC-D leader and a close
friend of Prime Minister Deuba—would remain
out of jail until it decides on his application for
On July 22, the Special Court had convicted Wagle and sentenced him to two and
half years in prison and also slapped a fine of
Rs. 27.2 million on him. It also ordered the
confiscation of Rs. 33 million on charges that
he had amassed wealth illegally.
But when police reacted days later, Wagle
went missing. Last week, Wagle himself appeared at the apex court, seeking a revision of
the Special Court verdict. The Special Court's
decision was "unnatural, unexpected and prejudiced," Wagle said in his defense.
The Special Court has already acquitted
Wagle's son, Devendra, and his daughter-in-
law who were also booked for corruption
charges. This has been a heavy fall. Wagle
spent eight years injail for his political beliefs;
he was released after the restoration of democracy in 1990. In 1991 he ran for a parliamentary seat from Gorkha and won a convincing victory. He was re-elected three times. In
1991, Wagle hadjust Rs. 90,000 and some
land in rural Gorkha, by the turn of century his
bank accounts were bulging with millions of rupees. While the court has ordered that his property be confiscated, a group of rioters burned
his house on September 1.
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Days of
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 After Shoe
The government has set up a probe commission to look into the riots. But it's just
sorting out its preliminary logistics.
the Siddhi Bhawan Complex located
in the heart of Kathmandu at busy
Jamal. A week after life returned to normalcy, the office complex stands out: Its
burnt facade and interiors in ruins.
Tattered jute sacks and tin sheets have
been placed over shattered window-
panes that once housed busy commercial businesses such as Qatar Airwars,
Air Sahara, Mani Tara Shopping Center,
International Motorcycle Spare Parts,
HISEF and seven other corporate offices. All that now remains ofthe office
space built in two ropanis of land is a
broken building and burned office furniture.
"The damage will remain as it is until the government committee that could
provide us with compensation inspects
the building," says Madan Dhan
Tuladhar, one ofthe four sons of Siddhi
Dhan Tuladhar who built the complex
in 1997. Tuladhar says a total 30 family
members depended on the rental revenues from the building. "But the government still hasn't done much to help
us rebuild the complex, though we've
been regular taxpayers," adds Tuladhar,
who estimates the losses on his building at over Rs. 450 million. "The airlines
and the manpower agencies have their
associations, but who's going to speak
for property owners like us?"
Private property owners like
Tuladhar are hopeful that the
government's high-level commission
chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Top Bahadur Singh would give them
relief. But that will have to wait. A week
after the riots, the commission members were still gathering at the Home
Ministry and discussing preliminary logistics. Their task: To complete in a
month a probe report that will name the
culprits, recommend actions against
them and suggest relief work to be initiated by the government.
"A month is such a short time to investigate riots throughout the country"
Singh, who heads the commission, told
television channels before the government elevated his committee's status to
that of a "high-level commission" on
September 7 and added to it Hari Uprety
and Prakash Raut, representatives from
civil society.
There are going to be many claims to
investigate and not all of them are going
to be easy to verify. Sambhu Limbu's
house in the outskirts of Lalitpur got ransacked just because his brother-in-law
used to run a manpower agency. "Some
people used the riots to vent their personal animosity, even targeting private
residences such as mine," says Limbu,
whose furniture, lights and air conditioners were broken by the mob that
looked to be made up of local goons.
The commission first needs to identify private building owners like
Tuladhar and Rai and estimate the losses
they have incurred. Then they have to
come up with a recommendation for
All photos nw/SS
Neither step will be easy. Even officials at organizations like the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agencies are divided over what exactly do they
want from the government. Initially they
called for compensation amounting to
Rs. 1 billion to all 325 agencies they claim
were vandalized. Some of them are happy
that Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
last week verbally assured them that passports taken from their offices would be
replaced free of cost.
"None of the agents are talking
about the loss of their valuable records
in the fire. They are plain scared they
would be falling into a deeper crisis,"
says Dhruba Dev Bhatta, who runs
Tripura Employment and emphasizes
that the government must make good
use of the opportunity to adopt more
stringent measures to clean up the mess
inside manpower agencies. "But compensating the damages will still be a
tough task, while some have incurred
losses of half a million rupees and there
are others who have lost property
worth six million," he adds. "How will
"l   It TT
m — im
 the commission create a yardstick for
Most government ministers Nation
Weekly contacted wouldn't make comments over possible measures they
would adopt to compensate the damages
to private property, manpower agencies
and media houses. Their common answer: Wait for the Singh Commission
report. However, the government did
publicly denounce a media report quoting Nepali Congress leaders who
claimed that the people who burned the
tent ofthe four agitating parties in Ratna
Park during the riots snatched an identity card of a member of the Palace security staff. "The parties have not only expressed their own responsibility for the
riots but have also seriously undermined
the trust and confidence of the security
forces," Minister Mohammed Moshin
told a gathering of foreign correspondents last week. The government
spokesman kept just short of saying directly that some of the Congress-aligned
Nepal Students' Union and Tarun Dal
leaders had been part of the protests
against the Iraq killings on the morning
of September 1, Wednesday. Police officers tell us they quickly withdrew their
party flags and their leaders fled the scene
when the protests turned violent.
Meanwhile, the police have launched
an investigation within their own mid-
level ranks to identify who was responsible for the lethargic policing. They are
also interrogating some of the rioters
identified as being involved in the attack
(Clockwise from top) Office equipment on the
streets; Yogesh Upadhaya, executive news director
at Channel Nepal; Siddhi Bhawan in Jamal;
Vandalized house of Sambhu Limbu in Lalitpur
'•!       ^
yys 4^1 v?
on two major private media houses. "The
police say three of those who had taken
our cameras after vandalizing our offices
are involved with the Town Down Restaurant in New Baneshwore," says
Bahadur Krishna Tamrakar, chairman of
Space Time Publications Pvt. Ltd, whose
offices were rampaged, causing damages
the company claims are as much as Rs.
40 million. About two weeks ago, thugs
from the same restaurant attacked
Kantipur Television cameraman Raju
Timilsina as he was taking pictures of
protestors being beaten during the NC-
called Nepal banda on August 29.
Kantipur, the other media house that was
vandalized on September 1, claims its
damages to be around Rs. 35 million.
Channel Nepal Television, the television channel owned by Space Time,
is currently airing its news without two
plasma screens it once proudly displayed during newscasts. Its sister media house, Space Time Daily, still hasn't
resumed publication. In the past two
weeks, a number of leaders have visited
Space Time and Kantipur to express
their solidarity for the media houses
and have asked the government to provide proper compensation.
"We are not particularly hoping for
government compensation," says
Yogesh Upadhyaya, executive news director of Channel Nepal Television,
who is also the founding editor of
Kantipur and The Kathmandu Post.
"But we do believe the government
should support us at times like these,
and compensation is always welcome."
Whatever compensation is offered, it
is bound to cause controversy, either
for being too little or for being overly
generous. Word of the government
provision of Rs. 1 million as compensation to the families ofthe 12 Nepalis
killed in Iraq hasn't made security
forces particularly happy, for example.
"It is extremely sad that the killings
[in Iraq] took place at all," a senior
Army officer told Nation Weekly. "But
our security personnel get far less that
amount, apart from minimal support
from the Welfare Funds when they are
killed in their own country by the
Maoists." For now, Siddhi Bhawan
stands tall as a testimony that the government failed that Black Wednesday
and compensation is still far away,  d
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
 A Royal Mess
With half-a-dozen security installations within earshot of the mob at the mosques, why wasn't it
possible to protect them?
Though the government did practically nothing to gain the release
ofthe 12 Nepalis, the Home Ministry and concerned government
authorities could have made provisions for the outcome ofthe
failure. That is usual during such crises. Once the news broke, more than
a preview was avai lable to the government for 12 hours. Not more than
12 minutes would have been needed to deal with the situation, which
was predictable, manageable and within the ability of the security forces
in the capital. Two lives did not have to be lost, one, reportedly of an Army
captain, at the hands ofthe security guards outside the Egyptian embassy. Faith could have been kept and peace and order secured. After
2 p.m. on September 1 there was a swift shift of gear. Curfew and shoot-
at-sight orders were issued, helicopters whirred above and the Royal
Nepal Army, the Armed Police Force and the police took over the streets.
On the evening of August 31, after news ofthe murders broke, the
Rashtrabaadi Milan Kendra and the Deshbhakta Sangh met and organized demonstrations at Thamel and Pulchowk. Going by the nature of
the demonstrations, which included threatening visits to mosques and
manpower agencies, it would seem reasonable for such a policed and
armed state to have been ready: Curfew from the night of August 31
would have been an obvious option. Trouble was anticipated.
On September 1, the students unions agitated outside campuses.
They burned tires, blocked traffic and chanted slogans. The agitating
student unions had decided to link the killings in Iraq with their struggle
against regression, and they had planned demonstrations at Ratna Park
for the morning of September 1. In Ratna Park, the Nepali Congress
Anshan, a relay hunger strike, had been going on. The NC flags were
flying. A group of men came and asked that the political activists put
away the NC flags. The group's demeanor was threatening. During the
exchange, one ofthe "visitors'" cards was taken from him. It belonged to
a security person attached to the royal palace.
Then the demonstrations began, and destruction, looting and desecration followed. Different parts ofthe city witnessed related scenes
that seem to defy a pattern and which contribute to the image of mayhem. According to witness' accounts, the student leaders ofthe agitating
organizations postponed their program and began to send their cadre
back. However they did not manage to send off everyone, and some
activists from the NC-affiliated National Students' Union and the UML-
affiliated All Nepal National Free Students Union reportedly were involved in their individual capacities in the ensuing events, which by then
were clearly communal and lumpen. The ANNFSU had scheduled a
separate demonstration against the killing from 2 p.m., which they postponed due to the curfew.
How did a planned political program get taken over so easily? The
students had not planned on attacking manpower agencies, the mosque
or "Muslim" establishments or on looting and arson. Who instigated,
who hijacked, who infiltrated, who organized, who mobilized whom and
how, and how they took over all require answers.
For now, questions arise from the urban structure of Ratna Park and
its vicinity. The area within a two-kilometer radius includes Narayanhiti
Palace and Singha Durbar, two symbols ofthe nation, along with many
other important government buildings and offices, including banks, and
a concentration of security establishments. There is a police station just
across the Jame Masjid. There is the district police office at Hanuman
Dhoka; an Army barrack near Shahid Gate; the Mahendra Police Club on
Exhibition Road; the Singha Durbar police station plus others at
Anamnagar, Durbar Margand Kamalpokhari; police headquarters at Naxal;
armed police force personnel virtually permanently stationed at Ratna
Park, the site of demonstrations against regression.. .so many security
posts, so many armed personnel but no decisive action. Wasn't it possible to put at least a minimal security cordon around the area within
minutes, even by South Asian efficiency standards? The police were
effective not only at dispersing a crowd of 100,000 plus on the opening
days ofthe last stage ofthe movement against "regression" in April
2004 but also at injuring and damaging them irreparably. Certain areas
were declared "riot-prone"; demonstrations were curtailed then. None
of this happened What happened on August 31 and September 1 last
week? Why?
