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Nation Weekly May 2, 2004, Volume 1, Number 2 Upadhyay, Akhilesh 2004-05-02

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 MUZZLING THE MEDIA | POLITICAL ENDGAME | ON THE ROAD WITH THE RED GOD
MAY 2, 2004
www.natlon.com.np
Community Binds
Nepal To Improve Its Human Rights Record
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 COVER STORY
16 Behind The Smoke Screen
By Sushmajoshi
Despite Nepal's stiff resistance, the Commission on Human
Rights in Geneva last week issued a binding statement,
asking Nepal to accept international monitoring of its
human rights situation.
COLUMNS
9 Malinowski's
Diplomacy
By Suman Pradhan
The U.S. response to Nepal's plea is
ironically at the heart of the controversy surrounding Malinowski. If a
diplomat's job is to lie for his country
with a straight face, he didn't play by
those rules.
32 The October 4
Windfall
By Deepak Thapa
4 October, 2002, is the best thing that
could have happened to the health of
Nepali democracy. For without that jolt,
our politicians would have continued in
the business-as-usual mode.
34 Quantity Tourism
By Ujol Sherchan
The government's new tourism policy
is on the anvil. Let's hope it departs
significantly from the current one with
its single-minded focus on "quantity
tourism."
DEPARTMENTS
LETTERS
6
8 PICTURE OF THE WEEK
12 CAPSULES
33 CITY PAGE
35 BOOKS
36 KHULA MANCH
38 LAST WORD
14 Is This The
Endgame?
By Carolyn Rodal
The talk is that Prime Minister Thapa
is resigning to make room for a new
government. If that should happen, it
is still not clear whether the political
parties will get their act together this
time round.
22 Muzzling The Media
By Satishjung Shahi
There is currently a certain degree of
fear syndrome that the axe is going to
fall next on the press. Much like the
parties, mostjournalists view the
current regime as regressive and many
of them feel that the clampdown on
press freedom is just round the corner.
24 A Laboratory
Known As Everest
By Sushmajoshi
Scientists from all over the world
come to Nepal to conduct experiments which have long-term consequences for humanity Few of us hear
about them. One such experiment is
being conducted by three young
women on Everest this summer.
26 As Long As
You Film It
By Samuel Thomas
The success of "Bhedako Oonjasto"
proves that it's okay to plagiarize
indigenous resources and get away
with it.
ARTS & SOCIETY
28 Rugged Riding
By Milan Wagle
For the serious biker,
Nepal, with its
innumerable village trails
and rough roads can be
mountain biking heaven.
30 On The Road With
I The Red God
I  By Sushmajoshi
Kesang Tseten's new film
captures both the Rato
Machhindranath festival
and the preparations
accompanying the grand
event in a blow-by-blow
rendition.
 natio
nation
Nation Weekly, The Media House, Tripureshor,
Kathmandu, Nepal (Regd. 113/059-060).
Tel: 2111102,4229825,4261831, 4263098
EDITOR: Akhilesh Upadhyay
editorial@nation.com.np
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Suman Pradhan
COPY EDITOR: Tiku Gauchan
STAFF WRITERS: Sushma Joshi, Satish JungShahi
PHOTOGRAPHER: Sagar Shrestha
DESIGN ER:SureshDhami
AD & CIRCULATION DIRECTOR: Krishna Shrestha
ad@nation.com.np
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Nripendra Karmacharya
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AD ENQUIRIES: Tel. 4229825, 4261831, 4263098
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PRINTING: Variety Printing Press, 4278869
CONTACT
www.nation.com. n p
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Nation Weekly, The Media House, GPO 8975
EPC 5620, Tripureshor, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel: 2111102, 4229825, 4261831, 4263098
Fax: 4216281
nation
subscription
subscription@nation.com.np
4229825
4261831
4263098
Congratulations to nation weekly
YOUR FIRST ISSUE (APRIL 19-25) LOOKS
good. But there are some typos and the
captions on some pages are poorly displayed. I am particularly impressed by
your bold use of color and pictures.
As for the coverage, Suman Pradhan's
cover story "14 Years Later" was an interesting read. He has done well to
document the darker side of the party
protests. Most newspapers in recent days
have become overtly pro-party in their
news coverage, and have completely ignored the common man's perspective.
You have made a good beginning but I
would like to see more coverage on how
the party protests have inconvenienced
almost everybody in Kathmandu—
school children, office goers, the business community, street vendors. Everyone else but the party cadre, it seems.
ARUN PARAJULI
BALKHU
CONGRATULATIONS ON THE LAU-
nch of the newsmagazine. I visited your
website (www.nation.com.np). I could
not open some of the folders, though.
The web is attractive and radiates
dynamism. The analyses are thought-
provoking and the paper seems to have
attracted younger analysts who bring out
fresh perspectives. I enjoyed Swarnim
Wagle's well written article, "Anthem of
Sovereignty." A pro-Royalist
article strongly arguing for an active role
of the King would have balanced the
coverage. Reproduction of Nepal related articles from foreign media would
also add variety. I will be a regular visitor of your website and will share the
address with other friends and colleagues.
NABENDRA DAHAL
LAOS, VIA E-MAIL
A GOOD START I JUST HOPE YOU CAN
give continuity to the marvelous layout.
Also, try to give more variety. Surely, I
want a thicker magazine for Rs. 30.
SOMESH VERMA
GHATTEKULO
YOU CERTAINLY SEEM TO HAVE MADE
your launch at a pretty crowded time in
Nepal's media market with other publications also coming on stream or updating their formats. However, I really enjoyed your first edition and look forward
to future editions. As a bideshi in Nepal, I
very much welcome an English weekly
that promises to help me understand the
complexities of Nepal today (often not
easy at the best of times!). Also for me,
the format of a color newsmagazine certainly makes it more appealing than some
of the other weekly magazines around.
You've set high standards to start with.
Best wishes to keeping this up or, even
better, improving it further.
PETER NEIL
GOLPHUTAR
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
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 17, a day after the police arrested two
Kantipur scribes, the Federation of
Nepalese Journalists staged a protest.
nw / Sagar Shrestha
 Li^LI
Meanwhile
Malinowski's Diplomacy
BY SUMAN PRADHAN
y the time you read this column, U.S. Ambassador Michael E.
Malinowski will have left the country in a cloud of controversy.
Some papers have claimed that he was being recalled due to
growing differences with European envoys over the Maoist insurgency
and political agitation.
I do not pretend to know the truth about the matter. All I know is that
Malinowski vehemently denied being recalled, assertingthathewasdue
to leave this summer anyway and his successor had already been
identified more than four months ago. It is unfortunate that Malinowski
had to depart under such circumstances. Unfortunate because the controversy has clouded some of his real achievements. Many may have
forgotten that the ambassador was the first foreign envoy who seriously
tried to help Nepal and Bhutan resolve the protracted refugee issue.
The combined pressure the United States and India brought to bear
on Bhutan, thanks in large part due to
Mai inowski's efforts, did nudge the Bhutanese
to seek a solution. His frequent warnings during the difficult JVT negotiations between
Nepal and Bhutan also served to alert Nepali
officials about the dangers ahead.
But the ambassador will not be remembered for his efforts on the refugee crisis, but
for his role in the on-going Maoist insurgency
and the resulting political crisis. For good or
bad, he had a central role in raising Nepal up
the U.S. foreign policy agenda. It is another
storywhether that sort of attention has helped
this country or not.
Getting into this debate is futile without
firstdiscussingthe seminal events that characterized the nearly three years of
Malinowski'stenure in Kathmandu.