Kantipur TV officials are on record saying that it took the authorities
one hour and fifty-five minutes to reach their office. The Koteshwore
police station is less than a kilometer away. Likewise officials ofthe
desecrated mosques have testified to the inaction ofthe security authorities. Manpower agencies are dotted around the urban landscape, but so are police stations. On other occasions,
the security has been swift to
act. It prowls, parades, pokes its
weapons, queries and prods; it
sounds its sirens, puts up roadblocks and is relentless in intruding on citizens. What happened
on August 31 and September
1? Will we ever know?n
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
FRIENDLYTIES: Prime Minister
Deuba with his Indian counterpatj
Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister Deuba has already termed his Delhi visit
a 'huge success.' That will have to wait.
In this age of instant analysis and
commentaries, it is tempting to
put a moniker of "success" on
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur
Deuba's visit to New Delhi. But
as many historians will note, the
success or failure ofthe trip will
only be known after the results
of the agreements signed and unsigned
here will begin to show in the future.
However, if Deuba's utterances are any
indication, the visit has already been a
"huge success."
"I found the Indian leaders very sympathetic. There is tremendous goodwill
toward Nepal. The visit has been a success and has strengthened the ties between our two countries," he told
Nepali journalists accompanying him on
the trip.
But as a veteran journalist pointed
out: "We only know what they told us.
We don't know what the two sides discussed in private meetings, so it is difficult to gauge the impact ofthe visit just
yet." Based on the agreements the two
governments signed, the visit has indeed
been a moderate success. Four separate
agreements were signed in Delhi, ac
cording to which India will assist in
building a 40-kilometer oil pipeline
from Raxaul to Amlekhganj, help in constructing a state-of-the-art weather station capable of utilizing weather data
from its INSAT satellite and standardize measurements between the two
countries. The fourth was an agreement
for expanded cultural and sports cooperation between the two neighbors.
While both the governments highlighted
the agreements as a measure of success,
the media spotlight however fell on those
issues on which agreements were not
signed. Chief among those were security
issues raised by the Maoist rebellion.
Over the last year, India's policy regarding the Maoists has undergone a per-
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
Nepal and India have a long history of friendship; the
history of perceived hostilities is just as long
When Prime Minister Sher
Bahadur Deuba took his flight
to New Delhi last Wednesday,
he knew he was making the trip at a critical moment. Characteristically, the visit
failed to excite the opposition parties at
"The weakest prime minister ever to
visit India," claimed Chakra Prasad
Bastola, former foreign minister and
central committee member ofthe Nepali
Congress. Bastola even suggested that
Deuba refrain from negotiating any serious issues that might compromise
Nepal's vital national interests.
Another former foreign minister,
RPP's Prakash Chandra Lohani, took a
dig at Deuba for what he called the prime
minister's failure to build a consensus
with the political parties before the all-
important visit, as has been the traditions. To be fair to Deuba, all this is
hardly surprising and much of it even
Nepal's political parties have a long
tradition of India-bashing, and almost all
major politicians have tried to make political capital of anti-Indian feelings at
one time or another. Nepal-India ties
have been an emotive issue, and most
Nepali leaders seem happy playing the
age-old game. Former Ministers Bastola
and Lohani have been on the receiving
end themselves when they were in office.
When Bastola visited India as the foreign minister in the Koirala government,
the opposition was dismissive of the
visit. CPN-UML general secretary and,
at that time, leader of the opposition
Madhav Kumar Nepal, had said the visit
meant little.
Nepal-India relations have been
plagued by problems of perception and
the understandable fears of a tiny country next to a giant neighbor. Nepal's own
political instability hasn't helped matters.
"Understanding between the two
countries has not matured enough," says
Hari Sharma, a political analyst and aide
to former Prime Minister Girija Prasad
Koirala, referring to the problems of
perception in the Nepal-India relationship. Perceptual problems between the
countries crop up frequently as much
due to the lack of continuing discussions
as due to paranoia among Nepali elites.
For its part, the Indian media has frequently projected Nepal as a playground
for anti-Indian elements, a trend that
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
became most evident when
an Indian Airlines plane was
hijacked from Kathmandu
and flown to Afghanistan in
Nepal and India have a
long history of bilateral relations, yet that relationship
is plagued by perceived
hostility between the two
countries. Both countries
need each other, yet each
perceives the other to be
working counter to its interests. India believes
Nepal is host to anti-Indian elements. Nepal worries that India has an ulterior motive, to bring Nepal
under its security umbrella.
In 1989-90 India imposed an economic embargo on Nepal after the
trade and transit treaty between the two countries
expired. This was the time
when the relationship between the
two countries hit the lowest point.
Such stern and unilateral actions have
often made Nepal suspicious of India. And even when New Delhi suggests something with good intent, the
ghosts still haunt Nepalis. "India has
failed to understand the evolving dynamics of Nepal," says Sharma. And
leaders in Kathmandu, for their part,
have been only too happy to stoke the
latent paranoia without worrying to
much about its long-term damage. In
2000, Nepali Congress Minister J. P.
Anand added fuel to fire with his remarks against the Indian actor, Hritik
Roshan. For the next few days,
Kathmandu witnessed disturbing anti-
Indian riots.
Analysts say Nepal's biggest foreign
policy paradox is that no government
can survive without India's help, and
yet none wants to be seen as pro-India
either. Prime Minister Deuba faces the
same problem. It has a lot to do with
the asymmetry of the relationship and
geopolitics. India is 23 times larger than
Nepal and is one of the fastest growing
economies in the world: Nepal needs
India more than the other way
round.  C
TAKE CARE: Prime Minister
Deuba bids adieu to Chief o
Army Staff Pyar Jung Thapa
ceptible shift. A hands-off policy initially
has turned into active engagement as Indian authorities began to take note ofthe
gravity of the situation. They have, as a
result, arrested or deported scores of
Maoists back to Nepal and tightened
border surveillance to discourage rebel
infiltration. These concerns were evident in Delhi, which has termed the
Maoist insurgency "a shared threat to
both countries" and has promised to do
everything to help Nepal combat the
"India is committed to providing all
possible assistance [to Nepal] in addressing the difficult challenges that it
presently faces," Indian Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh said during an official
luncheon in Deuba's honor. He didn't
get into the details, but Indian officials
later expanded on the subject.
"Security issues were an important
subject of discussion," Indian foreign
Secretary Shyam Saran said. "We know
that there are linkages which exist between Nepal's Maoists and the MCC
and PWG. It's a shared security threat."
The MCC (Maoist Communist
Centre) and the PWG (Peoples' War
Group) are Maoist groups operating in
India. Their links with Nepali Maoists
have Indian authorities worried. Another
important but unspoken worry here is
that, if India as the regional power fails
to assist Nepal in combating the insurgency, then outside powers could step
in to do the job. India doesn't like any
outsider playing a key role in its own
The September 10 issue ofthe Indian Express newspaper articulated
those concerns in a front-page story
on the Deuba visit saying:
"Kathmandu is likely to consult the
Indian government on all third-party
representatives who seek a role in the
Maoist crisis on behalf of their governments."
The paper then noted Indian concerns over the role played by Britain, the
United States and the United Nations,
and it made particular reference to
China's assistance on development
projects in Tarai by terming it "a sore
point with India."
Such concerns have led India to boost
its assistance to Nepal. While India has
always provided military assistance in the
form of equipment and training to the
Royal Nepal Army more such assistance
is planned. Nepal has requested more
small arms, body armor, mine protected
vehicles and helicopters from India. Additionally, the Indian side has commit-
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
 ted to begin a pilot project to train about
500 Nepali Police officers on
counterinsurgency operations.
Moreover, a bilateral consultative
group headed by joint secretaries on both
sides, which is slated to meet by October-end, aims to finalize a host of other
related assistance measures ranging from
meeting equipment and training requirements of the Army to greater cooperation on intelligence matters. An extradition treaty between the two neighbors is
also expected to be finalized in this meeting.
All these measures, however, will have
little impact on the insurgency if matching political gestures do not follow. Indian officials are particularly keen to push
for a political process to bring the Maoists
to the peace table. But they also made it
clear that the political process should not
be held "under the shadow ofthe gun" and
that it should conform with the twin pillars of multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy.
"We do not believe that a purely military solution to the conflict is possible,"
Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said in a
press conference on September 10. "A
peaceful solution must be pursued which
must be within the parameters of parliamentary democracy and constitutional
This is a message repeatedly hammered
home to Deuba by Indian leaders. "In all
the one-on-one meetings he has had in
Delhi, he was told that a parallel political
process must be pursued to resolve the
conflict," a senior policy advisor ofthe Indian government told Nation Weekly.
It was reported in the Indian press that
Deuba also sought India's help in restraining
his erstwhile mentor-turned-nemesis Girija
Prasad Koirala, president ofthe Nepali Congress, who could play the role of a spoiler in
any political process. That couldn't be confirmed with Nepali officials. It, however, is
no secret that Deuba and Koirala do not see
eye to eye on any issue, and the latter has
gone about making his own contacts in the
Maoist leadership to begin an independent
peace process of his own.
One of Deuba's immediate challenges
is to state clearly whether his government
intends to hold elections first or pursue
the peace process with the Maoists. He
failed to articulate his position here. A senior Indian official told Nation Weekly,
"We want to know what is the priority.
There have to be elections, but there must
also be a conducive environment for them."
Security issues aside, the two countries also
discussed a host of economic matters during the visit. India is keenly concerned
about the investments made in Nepal by
Indian businesses and the threats against
them from the Maoists. Consequently
Indian officials sought security guarantees
for such investments.
'We assured them that the government
will provide adequate security," Deuba said.
And for now at least, the Indian business
community seems to have taken his word.
At a felicitation program organized by
Confederation of Indian Industries and
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Indian business lead-
LONG DRIVE: The Delhi-bound prime ministerial entourage at the Tribhuvan International Airport
ers went out of their way not to sound
unduly concerned, saying they hoped the
deterioration in security was a transient
phenomenon. There was no talk of scaling down or pulling out Indian investments from Nepal, much to the relief of
the Nepali side.
Among other important economic
matters that were discussed, the fate ofthe
6,480MW Pancheswhar project also featured prominently. The mammoth multipurpose project envisaged by the 1996
Nepal-India Mahakali River Treaty has
been in limbo over differences about
where to build the high dam that will generate electricity and provide regulated water flow for agriculture. These differences
had hampered the finalizing of a joint-
Detailed Project Report. But now the Indian side has agreed to take into account
Nepal's concerns about the site ofthe high
dam, even indicating that it was willing to
consider moving the project site from
Purnagiri, which India initially wanted, to
Rupaligadh, which Nepal wants.
"The Purnagiii site is not beneficial for
Nepal because it will cost us hugely in
Good Press
Deuba's visit this time got
enough play in the Indian
press to merit some discussion. His arrival on September 8 was noted by most of
the Indian television channels
the same day, and pictures
and reports were splattered
across most Indian dailies on
September 9.
The September 9 bilateral
discussions between Deuba
and the Indian Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh, and the
courtesy calls on the visiting
leader by various Indian ministers found prominent display
on TV news and Indian papers. The Indian Express
played the story as top news
on the front page on its September 10 issue. But even
staid old dailies such as the
Times of India and Hindustan
Times found enough space
inside to give it more than a
few column centimeters.
Most of the stories dwelt
on the Maoist insurgency and
security issues discussed by
the two sides, notably Nepal's
request for more military assistance. Most papers also
noted India's concerns about
fugitive Dawood Ibrahim's alleged investments in Nepal, a
point which has been repeatedly pressed with the Nepal
government by Indian officials.
The Indian press coverage
was remarkably devoid ofthe
patronizing tone of the past
years. The news reports mostly
reflected the close ties between
the two countries, and India's
concerns about the security
situation and what it could do
to help a smaller neighbor.
Many observers agree that
this is largely because a new
crop of Indian writers and editors has come to dom inate the
Indian news scene. They carry
less baggage than their predecessors and have little of
the cold-war era zero-sum
game mindset.
But there is a general
feeling that Nepal could
have gotten even better
press if the Nepali delegation had been more astute.
Indian journalists were perplexed why the Nepali prime
minister and other ministers
declined to brief Indian journalists on the visit, whereas
India's Ministry of External
Affairs invited Nepali journalists to one of their briefings.
"This was a lost opportunity
to the Nepali side to make
its case even better," a veteran Indian journalist remarked. 1^
terms of floods and inundation," said
Minsiter of State for Water Resources
Thakur Prasad Sharma, who also accompanied Deuba to Delhi. "The Indian side has
now showed a willingness to discuss this."
India is also keen to push the Sapta
Koshi project to curtail massive flooding
in Bihar. Railways Minister Laloo Prasad
Yadav, the influential politician from Bihar
who is head of the Janata Dal in the central
government, said India wanted Nepal to
consider building a high dam to regulate
the flow in the Koshi, thereby protecting
Bihar from flood damage.
But the Koshi high dam project is likely
to remain on paper for a long time since
there are serious concerns in Nepal about
its unwanted effects, such as inundation.
Nevertheless, both sides have agreed to
look into the matter.
Minister Yadav also floated a proposal
to build rail-heads at five major border
crossing points between Nepal and India
to smooth the cross-border flow of people
and goods. Substantive discussions on the
subject are to be taken up later.
The visit has provided promising openings in a number of areas. Though much of
its success will depend on how the two
sides follow up on the promises, d
Peace is increasingly becoming elusive. Even the virtual
parleys of the actors are confusing and startling.
Sher Bahadur Deuba was meet
ing his Indian counterpart Man
Mohan Singh last week, he was fully
aware of his mission back home: to restore peace. His India visit in the wake
of a national tragedy was necessitated and
hurried more out of security concerns
than any other agenda. Deuba visited India with an expectant eye for Indian help
and cooperation to deal with the eight-
year-old insurgency. India as always reciprocated with generous assurance that
it would provide military and other support; but much like Kathmandu, New
Delhi is aware that such support may do
little to keep the guns silent, the prime
minister's key mandate from the King.
Deuba's success as prime minister
hinges on only one issue: his ability to restore peace. So far there appears to be little
progress, no breakthroughs and abject failure in a battle to win the hearts and minds
of the Maoists. As the prime minister has
said, it takes two to tango. Without the
Maoists' cooperation there can be no peace
and no way for Deuba to prove his competence. Much to his chagrin, the statement issued by the Maoists early this
month has showed how little there is to
his much-hyped "discreet peace mission."
We now understand that the government isn't even on speaking terms with
the Maoists. Analysts say ever since
Deuba came to office on June 2, he has
been playing peace pipes but without a
tune: He has called the Maoists to the
negotiating table but hasn't made any visible peace overtures. He has called on
the Maoists to lay down their weapons
but refuses to call a unilateral ceasefire.
He has called on the Maoists to stop the
acts of terrorism but hasn't been willing
to remove the terrorist tag slapped on
them. He has called on the Maoists to
bring everything to the negotiating table
but has wavered in offering the government bottom-line. His biggest problem
is discord within his own government.
CPN-UML ministers in the government continue to say everything is negotiable; ministers from Deuba's party contradict that. "When we say utmost flexibility we mean it within the framework
ofthe 1990 constitution," says a minister
of Deuba's party, the NC-D.
Peacenicks and critics have alleged that Prime Minister
Deuba and his party have
turned more rightist and royalist than the previous Thapa
and Chand governments. The
rightward tilt of this government has raised eyebrows especially within the biggest
party in the ruling coalition, the
CPN-UML. UML leaders
have often threatened to pull
out of the government. Even
civil society leaders are not
happy over the way things are
moving with the Deuba government. A senior non-political figure expresses his frustration over what he sees as the
government's caving in to pressure from the extreme right.
Civil society leaders who
are in touch with the Maoists
say that peace talks can happen anytime, provided that the
government sends more peace
feelers and doesn't cow down
to pressure from "power centers." The government is said
to be under intense pressure
to announce a date for elections. The newfound agility of
the Election Commission,
which remained defunct for
more than two years, is an indication of that pressure. On
August 11 the commission announced
that it had completed updating the voters' list and was ready to conduct polls,
if the government guaranteed adequate
security. "Sensing this power-play the
Maoists ordered the election commissioners to resign," says a civil society
leader who is in touch with the Maoists.
An influential-aide in the Thapa government claims that the Army top brass and
certain interest groups are against any kind
of peace talks. The aide says, "These people
will never allow the peace talks to succeed." Even analysts note that there is
strong opposition in the Army leadership
Ministers Kamal Thapa
(left) and Prakash
Chandra Lohani during
the last peace process.
leaders Baburam Bhattarai
(left) and Krishna Bahadur
to peace talks, while the
rank and file is in favor.
"The Army top brass is
against any peaceful settlement," says Hari Rokka, a
eft-leaning analyst. His
reasoning behind their
disapproval of the talks:
The Army has unhindered
access to national coffer in
post-insurgency Nepal.
Their accounts have not
been audited since 1999 by
the auditor general's office.
The top brass fear that this
privilege will be scrapped
once peace is established.
If the Army seems nonchalant about peace, even the
Maoists seem in no hurry
to bring the matter to a
close on the negotiating
table. They too are divided
internally: The leadership is more interested in peace than the cadres.
The Maoists early this month
categorically ruled out the possibility of talking with the Deuba government. Their stance: The government doesn't have the status to negotiate with them. Instead they say
they will talk with the King or his
representative. Many say this could
be a bargaining tactic to get more last
minute concessions. Even if the
Maoists mean what they say, the government seems equally firm when
it says peace must be a reciprocal
gesture. The government hasn't
budged, and the Maoists are stepping up both verbal salvos and attempts to choke the economy by
closing businesses. They think that
will bring the government to its
knees and give them the upper hand
in subsequent negotiations.
The government is equally persistent. It seems to believe that despite the
apocalyptic rhetoric, the Maoists have
no options but to come to the table.
"They have no choice," said the deputy
prime minister, Bharat Mohan Adhikari,
to a group of students last week. The
government assumes that the Maoists
are more desperate for a peace than the
government itself. Both parties are playing with fire; both risk getting burned
by their stubbornness. □
There is nervousness among Nepali Muslims after the recent riots. Even though there
is anger and pain, their leaders say it was an isolated incident incited by few.
nervous and even suspicious. The
scene at nation's biggest mosque,
Nepali Jame Masjid has suddenly
changed. It is guarded by a squad of
armed security personnel and frequented
by leaders and security officials. The site
may not look like ground zero after September 11; yet it is the physical scar of a
riot that suddenly flared up after the killing 12 Nepalis in Iraq. "Things have
changed," says Farad Khan, an electrician
at the mosque, as he points to the ransacked building.
"I am not scared," says eighth-grader
Mohammad Aslam bravely. "There are
not many Muslims in Sitapaila where
we live, and they [the mob] didn't come
there," adds the boy scanning this reporter with an uneasy eye. For all his
bravado, Aslam probably feels as many
other Nepali Muslims do—a little nervous and slightly alienated from the
Hindu and Buddhist majority. The psy
chological impact could be more damaging than the physical ruins.
Four mosques and a madrasa, an Islamic school, were ransacked in the capital. The Shahi Jame Masjid, the Nepali
Jame Masjid, the Iraq Masjid at Indra
Chowk and another mosque in Patan
were vandalized, looted and desecrated.
"We had never imagined such a thing
could happen in Nepal," says
Mohammad Ashrafi secretary of Nepali
Jame Masjid management committee.
And yet he views the September 1 riots
largely as a result of "some elements trying to disturb the communal harmony
in this country."
For more than 500 years, Nepal's
Muslims have enjoyed the religious tolerance and social integration that make
Nepal unique. This is the first serious
anti-Muslim incident in the country in a
very long time and the September 1 attacks were random—against manpower
agencies, and even media houses. While
the virus of communal violence infected
the entire sub-continent—Tamils against
Sinhalese, Muslims against Hindus and
caste against caste—Nepal had remained
unaffected. Therefore, the incidents last
week concern Muslims and non-Muslims equally. The biggest damage from
the riots that followed the killings of
Nepalis in Iraq is that it has weakened
the social fabric, says Nepali Congress
leader Chakra Prasad Bastola. There is
contemplation everywhere.
Amid tight security outside the periphery ofthe mosque, the mosque elders were
huddled inside their office trying to figure
out what could be done next. That the incident took place so close to the third anniversary of September 11 terrorist attacks
on America is likely to harden attitudes
against Muslims. "Insensitive media coverage has unfairly demonized Islam," says
social scientist Sudhindra Sharma, who has
done research on Nepali Muslims. In
Nepal, too, coverage tends to link Islam
with acts of fanatical terrorists; that has had
its effect. Observers say the attitudes of
non-Muslims have hardened over the
1990s, and, especially post-9/11. "Many
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
 things have happened in Tarai, where
the concentration of the Muslim
population is higher," says Sharma,
he says in reference to the growing
influence of Hindu nationalist
groups. Indian organizations like the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Rastriya
Swayam Sevak Sangh, the RSS, and
the Shiv Sena have grown in stature,
and, as a consequence, animosity
between Muslims and the Hindu
majority has increased. The Indian
media has often published reports
linking foreign militants with the
large number of madrasas that have
emerged in recent years along the
Indo-Nepal border. "People have
uncritically accepted stereotypes,"
says Sharma. Acceptance of unverified allegations regarding madrasas by
non-Muslims has added to this shift
in perception.
Nepali Muslims are a heterogeneous
group, mainly composed of Sunnis. According to 2001 census, 4.6 percent of
Nepalis are Muslim; other informal
sources put the figure as high as six percent. Nepali Muslims, who for years
have identified themselves with mainstream Nepali society for once might
have felt isolated.
'We are disturbed and nervous," says
Taj Miya, a businessman. "This was something we never thought of." Muslim
leader say the attacks on the mosques
were more than just physical violence.