The two most pressing issues of the period: an increasingly violent
Maoist insurgency; and the suspension of representative rule by King
Gyanendra, puttingthe Royal Palace and the parties on a path of confrontation. Remember also that Malinowski arrived in Nepal just over a month
after the September 11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, which turned U.S.
foreign and security policy on its head.
The focus on global terrorism since then, particularly the Al Qaeda
brand of terrorism, has brought the world's only superpower to South
Asia in a big way. Its involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan since late
2001 has had far-reaching implications for the region, particularly for
India, China and even for marginal countries like Nepal.
Having served during such times in Nepal, Malinowski's brief no
doubt included fighting terrorism wherever possible. The Maoist insurgency provided just such an opportunity. In this, Malinowski was aided
by none other than some of the very politicians and parties who tried to
capitalize on 9/11, and who later became so critical of him. Remember
that the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba went to the United
States to specifically plead with President George W. Bush to help Nepal
defeat the "terrorist outfit."
The U.S. response to Nepal's plea is ironically at the heart of the
controversy surrounding Malinowski. If a diplomat's job is to lie for his
country with a straight face, Malinowski didn't play by those rules. He was
straightforward and blunt, calling a spade a spade. In the U.S. eyes,
colored by world terrorism as it were, the Maoist insurgency was no more
a political struggle but a means to grab power by violent terrorist means.
In other words, the Maoists had become "terrorists" and had to be
dealt with by counter-terrorism tactics. Much to
the delight of subsequent governments in Nepal,
not to speak of the Royal Nepal Army, Malinowski
became the foremost exponent of this doctrine. This translated into growing U.S. military
assistance to a beleaguered government bat-
tlinga vicious insurgency.
Malinowski's blunt pronouncements would
probably have been forgotten if not for another
conflict brewing up in mid-2002. The King's
sacking of an elected government and subsequent rule by hand-picked prime ministers began alienating the political parties. But U.S. policy,
and indeed the policy of most donors in Nepal,
didn't change. Most of these nations and donors had been on the side of democracy in
1990, but the changed global context meant
the Maoist violence remained a larger concern
than the pro-democracy agitation. The parties, and their affiliates in the
press, held Malinowski accountable for this, perhaps unfairly.
Just at about this time, reports of growing human rights violations by
both the state and Maoists began to make the Europeans uneasy. It is
no secret that in recent months the human rights issue has been at the
forefront of European concern whereas the United States by and large
still remains focused on the Maoists. It is not clear whether these differences in priorities translated into policy differences between the western
allies. But it did make Malinowski increasingly bitter about the Europeans
towards the end of his tenure, and vice versa.
The larger question now is, will U.S. policy change after Malinowski?
Probably not. As long as the United States continues to see global
terrorism as its major foreign policy agenda, its policy on Nepal will most
likely remain the same. What could change is the style of diplomacy, not
its substance.    □
L
.L
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Putalisadak, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel. 4412017, Fax. 977-1-5539787
 Capsules
Farewell to U.S. envoy
U.S. Ambassador Michael
E. Malinowski left
Kathmandu on Friday after
28 months in office. In an
"invitees only" pre-departure press gathering, he
categorically denied claims
that he was being recalled
due to policy differences
with the Europeans. He also
quashed suggestions of
possible policy shift in the
way Washington views
Nepal's conflict. The U.S.
envoy expressed frustration
over lack of progress in
tackling Maoist insurgency
and worsening relations
between the parties and the
government. He said it was
unfortunate that much of
the U. S. assistance for
Nepal had to be used in
purchasing arms and
ammunition. "U.S. military
assistance has significantly
helped Nepal," he said. The
envoy stressed that the
military assistance had
helped maintain peace in
the country.
A U.S. Embassy statement last week said the
incoming Ambassador
James F. Moriarty was still
awaiting his confirmation
by the senate. Moriarty is
currently Senior Director
for Asia at the National
Security Council. A
diplomat described him as a
China expert, who enjoys
close ties with U.S. National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice. Janet
Bogue has been appointed
the Charge d' Affaires until
Moriarty's arrival.
Bhupalman awards
Gayak Phatteman
Rajbhandari has been
awarded Bhupalman Singh
Puraskar 2060, and actress
Bhuwan Chand received the
award in the theater
category. Likewise,
Madanmani Dixit has been
named in the literary
research category Bimal
Koirala in the language
category and Diamond
Shumsher's "Griha Prabesh"
in the novel category.
U. N. assistance
At the Human Rights
Commission's annual meet
held in Geneva, Nepal
almost suffered a major cut
on external assistance that
comes through the United
Nations. The move came
after Australia, the chair of
the meet, cited the rising
human rights violations in
Nepal. European donors
and Canada were involved
in extensive lobbying of the
resolution that was sponsored by the Swiss government. The United States
opposed it. The 60th
session of the Commission
on Human Rights took
place from March 15 to
April 23.
Open Sundays
The New Year saw Nepal
Telecommunication
Corporation turn into a
company with a new name,
Nepal Telecom. Last
weekend, its new Managing Director Sugat Ratna
Kansakar showed what he
meant when he said he
needed to place the
company alongside more
professional and private
organizations. Nepal
Telecom decided to open
customer services even on
Sundays, a government
holiday. The new MD,
who sounds very ambitious in his media interviews, says he wants to
take Nepal Telecom to
new heights.
Nepal in WTO
Nepal officially joined the
global economy last week
when it was given a full-
fledged member of the
World Trade Organization.
Protest violence
The street protests have
turned more violent this
past week with protesters
suddenly shifting their
focus to New Road, the
capital's shopping hub.
Office goers complained
that the disturbance had
started right from the
morning rush hour, rather
than the late afternoons.
Campuses wore ghastly
looks with students burning
tyres and obstructing traffic.
Newspapers ran stories of
the oldest participant in the
rally and tear gas disturbing
hospital patients. Bagbazaar,
Putalisadak,
Bhrikutimandap, and
Tinkune-Baneshwore,
where the Nepali Congress
(D) concentrated their
protests, turned to battlefields.
Football season
The Shahid Smarak
football league started at
Dashrath Rangashala on
April 17. Thirteen teams
are participating in this
year's tournament which
has a total prize money of
Rs. 2,595,000. The most
outstanding striker,
midfielder, forward,
defender, scorer and the
coach will each take home
a Yamaha Escort bike. The
organizers have spaced the
matches with enough
time-outs between
matches to attract more
crowd. The tournament,
sponsored by Mount
Everest Brewery will
conclude on July 17.
Vehicle ultimatum
Truck owners in Narayani
zone are up in arms about
the government forcibly
using their vehicles to ferry
protestors to lock-up pens
in the Valley. The Narayani
Transport Entrepreneurs
Association (NTEA) has
demanded that its trucks be
handed back to the owners
within seven days. According to the Association, most
trucks have suffered
damages from rock-pelting
protestors. NTEA president
Hiralal Shrestha says, "An
apolitical association like
this, dedicated to public
service, has been victimized
by the state itself."
12
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Breaki
IS THIS THE
ENDGAME?
The talk is that Prime Minister Thapa is resigning to
make room for a new government. Even if that should
happen, it is still not clear whether the political parties
will get their act together this time round.
BY CAROLYN RODAL
The movement against regression
launched by the five political par
ties has reached its fourth week.
And a possible finale. There is now talk
of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur
Thapa's impending resignation to make
way for Sher Bahadur Deuba's reinstatement, though it could not be conclusively established by the time we went
to press.
Other prime ministerial contenders,
according to various sources, include
Nepali Congress central committee
member Shailaja Acharya and RPP President Pashupati SJB Rana. Speaker
Taranath Ranabhatt is a wildcard in the
race.
"It's all extremely fluid at this point,"
said Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat, a Deuba
aide and central committee member of
the Nepali Congress (D). On Friday, a
day after Deuba met the King, Dr Mahat
said it was still too early to tell how the
formation of the new government would
pan out, or whether the Palace had made
up its mind to give marching orders to
Prime Minister Thapa at all.
But the agitating parties had made up
their minds about a few things by Friday, a day after the King met RPP's Rana,
Deuba and Nepal Sadbhavana Party's
Badri Mandal. The five-party alliance
stated in no uncertain terms what it
thought of the King's overtures to the
three leaders: in starting dialogue with
fence-sitting parties, instead of the agitating parties, the Palace has given a clear
message that it wants pro-Palace forces
to prevail should there be a new govern
ment. Unlike in the past, the parties
however have set their own conditions
for their visit to Narayanhity. They want
the Royalist government to release party
activists placed in police custody during
the protests, and lift the ban on protests
in the so-called riot-prone areas, something the government started doing at
least in parts by late Friday.
"We are not against the talks," Nepali
Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala
told a mass rally in Bhaktapur. "But we
have been cheated many times in the past
in the name of talks. We are now wary.
We will not let that happen again."
Badly bruised after 19 months in the
political wilderness, there seems to be
an increased realization in the party leadership that they can't bungle it all over
again. But it remains to be seen whether
their resolve is strong enough to overcome a deeply entrenched institutional
paralysis, which has largely stifled democratic debate. Little wonder then, the
parties are mostly dominated by leaders
who have huge egos but narrow visions
and who continue to exercise clout due
to their control over party machinery.
The last thing Nepalis want to hear from
the party leaders now is their old fixation with petty party politics.
Four parties in the alliance—the
Nepali Congress, Janamorcha Nepal,
Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party and Nepal
Sadbhavana Party (Ananda Devi)—are
said to be against Deuba's premiership
while the CPN(UML)'s position
against the former prime minister is
hardening. Some leaders in the alliance
insist that the new prime minister has
to be nominated from within the alliance.
That however hasn't stopped those
who have been demanding Deuba's reinstatement from making their case.
Their argument is simple: if the dismissal of an elected government on October 4,2002 derailed the constitution,
the best way to put it back on track is
through the re-appointment of the then
prime minister. "The best way to undo
regression is to go back to the status
quo," says Dr Mahat, the Deuba aide.
"Our party has clearly stated that."
It may not always be so clear in the
world of politics. And there are a number of reasons why. First and foremost,
parties have already said that they don't
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 view positively the new round of consultations that the King began with
Deuba, Rana and Mandal.
The mood in the party ranks and
street protests will decide how the parties will proceed here on, though the
agitators were markedly subdued on
Friday as the news of the Palace's overtures circulated through the party ranks.
The CPN(UML), meanwhile, was categorical in its demand for Thapa's resignation as a condition for its visit to
Narayanhity.
At the heart of the parties' reservations lies their deep-seated suspicion of
the Palace, which party leaders say has
cried wolf one too many time since October 2002. "As far as we are concerned,
the movement will go on," says Dr.
Mahat of Nepali Congress (D), which
made a late entry in the protest, largely
because Koirala did not want the splinter Congress joining the fold independently.
"If I am reinstated, I will form an all-
party government to start dialogue with
the Maoists," Deuba told reporters on
Thursday after his meeting with the King.
Deuba should first get into some kind of
dialogue with his old nemesis Koirala if
he is to keep his prime ministerial ambitions alive and non-controversial.
There are speculations that the
Nepali Congress may not feature in a
new government that will be headed
by Deuba, who will have three deputies—from RPP, Sadbhavana and
UML—alongside royal appointees as
cabinet colleagues. This arrangement
Badly bruised after 19
months in the political
wilderness, there
seems to be an
increased realization
in the party leadership
that they can't bungle
it all over again.
will curtail any influence Koirala, hated
by many but still revered by tens of
thousands of party workers and nonpartisan democrats, may have on the
government.
"Any government that has no representation of the Nepali Congress will
not be acceptable to us," says Gagan
Thapa, General Secretary of the pro-
Nepali Congress Nepal Student Union.
"We can successfully continue the agitation all by ourselves if the situation so
demands."
Both UML and Nepali Congress
leaders say the Palace will make every
attempt to slide a wedge between the
parties. In any case, it will be a real test
of character for the five-party alliance,
especially for the Nepali Congress and
UML. Nepalis will be keenly watching
whether 19 months in the wilderness has
taught them any lesson on integrity and
cohabitation. Some argue that since the
"agitation against regression" is ill-defined, it could snowball into inter-party
feuds.
"The parties have no clear direction
right now," says Radha Krishna Mainali,
a key figure in the 1990 Jana Andolan,
who was recently suspended from the
UML's central committee for his opposition to the current movement. "The
parties say they are fighting for democracy but their students are on the streets
calling for a republic, and everyday they
change their stance—on an all-party government and reinstatement."    □
nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
15
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 Despite Nepal's stiff
resistance, the Commission on Human
Rights in Geneva
last week issued a
binding statement,
asking Nepal to accept international
monitoring of its human rights situation.
But the bigger question is whether
Nepal is keen about
improving its poor
human rights record
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BY SUSHMAJOSHI
inesh Prasain has a gap in his teeth -when he smiles.
The co-ordinator for the Col-lective Campaign for
■ Peace says he didn't always have a missing tooth.
On December 14, four men in plainclothes came
and knocked on his door. "I -will open the door if
you show me your ID," said Prasain, who had recently received death threats after writing an article that questioned the integrity of NGOs.
The men broke down his door and started to beat him up. They asked
him four questions. "Why didn't you open the door?" "Why are you
looking at us in the eye?" "Do you know Bharat Prasain?" And finally:
"Where is he?"
Dinesh says Bharat Prasain, a -well-known Maoist, comes from Mugitar,
the same village as him in Rammechap. The social service worker, -who
graduated from Budhanilkantha School in 1989, says everybody in Prasain-
gaon (Prasain Village) knows Bharat. But like the well-known CPN
(Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai, nobody would know his whereabouts.
They beat him for half an hour in front
of his father, who had just had a stomach
operation. Then the men, who addressed
each other as "Captain" and "Major,"
apologized to Prasain, put his gold chain
back on his neck, and shook hands with
him before they left.
This kind of arbitrary violation of
human rights is what made the Swiss
government, half a world away, lobby
intensively for a resolution that would
compel the Nepal government to accept
assistance through the United Nations
to monitor human rights inside the country. At the 60th session of the Commission on Human Rights, the Chair from
Australia made a statement on April 22
binding Nepal to accept assistance in
monitoring.
"Thanks to the efforts of like-
minded donors, including UK and
 Canada and the determination of Switzerland," says Marcel von Arx, advisor on
conflict and governance at Kathmandu-
based SDC, Swiss Agency for Co-operation and Development, "the resolution
has been adopted by consensus."
He's not the only person who's relieved. Nepalis living under an increasingly repressive regime, as well as well-
wishers and friends of Nepal, welcome
the resolution. But the question remains: will the government follow up
on it pledge?
"The government has already signed
around 16 international conventions on
human rights," says Prasain. "How will
they monitor this new commitment?"
Prasain, who was unable to press any
charges against the men who beat him up
because he had no evidence, is painfully
aware of the loopholes in implementing
human rights law.
The beating that ended with a broken
tooth and a handshake is symbolic of the
inconsistency that dogs the government's
Prasai claims he was
attacked by the security forces but is
unable to press any charges due to lack
of evidence
stance on human rights. These moves
confuse notjust international observers,
but also Nepal's own bureaucrats, mak
ing the process of implementing and
monitoring an uphill task.