It was an attack on their faith, they say.
As days go by the incident may be forgotten and forgiven. "The nervousness will
subside," says Nepali Jame Masjid's Ashraf
"But the government must show the cour
age to take actions against those involved."
Even the leaders from other religions have
joined hands with the Muslim community in a solid display of solidarity during
such times. Though there is still some
nervousness at this stage, Muslim leaders
say that a few "anti-nationals" who don't
like to see communal harmony in Nepal
incited the attacks and that they trust the
secular spirit of fellow Nepalis. □
 The Ess
Our traditional conceptions of national identity have all but dissolved, and
no new ones have emerged. Occasionally submerged tensions are released
in the form of mob hysteria, as in the riots early this month.
past century left distaste for nationalism, connected, as it is, to
memories of fascism, in the collective
mouth of Europe. In Asia, however, the
cultivation of national sentiment, the
bringing together of populations under
a single banner to confront and engage
with the modern world is seen as highly
desirable. In countries like China, symbols of national identity are seen as effective means of quelling discontent and
providing the impetus for competition
with other nations. The problem for
leaders now, in China and in India, is to
create symbols that are inclusive of the
total population so as to avoid sectarian
The lack of powerful national symbols is in part responsible for Nepal's
current frustrations. The traditional conceptions of national identity have all but
dissolved in the past few decades and no
new ones have emerged to fill that void.
The public are dubious ofthe state and
insecure of their identity and, with the
absence of purpose, lethargy ofthe spirit
has set in. Occasionally submerged tensions are released in the form of mob
hysteria, but the release is momentary.
The government is without means to
create channels for the constructive expenditure of energy and tensions keep
percolating under the surface, waiting
for the next opportunity to explode into
Our nation was conceived in the late 18th
century in the image of the ideal Hindu
state. Prithvi Narayan Shah needed justification for his conquest, and he got it
by defining his kingdom as the "asal
Hindustan," uncorrupted by British influence, able to take a stand against for-
eign intruders. It did not matter that there
were no immediate historical precedents
to model the state after or that Hinduism remained alien to many inhabitants
of our hills and mountains. Belief alone
provided the Hindu faithful of Gorkha
with the assurance that the creation of a
classical Hindu state as exemplified in
the Dharmsastras was not only possible
but also eminently desirable for the
health ofthe nation.
The rulers of the land continued to
strengthen the definition laid down by
Prithvi Narayan Shah. The Muluki Ain
of 1854 attempted to bring all ethnicities
under a single caste hierarchy. King
Mahendra's Panchayat system, where the
person of the King held all executive,
legislative and judicial powers and supposedly led his people in the development of the country was closer to pre-
modern notions of statehood than to any
modern conception. Like Prithvi
Narayan Shah, the Panchayat aimed to
restore the order of the Hindu polity
where the nation as agent expressed its
genius and its will through the state represented by the institution of the monarchy. The health ofthe people was desirable insofar as they contributed to the
prosperity ofthe Kingship. It could even
be said that the people were expected to
find justification for their work as service to the monarchical state, possessor
of both temporal and divine sovereignty.
Symbols to consolidate national
unity all revolving around the monarchy were devised. Efforts were made to
impose the language of the Hindu hill
tribes, known as Parbatiya or Khas, before being renamed Nepali in the late
1920s, at the expense of other indigenous
languages. There were conscious efforts
to link Hindu icons such as that of the
cow to the Kingly state. History textbooks taught primarily the glory of the
Shah dynasty's lineage.
But the mere preservation of the
Hindu state that harkened back to ancient ideals was hardly sufficient. The
world all around was in flux; to close
the nation into a self-sustaining
order was impossible. For the
symbols of nationalism      ^,-"
to gain force in the
popular mind,
to     avoid
 nation, the state had to offer channels for
the expenditure of energy. Initially, this
was attempted by adding the word military to the definition of our polity. To
defend and expand the "asal Hindustan":
This was the impetus for action in the
earlier conquests. After the Sugauli
Treaty of 1816 effectively curtailed any
possibility of future military action, the
nation stagnated for a while, and then
the Indian Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 came
to the rescue. Jung Bahadur paved the
way for Nepali participation in the British Empire, thousands of Nepalis went
to fight in other people's wars over the
next century and military valor once
again became an integral part of our national identity. The British Gurkhas
have thus done more to strengthen national sentiment and, consequently the
ruling elite than any idealistic yearnings
for a perfect Hindu state.
There is still a conspicuous absence of
young men in the villages; parents, wives
and children are still left behind. Earnings made through employment in foreign lands still play a major role in the
Nepali economy. But the destinations
have changed, as have the occupations
Nepalis are engaged in. After the decline
of the British Army efforts were made
towards participating in UN. peacekeeping operations. Now that our Army is
busy fighting within the nation and does
not offer foreign employment and better
lives, migrations are to the Middle East.
Nepal's one skill was military: Now it
does not have any more skills to offer.
The emigrants now do not represent the
state and do not possess the dignity the
uniforms used to give. But money must
be earned, and thousands willingly travel
to far off places to perform menial jobs.
The 1990s showed political parties
and private interest groups taking full
advantage of the public space offered
by the new constitution. The King receded from the public eye, and, in an
atmosphere where there was a cacophony of voices to take his place, the
public barely noticed. Then the continual bickering of the political parties
led to weariness.
Saubhagya Shah has pointed out how
the influx of NGOs, with their ideologies of "development," "democracy" and
"civil society" has resulted in state-like
institutions that undermine the state itself. "In terms of organization, power,
scale and complexity, the NGO world
is an alternative bureaucracy with its own
hierarchies. With its enormous power,
knowledge claims, resources and global
networks, NGOs in the Third World are
more a fifth estate than the innocent creatures disarmingly labeled 'non-governmental.'" Now employment is sought
with NGOs rather than with the state
bureaucracy: They offer a higher monetary incentive for the jagiray.
Textbooks in schools are changing
slower than the times and, to a certain
degree, still teach what was taught during the Panchayat years: "Nepal as a zone
of peace" and "Nepal as the world's only
Hindu Kingdom." But among the other
voices all around, the state's voice is
feeble and its influence minimal. Symbols of reverence have changed: Crowds
no longer wait in streets to see the royal
family drive past them in expensive cars;
ubiquitous INGOs and NGOs have very
impressive vehicles too. Narayanhity,
with the massive grey edifice of its front
elevation, had an aura of historical grandeur and stability until the republican
cries of the mid-90s and the Royal Massacre of 2001. Now the one-dimensional
discourse on monarchy is filled in with
question marks and punctuations.
In a climate where all progress is seen
to be imported and where everything
modern is foreign, the textbooks of
Nepali history seem fraudulent even to
the very young.
The Panchayat years managed to create a population with a highly developed
national sentiment. The nationalism still
exists, but without any of the constructs
to hold it up. If Nepalis were looking
for Sangina Baidya to make her mark in
the Olympics, it is because every nation
needs heroes to prop up its confidence:
The old values of what makes for a national pride are being redefined.
National pride has survived the dissolution of the symbols responsible for
its creation. It is still the glue that holds
the population together. But it is now
mixed with feelings of insecurity and
futility; it has become uncontrollable,
and makes its intermittent appearances
as a threat, as a menace to the nation.
Witness the riots early this month. □
Maoist-ordered business closures are intended to pressure the government and hit rich owners. So far all they
have done is hurt poor workers.
tion Minister Mohammed
Mohsin announced
the government was not talking to "agencies and associates" ofthe Maoist wings but
directly to their central leadership, at least three minor
blasts took place at the gates
of the Hotel Malla in
Lainchaur. The hotel is one
of the 35 businesses the
Maoist-aligned All Nepal
Trade Union Federation
identified last week as additional targets. Twelve other
businesses have been closed
since August 17.
The bombs may have
been small, but their effect
was big. On September 10,
owners told us that most of
the 35 businesses were
thinking of shutting their
doors. Their common
voice: The government's assurance of security isn't convincing enough for them to
remain open in view of increasing Maoist attacks. The
businesses feel threatened,
and that's just what the
Maoists want. The closures
will pressure the government now and strengthen
the Maoists' hand when
peace talks resume, analysts
But the Maoist call is
backfiring with the other
trade unions. They are publicly denouncing the Maoist
move and are mobilizing the
now-jobless workers into the
"If it is a political matter, then the
Maoists should discuss it with the
government," says Surya Bahadur
Kunwar, president of the trade union
at the Soaltee Hotel. Kunwar was coordinating a massive rally of more than
2,000 workers from closed businesses
who were protesting the Maoist move
on Kathmandu streets on Wednesday.
"Why should we go jobless and our
families go hungry, especially when
Dashain is approaching?" Kunwar asks.
He says that all four major trade union
federations stood united and that they
were raising issues such as workers' exploitation long before the Maoists called
for the shutdown ofthe businesses. One
human rights activist we talked to said
the Maoist leadership is facing a lot of
heat from within its own ranks. Some
within their own trade union admit the
closures have given them a bad name.
All of the businesses have American
or Indian investments, or investments
by members of the Shah or Rana families, say the Maoists. Indian businesses
may have been included in order to pressure India to ease their patrols in border
areas, to free Maoist leaders in custody
and to give Prime Minister Deuba the
green light for UN. assistance during
his visit to New Delhi.
The Indian business sector has substantial influence on India's diplomacy.
However most businessmen we talked
to were hesitant to speak out openly
against the Maoists. Most did say they
had been paying Maoist extortion demands and that those demands had "massively increased" in the last few months.
The Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Businesses estimates the government incurs a loss of Rs.
20 million each day with the closure of
12 businesses; last week they said that over
4,000 people were jobless. Closure ofthe
additional 35 businesses will make those
figures much worse. "Those who want to
run the state should not be crippling the
financial sector," says former president of
the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of
Commerce and Businesses Maheshlal
Pradhan, stressing that the Maoists
should not close down businesses.
"But it is always up to the government to create the right environment to
resolve a crisis such
as this," adds
Pradhan, who was
the minister for industries in the
Chand government
in 2002. Businessmen and workers
are already complaining that the
government hasn't
done enough to
bring things back to
normal as the 12
businesses enter their fifth week of closure. As one analyst put it, the government is just helpless, as in all issues concerning the Maoists.
"We can not send out threats as the
Maoists have been doing and forcefully
open the businesses," said Minister
Mohsin during a press conference last
week. "All we can do is assure the businesses of protection and security from
Maoist attacks."
The minister was quick to add, "If
such closures go on, it will not only hit
hard on the economy but also the working class whose interests the Maoists
claim to advocate." The jobless workers,
whose ranks will probably swell in the
coming days, know that only too well.
They also know what they want: For the
government and Maoists to get on with
resolving the problem.  □
12 businesses closed since Aug 17
Aqua Minerals; Bottlers NorsangCarpet; Pashupati els; Soaltee Crowne Plaza
Nepal, Kathmandu and Spinning Mills; Shanghai Hotel; Surya Nepal; and Yeti
Chitwan; Makalu Yatayat;    Plastic; Shraman Appar-   Carpet.