A 25-point paper that showed commitment to human rights, hastily prepared by the government to forestall the
Swiss-sponsored resolution, was a predictable case of double-speak, none
more apparent than in the way it was presented.
Prime Minister Surya Bahadur
Thapa, reading aloud from the paper on
March 26, said that no arrests would take
place at night. A day later, Home Minister Kamal Thapa went on record to say
that the night arrests would continue.
Tellingly, no implementing or monitoring mechanisms were included in the
paper. Sushil Pyakurel of the National
Human Rights Commission points out
that almost a month after the paper was
presented, the government has made no
move to account for the whereabouts of
1,200 detainees.
The government has dealt with the
dilemma of keeping its image clean in
18
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 the international community by changing its spin according to the occasion. It
instituted human rights cells in the Police and Army, but the cells have done
only nominal work. It tried to replace
the NHRC with its Human Rights Promotion Center, which diverted funds
from the under-funded NHRC but has
done little else.
The security forces, the main targets
of large-scale Maoist attacks, are on the
defensive. The Maoists recruitwomen,
children and old people in their armed
militias, making the security forces'job
difficult and dangerous. Detention facilities are in short supply, and legal proceedings rarely take place. Security
forces cite logistics—the lack of detention facilities, for instance—as one reason for acts of impunity against Maoist
suspects. The other is the lack of any legal or disciplinary proceedings.
Acts of impunity from the security
forces have gone unchecked, with only
token punishment for low ranking officers receiving high-profile media attention. Until January 2004, the Royal
Nepal Army (RNA) Human Rights Cell
investigated 18 cases. Only eight were
human rights related. Court martial was
recommended for four cases. The disciplinary action taken was in no way commensurate with the crimes committed,
according to Amnesty International.
The government, which blames the
insurgency for its failure to follow human rights norms, lobbied intensively
to forestall the Swiss resolution in
Geneva. It got help from the Americans,
who put their weight behind them to
scuttle the proposed resolution. "The
U.S. delegate didn't meet with us, even
though delegates usually meet with
NGOs," says Mandira Sharma, a human
rights activist with the Advocacy Forum.
"We found out through other sources
that they were planning to block the
resolution. They said no documents
semiT nayalamiH ehT gnidaer evol I
Most people read their newspaper from the back
to the front. If you are one of them then don't
worry because we are great from either
end - front or back.
The Himalayan
T I M W E S
A   GREAT   NEWSPAPER
nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
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117C
AND ENJOY SUBSTANTIAL S
 should come out, not even the chair's
statement."
Since March, Foreign Minister Dr.
Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, a career diplo-
160—1
145
140-
120-
100-
80-
75
60-
40-
.
9
I
20-
o-
Male Female Male Female
By State         By Maoists
Number of people disappeared
due to the conflict (1996-2003)
/A/Si
EC
mat with decades of experience in shaping international public opinion, was
dispatched by the government on a damage-control mission. In Geneva, as well
as in meetings with various foreign ministers of European countries, Minister
Thapa actively defended the Nepali
state's human rights record and blamed
the Maoists for the continued violence.
Minister Thapa's public relations
tour came a few days too late, however—
the Guardian newspaper had already
termed Nepal one of the most repressive regimes in the world, along with
Iraq and Israel. Amnesty International
also brought out a report stating that
Nepal topped the list of countries with
the highest numbers of "disappearances."
The Swiss-sponsored resolution may
have passed in Geneva, but the challenge
of implementation and monitoring remains. Donors, especially from European countries, have become savvy to the
government's obfuscation. "The government has said one thing and done an
other for far too long," said one diplomatic source.
Others are more positive about the
outcome. "What matters now is the follow-up. If we can achieve nationwide
monitoring of human rights situation in
line with international standards, carried
out by reasonably independent body, such
as the National Human Rights Commission, with the technical, financial, and staff
terms of the UN system, I would be
happy," says Marcel de Arox of SDC.
Geneva is over, but a battle as significant
is coming up in the National Development
Forum (NDF) slated for the first week of
May, when individual donors decide how
much funding to allocate to Nepal.
"We are extremely concerned about the
deteriorating situation of human rights in
Nepal," says Gert Meinecke, charge d'
affaires of the Danish Embassy The Danes
are one of Nepal's largest bilateral donors.
"In the long run, we cannot co-operate
with a state which does not follow international norms of human rights."    □
nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
21
 MUZZLING
THE MEDIA
BYSATISHJUNGSHAHI
I
ssues of press freedom came two weeks too early this
year and not on the customary May 3—World Press Freedom Day. Just when some observers were  lauding the
police for their restraint, the police
strangely started targetingjournalists.
On April 16, police attacked reporters in Bhotahity Bhrikutmandap, and
Ramshahpath. The journalists were only
doing what they had been doing the past
couple of weeks: covering the five-party
protests on the streets of Kathmandu. It's
a different story that the government officials, and the police, weren't terribly
thrilled about their pro-party coverage.
On that fateful Friday, two weeks
ago, police beat Kantipur reporters
Hari Bahadur Thapa and Khim Ghale
and held them in custody overnight.
Later, more than 70 journalists who
protested the police atrocities were
detained briefly. The next day, scores
of journalists defied the government's
prohibition order to stage a rally that
started from Sanchar Gram in Ring
Road. Some 165journalists, including
Chairman of the Federation of
Nepalese Journalists Taranath Dahal,
Himal South Asia's Editor Kanak Mani
Dixit and Kantipur Editor Narayan
Wagle gave themselves up voluntarily
to the police to express solidarity with
the reporters who were detained the
previous day.
To be sure, mostjournalists have often tinged their coverage of the protests
with a pro-party slant. But it's not too
difficult to see why. The reasoning
goes: if the political parties have now
been pushed to the fringes, the media is
very likely the next target. "There is currently a certain degree of fear syndrome
that the axe is going to fall next on the
press," says Bharat Dutta Koirala, onetime chief editor of Gorkhapatra and
lastyear's Ramon Magsaysay award winner. Much like the parties, mostjournalists view the current regime as regressive and many of them feel that the
clampdown on press freedom is just
round the corner.
But the media's role in society—
state-run mouthpieces notwithstanding—has always been based on the principle that it will take a non-partisan stand
on issues that affect the public. In Nepal,
where many journalists often spin stories in accordance with their leanings,
an open alignment with parties undermines journalists' claims to be the voice
of democracy.
The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ), the umbrella body representing thousands of journalists
across the country, has come out
22
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 strongly against the government. It has
demanded that Home Minister Kamal
Thapa be sacked and the Prime Minister issue an unconditional public apology. The federation has also accused
the Home Minister of masterminding
the infiltration of local goons in the
ongoing protests. Minister Thapa has
gone on record to say that the police's
heavy-handed actions were justified
because Maoists have infiltrated the
party-protests.
For his part, FNJ President Dahal
defends journos joining in the protests.
"We were dragged into the protests when
the government started targeting journalists even after they had produced their
identity cards," says Dahal. "It's like the
Panchayat days."
During times like these, journalists
often recall the Panchayat days when the
government would send officials with
threats to shut down the press as and
when it pleased. Sometimes, editors and
reporters were attacked. Padam
Thakurathi of Saptahik Bimarsha survived a gun-attack believed to have been
carried out by the "bhoomigat giroha"
(underground group) with alleged links
to the Royal family. Saptahik Bimarsha
had been vocal against the group, and
ironically enough it was Prime Minister Thapa who had then voiced his dissatisfaction with the Palace's underhanded moves.
But that was all before _
the 1990 Constitution came
into effect, whose Articles
12, 13 and 16 guarantee
press freedom. The first
guarantees right to freedom
of opinion, the second,
right of press and publication, and the third, right to
information which bars the
government from closing
down media houses without fair reasoning.