35 more businesses under threat
Agni Yatayat; Amarawoti International, Kathmandu; Ashok
Textiles, Morang; Basuling
Sugar Mills, Kailali; BabaJute
Mills, Morang; Bhotekosi Power
Company; Bhrikuti Pulps and
Paper, Nawalparasi; Dabur
Nepal Limited, Banepa; Fishtail Lodge, Pokhara; Gangaram
Chaudhary Udhyog,
Nawalparasi; Ganga Laxmi
Resin and Turpentine Com
pany, Banke; Gorkha Lorry;
Harisiddhi Brick Factory,
Lalitpur; Himal Gas, Banepa;
Himal Group and Jyoti Group;
Himal International Power
Company; Himalaya Goodricke
Tea Garden, Jhapa; Hotel
Binayak, Banke; Hotel Malla,
Kathmandu; Koshi Metals
Crafts, Morang; Lekali and
Sathi Noodles Industries; LG
Television; Mayos Noodles,
Banepa; N. B. Group; Numanit,
Nawalparasi; Panorama Manpower Company, Kathmandu;
Shipping Nepal; Sipradi Trading; Sitaram Dairy Milk,
Kathmandu; SoktimTea Nigam,
Ham; Surya Nepal Garments,
Morang; Tilganga Yatayat
Sewa; Tiger Tops Jungle Resort,
Chitwan; Tubels Village Resort,
Banke; Wai Wai Noodles,
Lalitpur and Chitwan.
Bad Business
The possible shutdown of 35 more businesses, many of them joint
ventures, will deal a further blow to investor confidence. Our neighbors India and China, on the other hand, never had it so good.
Our rapidly growing neighbors—India and
China—are offering us many opportu
nities to shore up our economy. But
events in recent weeks, including the decision
of the Maoists to force the shut down of 47
businesses and the inability of the government
to protect businesses from rioters, indicate we
are on course to muff up what is our best
chance to attain economic prosperity in generations.
The world's biggest economic successes
haven't just been about hard work, perseverance and intelligence. They have also been
about being in the right place at the right time
in history. Take for instance, the economic
prosperity ofthe Middle Eastern countries such
as Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Kuwait. The
Middle East was by all measures one ofthe
most difficult places to live in the world—miles
and miles of sand with little land or water for
growing food. But that was until oil happened
to them. The world's never-ending appetite
for oil as traditional economies transformed
into industrial economies was enough to
make the region one ofthe wealthiest places
in the world.
When destiny beckons and opportunity
knocks on your doors as it does only once in
many years, what is
needed to make best
use of it is not extraordinary intelligence and
ability butjust plain old
common sense, which is exactly what these
countries had. They maintained sound law and
order, encouraged foreign investments and built
relationships with consumer countries, which
was enough to put them on course to a prosperity unparalleled in their history.
Nepal, today, stands at a similar crossroad of opportunity. Ourtwo giant neighbors
are clocking heady growth rates and are being billed as the drivers of the
global economy in the 21st century. China has been growing at
8-10 percent for the last two
decades. India joined the race
late but it is also well on its way
to economic prosperity—clockings percent growth last year to
become one ofthe fastest grow-
ingeconomies in the world. The
unshackling of these two giants
has opened immense opportunities for Nepal—the scale of
which it has rarely ever seen in
its history.
To make use ofthe available
opportunities, all Nepal needs to
do is build synergies with the two
economies. As Indians and Chinese get wealthier, they are increasingly going abroad for holidays and shopping, for example.
With immense tourism potential,
Nepal could be the ideal destination for the newly wealthy in these
countries. As China and India
Indian and
economies are
graduate to manufacturing more sophisticated
products such as cars and computers, they will
increasingly outsource the manufacturing of
body parts to other countries. Nepal could develop intoa major supplier of parts to industries
in these countries. As India grows, it will need
more and more power to fuel its growth. Nepal
could endeavor to fill more than 10,000 MW
ofthe projected electricity shortfall in the north
Indian market.
What is needed from us is not rocket science but economic pragmatism and the ability
to put things in perspective. The policy reforms
initiated in the early 1990's mean that Nepal
is already one ofthe most open economies in
the region. But the policy reforms were not followed by institutional reforms. Our bureaucracy
remains mired in red-tape, inefficiency and corruption, which means
we have been unable
to take advantage of
our liberal economic
regime: foreign direct
investment (FDI) inflow has hit rock bottom,
private investment has been sluggish and our
economic potential remains unrealized.
We must urgently undertake reforms to
make it easier for entrepreneurs to start, operate or close a business; enforce property rights
protections; provide access to financial information; increase recovery rates for claimants
in insolvency; reduce costs of enforcing a contract through the courts; and take other steps
necessary to make Nepal an investor friendly
place. We need to take a leaf out of our
neighbor's books and invest heavily in education and infrastructure to make full use ofthe
opportunities. Most importantly, we also need
to ensure safety for private sector operations in
the country.
Yet our country seems headed in just the
opposite direction. Due in large part to the
conflict but also lack of imagination among
the country's leadership, we have been unable to make our governance systems friendly
and make use of economic opportunities such
as in hydropower. As if eight years of conflict
and extortion wasn't enough, our economy
has been wracked up by blockades and curfew in recent months. The decision of the
Maoists to force the shutdown of 47 industries, many of them joint ventures, will deal a
further blow to investor confidence in the country.
The government and the Maoist leadership
must to do some hard thinking on these issues. For opportunities once gone seldom
come back again. □
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
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The worst thingyou can do in America is tell people to shut up. People
hate that. They really hate it. They feel it infringes upon their deepest
beliefs. People cannot be told not to run for president, even in a year
where the margin is so tight that a few indecisive voters taken in by a
good Green speech can make all the difference.
In a talk-fest entitled "Can We Do Better Than Anybody But Bush?"
speakers of all shades of the Left spoke about the binding dilemma—
George Bush may not be their top candidate to run the American economy,
but neither is Kerry. Kerry has promised that he will increase troops in Iraq
if he gets elected. He did not vote against the Patriot Act, ahastily passed
legal behemoth that takes away many of the civil liberties that Americans take for granted. In other words, when the time comes many
Americans who are against the war and against the Patriot Act will be
voting for somebody who wi 11 not represent them.
The progressive movement, made up of people far more concerned about the people, their health and their labor and civil rights
(and from which Nader springs) are obviously not going to accept
Kerryjust because he comes with a blue sticker saying "Democrat."
And they're not going to shut up and sit down.
The dilemma is an ancient one, said the old-timers. The "lesser of
two evils" argument haunts every election. Jeremy Scahill of Democracy Now! gave a scathing review of Kerry and the Democratic Party,
including the contender and party's cozy link with large corporations.
The Army was guarding the streets of Boston during the Democratic
National Convention, Scahill said. It is illegal to request army presence
during election-related events. The Democrats, who were originally pro-
slavery, also have a long history of invading and bombing other countries, including CI inton's 78 days of unsanctioned bombing in the former
Yugoslavia. Children in a low-income black neighborhood burnt an effigy
that had Bush's face on one side and Kerry's on another. Both of them
represent corporate welfare and cronyism, Scahill said.
JoAnn Wypijewski, writer of Counterpunch, took a more moderate
view. The vote, she joked, is elevated to a holy height, almost
like virginity in the Middle Ages. It will be carefully guarded
and given to the appropriate suitor, nobody else. Instead
of thinking ofthe vote as sacred, why not think of it as a
purchase: "Buying Starbucks in the airport when nothing
else is available? Why not think about it as replacing a
faulty appliance?" The vote is elevated to the realm of faith, but we need
to bring it down to the business of everyday and not expect a perfect
candidate, she argued.
Naomi Klein, best-selling author of "No Logo: Takingaim at the Brand
Bullies," had a similar take. If Bush won, she said, there would be
outrage all over the world. People would wonder how Americans could
allow this to happen.
Peter Camejo, Nader's running mate who originally came from Venezuela, gave an impassioned speech with the power to change people's
minds. Nothing is further from the truth than the public misconceptions
of Nader, he said. Nader's base is made up of African-Americans and
Hispanics. In San Francisco, Matt Gonzalez, a Green Party candidate
and a Hispanic man, was leading the mayoral race over a Democratic
candidate-and was only defeated by 5 points after incredulous Democrats rushed in Clinton and Gore for emergency aid.
'This election is goingto be dominated by fear," says Nader's website.
"The Republicans play on the fear of terrorism and the Democrats play
on the fear of Bush. One ofthe goals of this campaign is to free voters
from fear so they can vote their conscience, their interests and their
dreams." Would you vote for
Mussolini because he was running against Hitler, asks
Camejo, clearly challenging the audience
to rethink their assumptions.
"There can be
no daily democracy without daily
citizenship," says
Ralph Nader.
With Kerry supporting the repressive Patriot
Act, he might find
out rather unpleasantly that the
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 The Web
Voices Of Nepal, founded by four Nepalis in the United
States, provides a platform for the literary and artistic expressions of Nepalis around the world
Tn the past few years many Nepali
websites were started, many died out
and only a few managed to create a
name for themselves. is one
ofthe survivors. It occupies a unique position in the world of Nepali Internet
media. As there are no other outlets in
Nepal for literary work, is
a critical resource for aspiring writers.
Founded by four Nepalis in the United
States—Tika Rai, Soham Dhakal, Pujan
Roka and Amina Singh—its purpose is
to provide a platform for the literary and
artistic expressions of Nepalis the world
over. Initially all the submissions were
from the four creators. Over the years
the monthly Internet magazine has established a small but solid circle of contributors and readers. Well-known writers like Samrat Upadhyay and
Manjushree Thapa have contributed.
The format is much looser than publications in the print media. Besides a
feature of a prominent artist or writer,
there are no regular columns. The content depends on the submissions offered:
poems, essays and stories in Nepali and
English, cartoons and paintings. The
contributors are generally in their early
20s, and therefore many writings are expressions of the yearnings and struggles
of youth. "We get a lot of submissions
from what I call 'overnight-poets,'" says
Tika Rai, "young people who feel the
need to create when faced with heartbreak or a similar crisis." And it is from
the young that gets its energy. Though many of the writings are
highly self-conscious, a stylistic problem common to young writers, they are
full of the characteristic enthusiasm of
youth for newly discovered ideas.
Freedom of expression is encouraged; the editors don't modify the
writer's style, and the quality of writing
from issue to issue is highly uneven.
About 20 percent of the submissions are
not published, usually on grounds of
obscenity. "We have had problems with
people whose writings we didn't publish," says Rai. "They get very angry, and
many have sent us highly abusive emails." is still run by its four
creators, who put much work into it every month. There is no profit, and the
founders fund it with their own resources. "We had considered taking advertisements," says
Rai. "But we decided
that they would disfigure the format of the
magazine." Besides
the four are also involved in many other
activities for the promotion of arts and literature. In August 2002
they helped organize
Bichalit Bartaman, a
program that brought
together artists and
writers to speak out
through their works
against the "disillusioned present." In
2003, exhibitions of
works by seven Nepali
artists, three of them
already established and
four emerging, were
held in the United
States, first at the annual ANA convention
in Denver and then at
the Flat Files Gallery
in Chicago. Many
works were sold. One
ofthe highlights ofthe
exhibition was the
work of Purnima
Yidav Her works were
widely appreciated
and were a sellout.
Tika Rai, one
founders of
That is not to say that all went well
during the exhibitions. "Most Nepalis
living in the United States, even though
they make a comfortable living, were not
willing to invest in art," says Rai. "Though
many came to see the exhibition, there
was little active participation from the audience in appreciating the art. Things
were much better in Chicago where the
audience was mostly Americans."
The people behind, using their own funds, play an active role
in disseminating the works of emerging
artists and writers. In the process they
change the attitudes of audiences as well:
It is evident that continual exposure of
talent slowly increases audience's appreciation of art.
The ethic behind the venture is the
idea of social work where knowledge is
accumulated instead of money. "What I
would like to stress," says
Rai, "is the importance of
spreading skills we have
learned. Many Nepalis
living abroad send money
to Nepal for various
charities, but that is not
enough. There has to be
a conscious effort on the
part of the educated to
spread their skills and
knowledge to people all
over Nepal."  □
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To The Spirit Of Us
A culturally and geographically displaced refugee is still smarting over the recent tragic
murder ofthe 12 Nepali youths in Iraq
As part ofthe Nepali diaspora, cut off from our roots and slowly
drifting through the multicolored haze of news seen on TV and
read on the Internet, I feel desperate as we grasp at bits of
traditions, festivals and Romanized Nepali. We strive to teach our children to speak Nepali while we ignore the Devanagari script; endeavor to
instill the values of "Hami Nepali" and "Hamro Nepal" while we eke out
a living that sustains a once-in-a-blue-moon ticket to visit "home."
"Home" is where the heart is; our heart lies in Nepal where we left it for
safekeeping, safe from the thugs of "democracy," protected from the
"freedom fighters" and away from the vilifiers of religious harmony. Some
of us are still struggling with our studies, others with our identities and yet
others tenaciously picking up the threads of a "normal" life. Some have
been fortunate to have found the balance and foresight we need to
continue in search of a higher meaning to life, while others are in search
of reasons to declare war...verbal war, vandalism, use of force, disparaging language and literature; looking, just looking for something to blame,
someone to accuse and, of course, a reason to vent! All this is a
heartrending attempt at search of attention, any
kind; negative and/or positive. Ours is a self-image so riddled with holes
that we demonize our own!
"Graphic!" ranted an outraged Nepali acquaintance. "How dare the
Muslims kill innocent Nepalis? Death to all Muslims in Nepal!" It first
started as an outraged statement that caught fire and, in a blaze, swept
through the cyber-Nepali communities while we watched stupefied at
the outrageous acts of vandalism demolishing so-called Muslim owned
properties, instigating hate and atrocities against our own people. Their
only crime: Islam, their religion that had seldom come to public notice
before the abominations in Iraq.
A murder is a murder, no matter who commits it! And yet the countless murders by the Maoists and the RNA never caused such an uprising. As I devour news from and of Nepal, I am impotent in my inability to
articulate my un-drowned sorrows. I recall the two bomb blasts while I
was in Kathmandu in July; one, a stone's throw away from where I was
standing. "Oh it must have been a bomb!" commented a passerby
matter-of-factly. I stood rooted, shell-shocked at the reactions ofthe
people. It then dawned on me the steady yet subtle rise of tolerance for
violence in Kathmandu. "Oh yes, a bomb-blast is not a novel occurrence
these days!" Business as usual as Maoists raised the number of deaths
while RNA raised their number of "fighting casualties." The horrors of the
"people's war" were part ofthe landscape ofthe everyday news; dismemberment and assassinations no longer created an uproar, perhaps
an occasional reverberation in the distant hills and mountains.
The Islamic militant group, Ansar al-Sunna, and their graphic video of
the beheading came as a rude awakening. Unfortunately, the "awakening" was misplaced: The "awakened" fixated on Nepali Muslims and
their alleged crimes for being in cohorts with the Iraqi militants! Some sort
of a "divine" partnership in crime! The righteous crowd of volatile, grieving protestors contracted partial amnesia as they conveniently forgot the
Maoist murders, the sporadic bombings and the political squabbles and
went in search of Muslim scapegoats, sparing no thought for property,
religion or people. What was the difference between the deaths in Iraq
and those within Nepal? The difference, I believe, was the audiovisual
horror caused bythe video ofthe beheading of the Nepali youth trussed
up like a "Dashain ball," a sacrificial goat at the altar of Islamic militants!
And like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, it only took a handful of
self-righteous, ignorant people to lead a frenzied mob into a
dance of orgiastic madness that left a trail of destruction in its
wake. Plus the economic losses incurred by the curfew and
more damages from suspension of Gulf Air and Qatar Airways
flights for a week. Passports and properties were destroyed at
manpower offices while the victimized looked on in fear.
That which started as a protest against the killings in Iraq metamorphosed into a series of random acts of violence. Anything,
anything at all could ignite the highly combustible environment of a
populace frustrated bya crumbling infrastructure, betrayed by political promises, stagnant and yet restless. And while Kathmandu
burned, we watched in mute silence the desecration of places of
worship, death and rioting. I am ashamed to hear manyjustify the
ugly actions of the mob while many more continue to condemn
Muslims as deserving of any or all punishments regardless of their
innocence. As I sink into a fathomless pit of depression, I wonder
who will replace the passports of those poor people who, because
of their circumstances, have been forced to look elsewhere for jobs.
Who will compensate for the loss of property and life? Haven't we,
the suffering, surviving people of Nepal, learned thata religious war
is the last provocation we need, during these volatile times?n
(Chettri lives in Washington D.C.)
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
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Tel: 2111102, 4261831, 4263098
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Dream A Little Dream
Confined by curfews, our resident funny man considers conspiracies, Coke and Chitwan
Out ofthe frying pan into the fire; and from the fire to the bottom
ofthe burning stove. The insidious descent into an inexorable
disaster is firmly in motion. The citizens of Kathmandu must now
hope for the best and fear the worst. Destroying the stove won't help.
Oh dear, what a positively gruesome, muddling start. I'm beginning to
sound like all the esteemed socio-political intellectuals and commentators who love to hug the oval—sometimes round—tables of talkshows
on TV, or rule the reams of journalistic print. And do they love to talk up
the "failed state" status of our kingdom, with uncontrolled and highly
unpatriotic cheerfulness and zeal. Obfuscatory connections to "9/11"
have already been attempted: in big, black, bold letters "9/1" amongst
others. These feel tenuous at best but certainly sound catchy. "Commu-
nalism" is on the tip of everyone's wagging tongue. Was it really commu-
nalism, though, which drove the rioters to the wanton destruction of not
only mosques but also airline offices,
manpower agencies, media houses
and poor Mr. Wagle's residence? I
think opportunism on the part of agencies and parties with vested interests
and their unadulterated aim to de-
stabi I ize everyth ing that was established, functioningand standing were
more the motivatingfactors. Ok, time
to shut up and stop talking like a
wannabe Mr. Dixit, Mr. Giri, Mr. Ghimire
or, for the matter, Mr. Pandey. Mr.
Lama, focus, and begin to blather
your usual blithe bleatings.
Five days of intermittent curfew.
Nothing much to do but to feed on
wilted greens, stare at a fuzzy TV
screen and cogitate over conspiracy
theories, most of which had nothing
much to do with the stop-and-start
curfews. My mind, however, had other
ideas. It spread its wings and soared
over the sooty streets and skies and
dreamed and desired like it never had.
Lustfu I thoughts of mostly gustatory delights were the first to tease
my incarcerated senses. My lips smacked droolingly at the taste of
"sikandari raan" ofthe Bukhara. Visions of succulent, slightly charred
strips of lamb disappearing willingly into my greedy mouth almost caused
a total sensory blackout. Alas, the Soaltee has been closed for the last
3 weeks and the "raan" will remain but a dream.
The "raan" got me thinking of a Long Island iced tea. I had the gin,
rum, vodka, lemon juice and ice, but where was the cola? The Coke
factory had closed too, at the same time as the Soaltee. This was getting
a bit tedious so, to be on the safe side, I let my mind wander back to last
Last year, in early July, I had the unexpected pleasure to be in the
monsoon-fedjungles (of Chitwan) surrounding Tiger Tops. The lush grassland, tall and thick and impenetrable; the gigantic trees, leafy and lusty
and lustrous. The atmosphere was ineffably mysterious and primeval.
Then over the verdant canopy of the tree line, super-white and super-
surprising high Himalayas, glistening in the evening sun! Heat and humidity got reduced to middling irritations, especially when a picnic bythe
Dhakre Khola got transformed into a playful, Mowgli-esque adventure:
swinging by the vines; swimming around the bulking heaps of river-cooling elephants; diving off huge boulders into the depths of limpid pools.
Away with this urban jungle! Then the second ANTUF-released list cited
Tiger Tops amongst the 35 business houses they want closed from
September 10th. There goes another
Now we cannot cook Mayos
Chow-Chow with Himal Gas; switch
on our LG TVs with electricity from
Himal International or Bhote Koshi
Rowers; drink Soktim Tea with a splash
ofSitaram Dairy Milk and a spoonful
of Basulin Mill Sugar; get on Agni or
Tilganga Yatayat Sewa buses to visit
Fishtail Lodge in Pokhara or Binayak
Hotel in Banke; or look forward to
Dabur Vatika Face-Packed Miss
Nepal beauty queens next year. Pray,
tell me comrades, what would you
like us to do?
I know what I'd like to. I'd like to
trundle over a few spare tires to the
middle of the road and set them
alight. Watch them burning bright with
my frustrations. But now I can't do
that either. A common public statement has been released bythe Ministry of Home Affairs and the chief
district officers of Kathmandu, Lalitpur
and Bhaktapur barring the burning of
tires and other pollutants as per
Clause 6 (Sub-clause 3A) of Local
Administration Act in the name of protest or otherwise in the Kathmandu
Valley. Apparently, burning tires contain toxic and harmful heavy metal
and chemical compounds that could poison the valley air. (Pity the
government didnt realize that the mobs gathering on the night of Tuesday contained harmful elements carrying heavy metal and toxic intentions.) Fancy a ride in a Tata Indica or life in a Harisiddhi brick house?
Dream on, baby.  □
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
 The Only Ufestyle Culture Magazine in Nepal
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Also Available at major
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Call Me Mother
She's going strong. No signs of
giving up, not weathered by life's
aches and pains. Never bitter. In
her late 30s, she has now gathered the
missing pieces of the puzzle. Though by
her own admission she's still incomplete
in many respects, she has found peace
with herself Sumi Devkota is a rare
breed: She is among a small group of
Nepali women who dare to go for artificial insemination
despite the attendant stigma. Rarer still, this woman makes
no qualms about admitting that her need to be a mother was
far greater than the social taboo attached to birth outside the
wedlock. "The new generation of Nepalis need more
individual space," she says. "They feel that their needs are far
more important that the social norms that often wear them
down." This is said in a matter-of-fact tone, a commonsense
"Motherhood is that special stage of life that no woman wants
to be deprived of. I desperately longed to hear someone call me
Mom," she says, as her two-and-a-half-year-old son plays on her
He is her second child. When she separated from her
husband, she lost custody of her first child to him. "I wanted
a reason to come back home every evening.