Today, journalism in
Nepal may have swung to
the other extreme, though
that's partly understandable given the high degree
of political polarization. Vitriolic pro-
and anti-party news reports are routinely splashed across the spectrum.
There are some in the profession who,
however, do not like this change in
the tides. "There is always a thin line
between politics and journalism," says
Most
journalists
view the
current
regime as
regressive
and many
feel that the
press could
be clamped
down
Kosmos Bishwokorma, News Coordinator at The Himalayan Times. "Yes,
journalists may be the most political
animals but it's not good to be blatantly taking sides," he says, express-
, ing concern that some
journalists are also wearing party hats.
Such words of caution
coming from journalists
are, however, few and far between. The FNJ, which has
been at loggerheads with
Royalist governments for a
long time, has called for a
media blackout on the
Prime Minister for four
days starting April 25. The
federation, on April 7, joined
a number of professional organizations to reiterate its
solidarity with the ongoing
five-party protests. This
trend ofjournalists taking to the streets
is likely to continue. "After all," says
Sanjeev Adhikari of Radio Sagarmatha,
"There is no guarantee that the press
will not be clamped down in the future, no matter who comes to
power."    □
FNJ members gather
the day after April 16 to discuss how
they should counter the government
crackdown
nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
 Ever
A LABORATORY
KNOWN AS
EVEREST
BY SUSHMAJOSHI
£~~^ cientists from all over the world come to Nepal to
^W conduct experiments which have long-term conse-
K~s quences for humanity. Few of us hear about them. One
motely monitored by analyzing the
sounds of speech. In other words, he is
interested in finding out how slurred
speech could be the first red flag of brain
damage. The National Space Biomedical Research Institute, which funds this
project, will apply the findings of the
research on oxygen starved brain-behavior to the 2020 mission to Mars.
Lieberman is Angie and Mara's
teacher, and he met Lara, a tour guide
who leads treks in Wyoming, on a trip
he made with his wife. That's how the
three girls found themselves thrown together in a common project, and now at
Everest base-camp.
A team of well-known mountaineers,
including Hector Ponce De Leon from
Mexico and Andrew Maluish from Australia, who are trying their luck at scaling the world's tallest mountain, have
agreed to participate in the brain study
for the sake of science. Discovery Channel is following them with a camera all
the way up to the top, creating a cinema
verite series on what it feels like to climb
Everest. Six minutes of this documentary will be dedicated to the research.
"It was exciting to come and visit a
place we had only seen in the map," says
Angie Morey. Last year, the research team
recruited various climbing teams attempting to scale Everest to take their
tests. Palm Pilots, loaded with a number
of tests used by American researchers to
test cognition and memory, were handed
to the climbers. They were then asked
to play games on the Palms at various
points during their climb. Games tested
the climbers' memory and retrieval at
such experiment is being conducted by
three young women on Everest this summer. Angie Morey 25, Mara Larson, 24,
Lara Vowles, 22 are returning to Nepal
for two months to follow up on research
which will shed light on issues as diverse as Parkinson's disease, ways in
which to lessen air traffic accidents, and
the mission to Mars.
Why do this research on Everest, you
may ask? Everest is probably the only
place in the world where people voluntarily put themselves in a temporary situation where their brain is deprived of
oxygen. Cutting off the supply of oxy-
People with brain damage have one
clear sign of it—slurred or damaged
speech. At the core of the three girls' research lies human language. The sounds
that we utter everyday, along with the
complex languages that weave our
thoughts into ideas, are unique to human beings. No other animal has the
power of speech.
Why can human beings speak and apes,
our closest genetic neighbors, cannot?
This question has brought forth
multiple and contradictory answers.
Debates rage in academic institutions in
the West about the exact origins of
Everest is probably the only place in
the world where people voluntarily put
themselves in a temporary situation
where their brain is deprived of oxygen.
gen to the brain can lead to brain damage, which is what happens during
strokes. It would be ethically wrong to
put subjects through oxygen deprivation
in a laboratory to see what can happen to
their brains under such conditions. Testing climbers on Everest to see what happens to people's brains when they are
deprived of oxygen provides a perfect
way out of this ethical dilemma.
speech. At the heart of this debate is
Philip Lieberman, a professor of Cognitive Science at Brown University. Professor Lieberman has been studying the
origins of speech since the 1980s.
Professor Lieberman's scientific curiosity about speech led him to his current research, where he looks at how
damage to parts of the brain, including
the subcortical basal ganglia, may be re
24
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 base camp, and during various points on
their climb.
The sentence comprehension tests
were designed to look at changes in sequencing of thought and thought shifting.
"Most people were pretty accommodating," says Angie. There were a number of
initial problems. For one, the screens of
the Palm Pilots froze in the extreme cold.
This time around the researchers
have brought new and improved versions of the gadgets, which will hopefully eliminate that problem. Some of
the tests were much too long, and these
have been shortened. Earlier, the climbers also had to divert from their trails to
find optimal places to transmit their data,
not the most ideal condition when you
are halfway up Everest. Now they can
do it from inside their sleeping bags.
The research findings too proved inconclusive, so this year the researchers are
back with improved versions of the cognition tests. Further, Angie has also designed her own tests to see how our brain
remembers, and also how it retrieves items
previously stored in our memory
The three women, who each bring
their own strengths to the table, formed
a close bond over the two months they
spent in base camp last summer. Although there were some stressful times,
they also had fun, says Angie. "There is a
lot of downtime while climbers go up
and down the mountains, so everybody
has to hang out. We would watch movies
in people's tents," she says.
The women were also recruited to
become informal base camp managers
after one of the teams fired their manager, and they became adept at downloading $200 weather reports from the
Internet and passing it on to the climbers. They also set up a hot lemonade
stand to welcome the climbers back,
which made them instantly popular with
the climbing crowd.
The young researchers are not averse
to combining research with adventure.
Mara and Angie ended up running a marathon organized for the fiftieth anniversary of the ascent of Everest. "There were
about30 Nepalis, and us," says Mara. "We
were the only Westerners, and the only
women." The marathon, which Angie
completed in six hours and 48 minutes,
started at base camp and went down to
Namche, and then back. "I was a bit surprised," says Angie smiling. "I was expecting my legs to hurt, but only my feet did."
Not only did the girls take part in the
marathon, but this year they have official
permission to climb a smaller mountain,
Lobuche East, which compared to Everest
is only a mere 20,000 feet high.
Scientific research of this type is done
in increments, with people building
upon each other's work. Similarly, scientific funds also go a long way, with
money ostensibly meant for some abstract cause rebounding for mass benefit. The Internet started out as a communications net for the U.S. military,
and has now become a worldwide fixture. In a few years from now, the research on Everest may not just save an
astronaut from flying his craft into the
side of an asteroid. It might also provide
the information to build a devise that
warns a man that his slurred speech is a
red flag of an impending stroke, and help
devise a prevention mechanism for
Parkinson's disease,    n
nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
 Viewpoi
AS LONG AS
YOU FILM IT
The success of "Bhedako Oon Jasto" proves that it's okay
to plagiarize indigenous resources and get away with it
BY SAMUEL THOMAS
Bhedako Oon Jasto," Kiran Krishna
Shrestha's documentary about a
group of people searching for the
origins of a folk song, was recently
screened by the Inter Cultural Film Society at Bhrikuti Mandap. This is a space
that hosts some of the best movies from
around the world. Most have been subjected to scrutiny, unlike the celebrated
documentary in search of a song. Amrit
Gurung, one of the protagonists, released another music video two weeks
ago at Baggikhana, this one set in Dolpo.