I wanted someone waiting
for me to arrive. Not being
able to keep my elder son, I
had no other choice than to
give birth to a child through
artificial insemination," she
says as her son Bardan, or Baru
as she calls him, plays around
the apartment.
The apartment is well
festooned and cozy. Mounted
pictures of Bardan and her first
son hang on a wall. Framed
photos and a small Nepali flag on
a cupboard fill a corner, and just
besides them on a wooden chair
sits the bubbly and talkative Sumi.
There is nothing pretentious about
A single mother with a single child, she grew up with an
intense connection to her mother, who was a single mother
herself. Sumi's father died when she was only nine. She had a
firsthand glimpse of the problems a single woman faces in our
society. Her survival instincts were honed by her mother's
experience. She has always been determined and headstrong.
Obviously, then, when she decided to opt for artificial
insemination, her only worry was how her Mom would react
to the news. She didn't tell her about the pregnancy until five
months into it. By then her mother, a beautician, had been
complaining to all her friends about the weight that her
daughter had put on. When Sumi finally broke the news to
her, her reaction was typical: 'After all," she told her daughter,
"I only want what makes you happy."
Sumi is happy, and she loves to describe herself simply as
"a mother." She is not prone to philosophizing. Though one
would expect her to expound on the problems women face
and how society needs to change, no such words come out
from her mouth. For her motherhood is simply the most
essential role that a woman plays, without which she would
remain incomplete. There was no desire to prove anything
in her decision to have a second child without a father; she
was only fulfilling a need within herself.
Her other driving need is work. "I think I am a
workaholic. The first year or two of every project I've
worked for are the hardest. After that the work starts getting
lighter, and I start looking for something else, just as intense
again," says Sumi with a lively laugh. Reaching out to the
section of the community comes
naturally to her, for she considers
herself one of them.
Even as a married woman, she
felt an affinity to "pariahs." On a
project under the Home
Ministry, she became the first
woman to enter Nakkhu Jail to
counsel the prisoners, mostly
drug users and sex workers. As
/an outreach worker, she
engaged in needle-exchange
programs while working
with HIV/AIDS victims
from Dhadhing to Baglung
to Kailali. Recently she
attended the 15th International AIDS Conference
in Bangkok as a local
program officer for
Policy Project, a Wash-
BER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly*
She has a
natural affinity
for marginalized
ington-based NGO that
lobbies for policy reforms in
favor of vulnerable groups.
Sumi's work on behalf of
others has helped her overcome personal problems. "I
rather believed he [her elder
son] loved me, then I met him
and found out about his
rejection," says Sumi. She is
hopeful that time will heal the
coldness between them, and
she wishes that someday both
her sons will unite.
She worries too about how
Bardan will get his citizenship
without a father. The district
office still hasn't registered his
birth. When Sumi wanted a
dependent passport for him, she
was hounded with a single
question: Who is the father? "If I
have survived all this, it is
because of my economic
independence and nothing else.
Otherwise this society would
have torn me to pieces by now,"
says Sumi. She remembers what
her former colleague at
UNICEF, Wing Sie Cheng, told
her when she was pregnant:
"Sumi, whatever you do, always
hold your head high."
Sumi's situation has made
her more empathetic towards
the marginalized, and her pride
has made her want to do even
more. "I'd someday love to
start up a support group for
single mothers. I guess I a Ways
avoided the media because I
didn't want anyone to misuse
my story," says Sumi. "But now
I think that if my voice works
as a fair contribution for single
mothers, then why not?" In her
own way, Sumi is changing
societal attitudes by refusing to
bow down before the constraints that society attempts to
impose on her. She says that
the positive attitude that the
new generation carries gives
her hope. It works both ways,
as there would be no change
from generation to generation
if it weren't for people like
her. □
 CHY TTiisWeek
Films @ Lazimpat
Cafe Gallery
French Kiss
Kate hates flying, but her husband to be is in Paris with
another woman, and she's determined to win him back.
On the flight to Paris, she is
seated next to an obnoxious
French criminal named Luc.
Kate's introduction to Paris is
a disaster. Luc pretends to be
a gentleman, but he's in real
out to recover some stollen
jewels. The results border on
farce as Kate tries to win back
her man and Luc his loot. Together, Kate and Luc embark
on an adventure which takes
them across France and into
an unexpected romance. Starring: Meg Ryan, Kevin Kline,
Timothy Hutton, Jean reno,
Francois Cluzet.
I About a Boy
Based on Nick Hornby's
popular British novel,
"About a Boy" is a comedy-
drama. Will, a rich, single
and irresponsible Londoner
in his thirties who, in search
of available women, invents
an imaginary son and starts
attending single parent
meetings. As a result of one
of his liaisons, he meets
Marcus, an odd 12-year-old
boy with problems at
school. Gradually, Will and
Marcus become friends,
and as Will teaches Marcus
how to be a cool kid,
Marcus helps Will to finally
grow up. Starring: Hugh
Grant, Toni Collette,
Nicholas Hoult.
ART (Nepal), a non-profit organization, is organizing an art exhibition, "Helping The Stars Of Tomorrow," for
the benefit of Light For Nepal Children Home. The Home
has 27 children, aged six to 14. None of these children deserves to be orphaned. The Home has been sending these
children to school with the generous help from various donor groups. From next year, however, the children won't have
a school to attend to because the Home cannot afford their
tuition fees. These children, therefore, need financial assistance for their education urgently.
Artists David Douglas, Shivani Rana Timilsinha and Rosie
Marihowes have kindly consented to put their works on sale
to help these kids in needs. This art exhibition is also organized to underscore the need to improve the lives of the
underprivileged, minorities communities and groups. Venue:
Gallery Nine, Lazimpat. Opening on September 17, 5:30 p.m.
Date: September 17-19, Gallery hours: 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. For
inquiries call at 4428694.
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
 For insertions: 2111102
Martin Chautari
Open discussions at Martin
Chautari, Prasuti Griha
Marga 509, Thapathali. Participation is open to all. For
information: 4256239,
This Week at
Martin Chautari
Topic: Open discussion on
Martin Chautari, Time: 5 pm
Topic: Book publication on
Nepali media: Situation and
Pundits: P Kharel and Dev
Raj Humagain, Time: 3 pm
Topic: Current politics,
Time: 3 pm
Cine Club
Movie: " Les nuits fauves st/
ang" (1992), Directed by :
Cyril COLLARD, Starring:
Corine BLUE. At Alliance
francaise, Tripureshwor. Free
admission. Date: September
19. Time: 2 p.m.
Play @ Gurukul
Gurukul is showing "Jaat
Sodhnu Jogiko," a play directed by Anup Baral, produced by " Arohan" and written by Vijay Tendulkar. For
information: 4466956
Hotel Yak&Yeti introduces the longest happy
hour in town!
Our Happy Hours just became happier ! Buy any drink and get the
second one with our compliments.
Add an array of sumptuous exotic
snacks to the mix and you will see
why our happy hours are happier.
Venue: The Piano Lounge Bar
Time: 12- 7:30 p.m.
Sekuwa Saanjh
Every Friday from 7 p.m. onwards
enjoy the " Sekuwa Saanjh" at
The Hotel Dwarika's.
Price: Rs.555/- plus tax per person. Includes BBQ dinner, a can
of beer or soft drink and a good
time. Live music byAbhaya &The
Steam Injuns playing blues, jazz
& beyond. Even drop your visiting
card or BBQ coupons for the "
Lucky Draw." For information:
Jive with DJ Raju
DJ Raju spins out the beats catering to the needs ofthe dance
floor—hip hop, reggae, rock,
pop, Latino, Arabic, underground, electric and music for
all the party souls. Alsojive with
The Cloud Walkers. Enjoy the
happy hour from 6-10 p.m. At
the Rox bar, Hyatt Regency. For
information: 4491234.
Food Programme
Special barbeque lunch
(Chicken, Fish, Mutton) at restaurant Kantipur, Club Himalaya.
Every Sunday. Price: Rs. 500
per person. For information:
6680080, 6680083.
Continental delicacies
Chefs special. At Keyman
Royal Siano Restaurant,
Durbarmarg. Everyday. Time:
12-3 p.m. For information:
A fund raising exhibition organized by (Nepal) to assist
"Light for Nepal Children Home", an orphanage center, in becoming a self-sustained entity.
Act's unite, te helf> the. twdejfjfeoUedged chitbten cfiflefiaU
The generated fund will be allocated for purchasing a space and to build a hostel for twenty-seven children.
Gallery Nine, tel: 4428694
Friday 17th through Sunday 19th of September 2004
Time: 5:30 PM onwards on Friday,
11:00 AM-6:00 PM on Sat and Sun.
for details, please, visit
nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
 Purity of spirit, luxurious modernity, a contemporary ethos....
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Books are still a luxury for most Nepalis. Marketing used
books could change that.
The other day a former CDO of
Baglung, who was kidnapped by
the Maoists and then released,
came to the Educational Bookshop in
Jamal with his sweet-looking young
She browsed through shelves, picked
up a Harry Potter and showed it to her
father, with an I-have-read-this-book excitement writ large on her face. She then
took out another book, perhaps a Jeffery
Archer title. She wanted to buy it. The
father took it from her, came to the
counter and inquired about the price.
He made a face when he heard the price.
His daughter knew what the expression
meant, but she couldn't help pestering
him. The best her father could say was,
"Next time." After walking up and down
the aisles lined with shelves of expensive books, they went out, visibly disappointed.
This is hardly an isolated incident.
Many parents who want the best for
their children cannot afford good books
for the simple reason that there are
more pressing needs for their limited
Secondhand bookstores could be a
possible solution. But there are only a
few such bookstores, and they stock
mostly textbooks. There are some used
bookstores in Thamel and in Lakeside
in Pokhara, but those stores cater exclusively to tourists. The books there are
too expensive for most Nepalis. Pushpa
Acharya, a Master's student of English at
Tribhuvan University, has bitter memories of buying used classics like "War and
Peace" and "Anna Karenina" at more than
their original prices in Lakeside, Pokhara.
The owner of Good Books, a secondhand bookstore in Thamel, concedes that
books in Thamel are usually more expensive than elsewhere.
Secondhand bookshops date back to
the early 1960s. Literary historian and
book collector Shiva Regmi remembers
frequenting Harek Pustak Bhandar in
Bhotahiti around 1963. "It was all textbook stuff," Regmi says, "but now and
then good books would pop up, and
people like the late critic Ishwor Baral
would quickly lift them off the shelf."
There were a few other used bookstores
in Jhonchhe and Thamel, he says, but
they were expensive even then.