He shared the stage with the usual suspects. Now for the killjoy observations.
"BOJ" received good press largely
because of the sociology of the protagonists, including the presence of a leading journalist, Narayan Wagle. The presence of the star-cast helps deflect attention from the process by which a lot of
J.
indigenous products, including fabric,
music, lifestories, and folklore have
been exploited for commercial gain or
for personal profit.
This is not new to Nepal. It is the
same all over the world—West Africa,
Latin America, Asia, and the American
South. In a holier-than-thou, closer-to-
the-original-than-thou, statement to
the press, the filmmaker was quoted as
justifying how Nepathya's rendition was
the "original" and that the rival Dipesh
Kishore Bhattarai could not even get the
geography straight (confusing Mustang
for Langtang) as if that were the true
measure of an "original." The message:
it is okay to plagiarize as long as you get
the geography right and make a documentary, something that did not strike
the other plagiarist as being necessary.
Over the last few years the international community has been greatly concerned over the theft of resources, traditional knowledge, skills and technologies. The debate has resulted in
several declarations, and in accepted
codes of benefit-sharing. It is possible
that there is no specific code on taking
folk music from the goths north of the
Valley and not paying for it, not even
There is amazing ease with which
some privileged people have access
to traditional folklore, knowledge
and resources.
asking for it, but ignorance is not an
excuse. "BOJ" is the proof of the co-
opting, where brazenness passes for, or
is attempted to be passed off as, a certain transparency.
There is amazing ease with which
some privileged people have access to
traditional folklore, knowledge and re-
sources. There is very little explaining
in the documentary; the outsiders are
never shown the door. It is this hospitality that is exploited, although that
trust and the ready sharing that follows
in scene after scene is never repaid even
by the sharing of full information. This
violates the principle of informed consent: we are taking your music for commercial gain. Do we have your permission? Ideally, it should be 'We are taking your music for commercial gain.
We'd like you to participate in the commercial dissemination of this music.
You can participate as musicians, and
you can participate in enjoying the sale
of proceeds on an equal basis.' What do
we have instead? No permission, and
not even any royalty
For example, check out this soundbite from the documentary. Daniel
Karthak: "These guys in the goth have
achieved harmony. Considering that
they do not even know what harmony
is [a western concept], it is amazing... it
is amazing."
The condescending tone, reminiscent of the writings of a lot of foreign
researchers, is a serious problem in itself. Then, since when did Nepali musicians have to wait for certification
from a music hall chap about achieving or not achieving harmony—validation by an external knowledge hierarchy?
The making of music of this kind
best illustrates the impudence of
repeat offenders. It will only
take limited research to show a history of blatant plagiarizing, of no recompense and of free media promotion. Nepal's own media community
is guilty of promoting this. It took the
death of Jhalak Man Gandharva for
people to wake up to his contributions. Jhalak Man died in penury, like
many of his illustrious peers and forebears.
The journalist, the music hall chap,
the singer and the filmmaker never pass
up an opportunity to promote themselves. The journalist never fails to mention that this is his fourth visit to
Langtang (he wants to go to all 75 districts like the eminent Dr Harka
26
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Gurung); the singer uses the opportunity to insert a clipping of an earlier song (no doubt popular but here
in this narrative a clear promo clip);
the music hall chap does not pass up
the opportunity to bring to the narrative his western music training, his
condescending tone.
Why have the Nepali media, and
the other sponsors—their names all
appear before the screening—never
been so generous with indigenous
musicians? Why have none of these
donors ever supported an oral history project that takes into consideration issues of copyright and benefit-sharing models and serve as a
document of'prior art,' so that inappropriate claims like this can be
challenged?
Film South Asia and ICFS could
do better than promote Kathmandu's
movie-makers with handy cams
making personal accounts of plagiarism a national event. This is too
much of a personal trip, there is too
much banter, there is self-promotion; no one in Langtang is ever told
that Nepathya is bringing out a commercial music album based on their
music. The journey—of a senior
journalist—back to the place where
he first heard the song is passed off
as the reason for being there, and to
the viewers of the documentary, as
justification enough. The Tamang/
Sherpa introduction to the song is
neatly excised in the final.
Amrit: We learn from you...you
learn from us...It should be like that.
Girl: You have understood our
song...but we have not...
The end sums it all up. The plagiarists are in their practice room and
singing—the exploitative, extractive
hurrah, the distortion. The message
is clear: go and pinch a folk-tune,
and put a copyright on it. Pinch the
tune, pinch the song, give nothing
back, sell your cassettes, show this
film as a promo and make your name,
all at other people's expense.
(Thomas works with the IUCN Nepal
Country Office. The views expressed are
his.)     □
nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
27
 Arts   Societ
Rugged Riding
For the serious biker, Nepal, with its innumerable village
trails and rough roads can be mountain biking heaven
BY MILAN WAGLE
Though the mountain bike was invented in Marin, California on the
opposite side of the world from
Nepal, it was adopted here very soon—
sooner than in most developed countries. Tourists coming to Nepal began
carting their bikes with them during the
late 70s and early 80s. Chimmi Gurung,
president of Nepal Mountain Bike Association recalls how he and his friends
would modify their staid Phoenix bicycles to emulate tourists' mountain
bikes by replacing their factory-issued
handle bars with GI pipes and thin
wheels with broader ones. Nepali cyclists back then, on their Atlas and Hero
one-speed budo bicycles, would often
watch in amazement as a mountain bike
easily zoomed up a hill that seemed unconquerable on a single-speed bike.
When the tourists left, to get rid of
extra baggage or to cough up money to
buy a ticket home, they would sell their
bikes to locals and by the mid-80s mountain bikes were the in-thing. Local cycle
shops caught the trend and started importing Taiwan-made mountain bikes
like the Santosa and Mustang. Then in
the late 80s Indian manufacturers came
up with their own mountain bikes and
soon flooded the Nepali markets. Uttam
Manandhar, the owner of Raani Pokhari
Cycle Center situated at Kamlachhi, the
Valley's cycle hub, estimates that mountain bikes today account for more than
25 percent of the bikes sold in
Kathmandu. And with the recent influx
of Chinese-made bikes like Rotax,
Mamet and Mongoose, you can buy a
fairly reasonable ride from Rs. 4,000 up.
For those interested in mountain biking as a sport, Nepal offers so much. After
all, it would take at least 10 years to explore all the tracks around the Valley. Add
to that no safety regulations, no speed limits, and the rugged scenery with the
Himalaya as a backdrop, and you've got
biking heaven. For the serious mountain
biker the whole country with its innumerable village trails is an open game.
Initiates of the sport could start with
the roads that lead off Kathmandu to
places like Godavari, Tika Bhairav and
Chapagaon. Then if you want to explore
trails that are more challenging you
could try the Nagarjun Forest trail near
the Pasang Lhamu Highway, and the
Lyakhure Bhanjjyang trail that starts out
near Gwarko in Lalitpur.
In the Nagarjun Forest trail, it is possible to chance upon animals like deer
and gazelle. The Lyakhure Bhanjyang
trail's uphill goes on and on, and just
when you are ready to die, downhill. You
will definitely see a lot more of your
country should you pick up a bike and
get yourself out of the city
Besides the entertainment, mountain biking is a healthy sport. It is a complete exercise regime: you won't be
workingjust one set of muscles; everything from your ankle joints to your upper chest will get more than they bargained for.
So next time you are bored of visiting the same bars, discos and restaurants,
borrow a mountain bike from a friend,
get some food, lots of water, some basic
tools and preferably someone to keep
you company. Then go and find out what
oxygen means.    □
BUYING A MOUNTAIN BIKE
1. Go with a friend who
knows about bikes
Not only will he know which parts are
good but he will also know the dealers,
and you'll be less likely to get ripped off.