 More than 40 years on, not much has
changed, especially if you happen to be
looking for books in Nepali. The only
used bookstores with many Nepali titles
are clustered around Bhrikuti Mandap-
two near the Red-Cross Building and
one inside the Bhrikuti Mandap premises. All sell textbooks. Booksellers
who cannot afford to have a shop of their
own occupy the pavement in front ofthe
RNAC headquarters building on New
One can find books at fairly good
prices in these places, but what they
have are still mostly textbooks. That's
because textbooks are easier to procure
and are always in demand. Students often resell their texts, but serious readers like to keep their books. There is
prestige in collecting them and pleasure in rereading them. Moreover,
book lovers are hesitant to sell books
that they have cherished, fearing they
may land up in some dusty pavement
As Chet Narayan Poudel was scanning books in front of the RNAC building, he lamented the lack of fiction, classics and collectable books. "One doesn't
find Indra Bahadur Rai's stories and novels, or Chudamani Bandu's books on
Bhasa Bigyan here," he says. But, he adds,
"One can get textbooks in relatively good
condition at 40 percent off the cover
price." He bought a book on banking for
his brother.
At times, however, interesting books
do pop up on the RNAC pavement.
Harsha Man Maharjan, a journalism student, says, "I bought Umberto Eco's
'Foucault's Pendulum,' H. W Fowler's 'English Usage' and Paulo Freire's 'Pedagogy
ofthe Oppressed' at seemingly throwaway
prices. Just a few days back I got a Pierre
Bourdieu." He adds, "The trick is to check
the books regularly and early in the after
noon when the booksellers set
up their shops."
The supply of used
books comes from book
collectors who want to clear
some books from their
groaning shelves, publishers
and booksellers who want to
clear their old stock at cheap
prices and libraries that are
shutting down. But our used
booksellers don't hire
people to scout books. Nor do they
seek out libraries that are closing down
or try to make relationships with pub
lishers or first-hand booksellers.
Booksellers in the west and India sell
excess stock to secondhand booksellers because they find it unprofitable
to hold on to unsold books. Madhav
Dangol of Mandala Bookshop says that
Nepali booksellers don't understand
that space is money and don't get rid
of books that are not selling well.
With secondhand booksellers making no effort to find books, no wonder
their selection is thin. "Until this trend
changes," says Dangol, "many Nepalis
will have to forgo the pleasure of reading books." □
NO GO: Used
bookstores are way
too expensive
SEPTEMBER 5, 2004   |  nation weekly
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It's obviously unusual for a teetotaler to
open a bar. But GAGAN PRADHAN,
the owner of J-bar, the newest bar in town,
is an exception. J-Bar in Thamel is
Pradhan's idea for a place to socialize. The
major attractions: professional barmen
from India, complete with their special
juggling abilities. On offer: more than 80
varieties of cocktails. "After I saw there
was no bar of international standards in
Nepal, I thought of coming out with one,"
says Pradhan. "With some market research,
I've tried to blend Nepali with the international." With mind-blowing decor of
the "Lights on Steel" concept and local
Nepali vodkas plus other international
brands, he has certainly found the right
mix. Let's raise a glass and say cheers.
Design Savvy
A dress made from maize husks? Highly imaginative, but is it
wearable? AskPRATISTHA SHAH. She won the I.E.C. Designer
Contest 2004, with her remarkable green dress, made of, what
else, maize husks. But why maize? "I wanted something
different, and, as far as I can remember, maize husks have
never been used before," says Shah. "That's not all. There's
maize everywhere now, and I thought using it would be fun." It
was indeed. No wonder Shah cruised above 149 youngl.E.C.
design students from Kathmandu and Pokhara. The school
offers courses for aspiringfashion designers. What next for
Shah? "I want to make it big by establishing myself as a well-
known designer," says Shah. With such creativity, she should
make it.
Dateline Delhi
The past few years have been pretty exciting in the life of
SURENDRA PHUYAL. Last year, he worked for the American
newspaper Pittsburg Post Gazette as an Alfred Friendly Fellow. Now
he becomes the first Nepalijoumalistto hold a permanent station
in New Delhi post-1990. "It's not a big deal, just a little different,"
says the newly appointed special correspondent for Kantipur of his
"one-man Delhi bureau." India can be overwhelming, even to a
seasoned correspondent. But Phuyal, 28, seems to have gotten
his game plan ready: Approach it as just another job. "We tend to
look at India perhaps with overt suspicion instead of setting our
own records straight," he says. Phuyal's stint with the Gazette was
an eye opener. "When I came back from the U.S., I felt like
approachingmyjoumalism a little differently," says Phuyal. "And
the Delhi offer came my way."
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nation weekly |   SEPTEMBER 19, 2004
 Sunil Pokhrel stands like the Rock of Gibraltar
ofthe Nepali theater scene. He has been an active
member of the Aarohan Theater Group for the
last two decades and is the Kul Guru at Gurukul, Nepal's
first theater school. Over the years he has seen Nepali
theater pass through many phases, from the large number
of plays performed in the late 70s and the early 80s to the
lean years of the 90s and on to today, as
the theater slowly begins to finds its own
voice. Yashas Vaidya talked to Pokhrel
about his long career, his future plans
and his recent trip to Norway to take
part in an international theater festival.
How did you get involved in theater?
My classmate, Ramesh Budhathoki, the
film director, was active in the field, and
I got dragged into it. This was about the
time I was in grade 10 in Biratnagar. To
look back, the plays provided expression for energy pent up inside me. Theater was a happy outlet for a middle-
class boy.
What are the differences in the theater scene between when you started
out and now?
There is a big difference between now
and say the 2030s (late 1970s) when there
were a lot of theater groups around. The
biggest difference is in terms of quantity
and quality. Then there were a lot of plays
staged, but not much in terms of the
quality of theater as a creative medium.
Today it is quite the opposite. There aren't
too many plays, but the quality has definitely gone up. Now, Nepali theater has
discovered its own language and found
that its power lies in the diversity of our
What is the change that has come
about in Nepali theater over the years?
We no longer try to compete with cinema. Earlier, much like in the movies,
there used to be song-and-dance routines; plays would forcefully try to be
comic. We now realize theater has its
own possibilities as well as boundaries.
The boundaries may be that plays cannot be as realistic as movies, and they
may be limited by space. But plays can
use imagination with the space and actor. When you place that actor within
that space, the magic of theater is created.
Do you think acting, which is so personal, can be developed though studies?
You can be good at acting when you
follow your instinct. But I feel studies give you an idea of what you are
doing. Knowledge of what you are
doing lets you know what the rules or
boundaries are, be it writing a poem
or acting.
Now, Nepali theater
has discovered its
own language
But can you confine yourself to rule
books either while writing poems or
No. At the drama school in Delhi they
told us before they taught us the rules
and at the end of the course again, 'The
golden rule is that there isn't one.' But
there is a big difference between breaking the rules without knowing what they
are and [doing it while] knowing those
Tell us about your involvement with
Aarohan and Gurukul.
Aarohan was established in 1982, and I
am one of its founders. We didn't get to
do the kind of plays that we wanted, so
we founded Aarohan. Gurukul is one of
Aarohan's projects and it was started in
2002. Gurukul is Nepal's first theater
school. Here the students live at the
school and manage the center themselves.
Our aim is not to create actors, but theater workers.
What is your focus right now and your
plans for the future?
Our aim is to increase the audience
by staging plays regularly and by
bringing different kinds of people
to watch these plays. Right now, a
major focus though is giving continuation to Gurukul. Our efforts
are directed toward giving permanence to the infrastructure we already have. We have also entered into
a three-year partnership with the
Norway National Theater, under
which we will have exchange programs, joint collaborations and productions.
You presented an adapted version of
"A Doll's House" by Ibsen in Norway...
We had gone to Norway to participate
in the Ibsen festival. Six groups including ours presented their version of "A
Doll's House." We got a very good response, and I think the reason behind it
was our production's simplicity. In fact
we didn't have to adapt the play too
much; it was more of a translation. The
play about women's empowerment,
written some 130 years ago, is well
suited to the Nepali context now.  □
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
Moments of
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Saturday, Sept IS, 200d
To be seateddu d: JO pm
Garden of Dreams
Kesnar ManaL Tnamel
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Tor ticket booking please contact The Bluestar Hotel at 4-22-4-202
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A  I   S   H  O   R
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Last Word
Man In A Hurry
No sooner had he arrived in New
Delhi than Prime Minister
Deuba started to tell Nepalis
that his India visit was a "huge success."
Pour bilateral agreements were signed—
the most notable one was the construction of a 40-km oil pipeline connecting
the Indian border town of Raxaul with
Amlekhgunj. The prime minister looked
anxious to point out that he had found a
groundswell of goodwill for Nepal
among Indian leaders. That they were
deeply concerned about
Nepal's poor security situation. And that New Delhi
now had openly acknowledged that the Maoists are
"a shared threat to both
That's a success
enough. Yet the major
problem in Nepal-India
ties has never been one of
substance. For hundreds
of years, peoples ofthe two
countries have been
bound by deep bonds of
cultures, languages and family ties. As for
official ties, New Delhi and Kathmandu
have generally been sensitive to each
other's interests. The last time the two
neighbors were openly hostile to each
other was during the economic impasse
of 1989-90, when India's non-renewal of
a transit treaty led to severe hardships in
But even during the normal times the
problem has been one of perception.
Many Nepalis regard India as a big bully
which is insensitive to the needs of its
small neighbor, its intent far from benign. We say there are serious problems
on this side of Das Gaja and that very
little has been done to change that traditional mindset. And we blame the
country's leadership—in politics, civil
society and media—for not letting go of
the stereotype.
On more than one occasion, our political leadership has been guilty of grand
inconsistencies about its expectations of
New Delhi. It twists, turns and twitches
and often goes on complete reverses,
depending on the political climate in
Kathmandu. Expediency has always been
the name ofthe game. The CPN-UMT
position on the Nepal-India Mahakali
Treaty is a classic case in point. The party
flip-flipped its position so many times
before voting in favor of the treaty in
September 1996 that many of its leaders
now don't even remember what they
said on the emotive issue.
Deuba's one important, if far less noticed, achievement in New Delhi this
time round is India's commitment to
train 500 Nepali police personnel on
counterinsurgency Given Nepali sensitivities on security cooperation, this
could turn out to be a very controversial
move. This is where Deuba's leadership
will be tested. He has already been accused of being secretive about his agenda
for the New Delhi visit; it is now important that he tries to secure broader
support for the bilateral agreements instead of going into reverse gear.
Nepali democracy has always been
about running after the push and pull of
populist ideas. It has never been about
standing up for your convictions and rallying support for them. Granted, it will
be unrealistic to expect one single visit
to Delhi to change the age-old habit. But
one's got to begin somewhere.
Akhilesh Upadhyay, Editor
SEPTEMBER 19, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Health Services.
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Opinion Free
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This service may be chargeable and valid for Kathmandu valley only.
Your Health Plan Advisor
Note: This is for First Aid purpose and works as advisor. However for treatment one will have to visit health service provider (clinic / hospital).
THE      WORLD'S      BEST      CLOTHS
Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Nepal


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