2. Don't buy an expensive bike
Buy a cheap bike to start with. And if
you find the sport entertaining, you can
upgrade.
3. Don't buy supplementaryjunk
Mountain bikes come with lots of accessories (timers, pacers, heart monitors, pumps, toe-clip pedals, etc.) Most
of them are unnecessary if you are a beginner. So just get the bike and a helmet
and start from there.
4. Get a good warranty
You will keep breaking parts. So make
sure that the shop you buy the bike from
is willing to give you free tune-ups and
subsidized replacements.
28
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 .Y
A
•
Mm
i " ■■ i .......
177T
KLM
4
i
—z*.
<S
NORTHWEST
AIRLINES
Malla Treks (P) Ltd, GSA Nepal
P.O. Box. 5227, Lekhnath Marg, Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel. 4410089/4423145, Fax. +977-1-4423143
E-mail. NW-KLM@mallatreks.com.np
•A*
KLM
Royal Dutch Airlines
 Arts   Societ
On The Road With
The Red God
Kesang Tseten's new film captures both the Rato
Machhindranath festival and the preprations accompanying the grand event in a blow-by-blow rendition
BY SUSHMAJOSHI
The sight of a priest proudly displaying a tiny vest at the Rato
Machhindranath festival has been
etched into our national consciousness.
"On the road with the Red God:
Machhindranath" is a film recently made
by Kesang Tseten. Tseten takes 110 hours
of footage of various acts of human ingenuity and devotion to what seems like a
lost cause—namely, the construction of
an unwieldy 100 foot chariot that gets
tangled up in the electric wires of Patan
and tilts drunkenly as it is dragged and
pushed and pulled by enthusiasts across flood-washed
roads every 12 years, and
where men get roaring
drunk and get into fights all
the way from Bungmati to
Patan, and then repeat the
process all the way back.
Behind the vest rests
a red god, known as the
Rato Machhindranath.
This is the divinity worthy of all that work—painters, artisans,
rope-makers and carpenters donate days
of working hours to build him that sky-
high vehicle. Thought to be a manifestation of Avalokiteswor, the Buddha of
Compassion by some, and Shiva by others, the Rato Machhindranath enjoy a
popular following. While we have all
seen this god in one form or another—
postcard, photograph, television appearance—what is not clear to most Valley
residents is why this god in general, and
his festival in particular, took on such
national significance.
Tseten's film, by carefully documenting the entire process from the beginning, brings us a rare behind-the-scene
glimpse of a production involving un
countable actors and decision-makers,
from the guthis of Bungmati and Patan
to the hundreds of people who materialize to drag the chariot back and forth
between the two cities.
The festival can appear, on first sight,
to be a classic excuse to get drunk and get
into a good fight. Buff young men fight
each other to get on the prow-shaped steering brake. The ousted men are unceremoniously pulled off. Acrimonious exchanges involving everything from the division of meat to the dogs to assigning
blame for the tilting of the chariot is apparent. Scenes of conflict abound, and after a while you begin to wonder
how people even manage to get
that goddamn chariot upright,
let alone drag it all the way
from Bungmati to Patan.
If the chariot falls down
and touches the ground, bad
things happen. Kings can die,
royal families can get massacred, and the guthi
people can mysteriously
get sick and die in mass
numbers. The chariot has to be rebuilt
anew in the event of such a calamity So
there rests a level of national responsibility amongst all the people involved in the
venture. Some measure of co-operation
amongst all the different people—from
the men who run alongside and swiftly
put a piece of wood in between the
wooden wheels to brake the momentum,
to the men perched on top who give the
navigational directions, to the buff young
men doing the steering, to the hundreds
of volunteers who pull the ropes—has to
exist. And don't forget the women who
brew all that potent alcohol.
After a while, the seeming chaos and
loose organization take on a logic of their
own. In spite of the overt conflict, which
gets hashed out at every level, it's apparent
that the co-operative nature of Newari
society remains the core spirit that guides
the enterprise. While it started out as a local Newari festival, the discourse on the
streets makes it clear that all Nepalis think
of the festival as their own. When the
chariot finally makes it into Jawalakhel, the
level of mass participation and work involved in the process comes to fruition.
When the priest takes out that tiny vest and
displays it so proudly to the country, he is
notjust taking out a medieval garment—
he is also taking out the symbol of a process in which, in spite of the conflict that
exists at every level of society, the spirit of
co-operation has again triumphed over
small differences and created a structure
in which such a mind-bogglingly complicated event could take place.
In both a literal and a symbolic level,
the festival is an analogy of any large structure, i.e., our nation-state. Conflict exists
at all levels in every organization. The trick
is to find away to resolve it without major
calamity Tseten, by actively editing footage to show the reality of conflict and its
day-to-day resolution, follows more than
a chariot. He is following the god behind
that vest—the god of compassion that can
allow a society made up of diverse and
heterogeneous groups of people to come
together and work on a national project
without getting crushed,     n
30
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 MASTEJ^WEAVEI^J
Classic Handmade Tibetan Catpets
iMjnufjccmet £L Lxponer;
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GPO Box 2219, Kathmandu, Nepal, TEL: 5522736, 5527963, FAX: +977 1 5527934, E-MAIL: karpoche@wlink.com.np
SHOWROOM: Ekantakuna, Jawalakhel, FACTORY/WAREHOUSE: TEL: 5526888, Bungamati Height, Lalitpur
 A little Word
The October 4 Windfall
BY DEEPAK THAPA
ctober 4 has become one
February 13, that has been
history. But unlike the latter
of those dates, like June 1 and
etched into contemporary Nepali
two, October 4 stands out for the
resonance it now has on the general state of the Nepali polity. And, here,
I would like to submit that the King's takeover is the best thing that could
have happened to Nepali democracy.
Consider the chain of events that began the slide to that fateful day
in October, 19 months ago. The tentative attempts at negotiations during
Ceasefire I amidst the clamour from political parties against anything
seen as a compromise with the Maoists ended in failure. The major
political parties spoke as one in their support of the emergency imposed
in November 2001 and did not see it fit to caution the government as it
went about dismantling democratic institutions such as freedom of the press. New political games began when the
time to extend the emergency arrived three months later
and there was much talk of constitutional reforms even
though it ultimately amounted to nought.
Differences between Sher Bahadur Deuba and Girija
Prasad Koirala were an aside to the political drama that
led finally to the dissolution of parliament and a split in the
Nepali Congress itself. The CPN (UML) saw the disarray in
the ranks of its main rival as a wonderful opportunity to
springboard to power through a promised election, while
the two Congress parties fought it out over name and
party symbol. Maoist attacks in Sindhuli and Arghakhanchi
in September 2002 ruined election plans and the politicians were forced into a huddle to seek a way out of the
crisis. The result was Deuba's ouster and the present
impasse.
There is no point dwelling on what went wrong in the
preceding 12 years since it has been analysed umpteen
times by people much more competent. Some questions
still remain though. It has been argued that Nepal was a
young democracy, and since it takes time for democratic
culture to seep into the national ethos, the roller-coaster
was but natural. All true, but despite the political chaos, there were still
plenty of opportunities for genuine reforms. There is almost universal
consensus that many of the demands raised by the Maoists are genuine. Ifthatbethecase, why were there no attempts to address those
issues? Adopting the Maoist agenda as far as it was possible could
have taken the wind out of the revolutionary sails, or at the least
undermined the high ground that the Maoists have claimed for themselves as the champion of the deprived and the oppressed.
That did not happen and now we are being told that the 18 demands
agreed upon by the five-party alliance is the best possible solution. That
wish list, however, is one that seems more concerned that parliament will
not have to face the royal axe any more. The list goes into great detail
about how the powers of the Monarchy (and the Army) will be curtailed
but offers little in terms of the genuine changes the country requires if the
cycle of violence is to stop.
Having said that, even the cursory nod to reforms is much more
welcome than what the politicians have offered so far and it does
indeed provide a starting point for real structural changes the country sorely needs. That is why the present political movement assumes a significance larger than is apparent now. To be sure, the
masses seen in 1990 have still not come out onto the streets. But
that has more to do with the people's disenchantment with politicians, and it would be a mistake for the powers that be to interpret
that as disillusionment with democracy itself. Nepalis have already
experienced political freedom andjustan illusion of democracy cannot fool them for long. There are already indications that the party
cadres are not likely to be mollified even if their leaders are hoisted
back to power. The momentum gathered has to find ultimate expression in a more just and pluralistic state. That's why I argue that
4 October, 2002, is the best thing that could have happened to the
health of Nepali democracy. For without that jolt, our politicians
would have continued in the business-as-usual mode, with consequences unknown for our country.    □
32
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Page
NEPATHYA TOUR 2004
#1
S
CHINESE FILM
FESTIVAL
ai Nepal Cinema Hall
)rganized by the World Cultural
Centre and Chinese Embassy.
Vpril 26-30. Ticket Price: Rs. 25-50.
For information: 4247834.
Vpril 26: 9:45 a.m.
Jreaking the Silence
Vpril 27: 9:30 a.m.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Vpril 28: 9:30 a.m.
iada Meilin
ml 29: 9:30 a.m.
-ove Story by Tea
Vpril 30: 9:30 a.m.
iigh
Studio 7 presents Swiss playwright
Max Frisch's drama "The Fire Raisers"
at Naga Theatre, Hotel Vajra. This
dark comedy inspired by Frisch's
observations of the rise of Fascism in
1930s Germany has wider ramifications
for totalitarian movements the
in Frisch's other plays: the danger of
believing "such a thing could not
happen here" and the need for each
individual to assume  responsibility.
April 30, May 1, 2, 7, 8, 9.
Time 7:15 p.m. Ticket Price: Rs. 700
(Includes tea.  Student discount
available)   For   lnformation:4271545
ART EXHIBITIONS
Caravan Hall, Summit Hotel
Exhibition of Tibetan thangkas,
pashminas and statues. Till April 30.
For information: 5550415.
Lazimpat Gallery Cafe
Exhibition of mix media of Buddha
images titled "Samadhi: A journey
through Sri Lanka."
Last day April 26.
For information: 4428549.
Siddhartha Art Gallery,
Babarmahal Revisited
An exhibition of photographs by
Wayne Amtzis titled "Still Life/Street
Life."
Till May 3.
For information: 4414607.
Srijana Contemporary
Art Gallery, Kamaladi
Paintings and sculptures by prominent contemporary artists as New
Year's gift exhibition.
Till May 13.
For information: 4247889.
In 2002 Nepathya
traversed Nepal
during their
"Education for
Peace Tour," and
then again with five
other artists for a
"Sundar Shanta
Nepal Tour." Now it is on the the road
again with "Shantiko Lagi Shikshya,
Nepathya Tour 2004." This time
Nepathya will be travelling to 15 cities
in Nepal.
Tour dates:
April 27: Tulsipur
April 29:  Dhangadi
May 1: Nepalguanj
May 3: Butwal
May 4: Bhairahawa
May 6: Pokhara
May 8: Tansen
May 12: Dharan
May 16: Damak
May 18: Janakpur
May 20: Hetauda
May 22: Narayanghat
May 28:  Kathmandu, BICC
May 29:  Kathmandu, BICC
For information: 5542646, 5552839
E-mail: nepalaya@wlink.com.np.
64 Photo
Journalists
present their most influential pictures
at Nepal Art Council Gallery,
Babarmahal.
Nepali photo journalists have
captured the moments of our lives,
often under thankless working
conditions: around-the-clock working
hours, dismal wages and a lack of
recognition for their
efforts by both the
public and the media
houses themselves.
I Here's an exhibition
| to celebrate their
t   valiant efforts in
bringing Nepal's
realities to the fore.
Organized by the National Forum of
Photo Journalists.  Till April 30. For
Information: 9851048178 (Dhruba
Ale), 9851043306 (Rajesh Dhungana),
9851023004 (Prakash Mathema).
nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
33
 Through the Looking Glass
Quantity Tourism
BYUJOLSHERCHAN
T
he government's new tourism policy is on the anvil. Let's
hope it departs significantly from the current one with its
single-minded focus on  "quantity tourism."  Paradoxically, this
obsession with quantity is one reason why the tourism industry hurts that
much more in times of downturn, which is also when lobbyists invariably
prescribe the same solution—More Tourists—and exact concessions
from the government, thus setting in motion a vicious cycle.
Some trends indicative of Nepal's current 'quantity tourism'
thrust: The health of the tourism industry is routinely measured by the
number of arrivals or percentage change in arrivals. This figure doesn't
say much and is quite useless. More telling data such as tourism revenues per arrival per day and revenues per year over the years, including proper accounting of cultural and environmental impacts of tourism,
are needed, to monitor the industry and inform policy.
The royalty for climbing Everest has been reduced from the high of
US$50,000 apparently to increase the quantity of permits demanded,
in spite of the fact that the number of permits was already high and
sustainable. The lobbyists failed to recognize that Everest is a "positional
good," for which there will always be a demand because
of its position and stature.
Premium pricingwas, therefore, justified. Even Reinhold
Messner and Junko Tabei took
advantage of the Everest
Golden Jubilee to suggest that
the number of permits issued
for Everest be reduced and
that Chomolongma be given a
'break' for a number of years.
When Nepal's tourism industry took a series of big blows
because of incidents like the
Indian Airlines Flight IC814
highjack in 1999, the Hrithik Roshan scandal in 2001, or because of an
upsurge in violence, the lobbyists successfully pressured the government to waive visas or visa fees for SAARC nationals to attract more
tourists, even though this gesture is not reciprocated by all SAARC countries except India. Moreover, Nepal grants tourist visas to any foreigners
on arrival. Only few countries in the world do this.
Many who come to Nepal for whatever reason for a short duration
invariably come on tourist visas, so we do not have an accurate estimate
of the number of "bona fide" tourist arrivals to Nepal. The practice of
waiving visas and visa fees to SAARC nationals (except on the basis of
reciprocity) or granting visas to foreigners on arrival not only removes or
relaxes one additional layer of safeguard, but may also in time pose
significant risks to national security and interests. We're living in the
BUDGET TOURISTS:
Nepal for a song?
post-9/11 world. The media regularly reminds us that Kathmandu is
becominga hub for smugglers, money launderers, and bio-pirates. The
CIA World Fact Book unabashedly lists Nepal as transit point for opiates
from Southeast Asia to the West. What next—international trafficking
rings? Al Qaeda?
On the supply side, surplus of service providers has led to undercutting and an increase in bargain-hunting tourists, resulting in what Kanak
Mani Dixit, an eminent journalist, once described as, "tourist heaven,
tourism hell." Nepal has eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world
as well as a unique natural and cultural diversity but continually sells itself
short.
"Quantity tourism" has become a self-defeating success because
the message going out is that one can travel for very little in Nepal.
Many independent trekkers are known to spend as little as US$0.27
as lodging fee per night in the attic of a farmhouse. Is this the kind of
tourists we want to attract?
Industry-wide the overcapacity to undersell Nepal becomes glaring in times of
downturn, as tourism-dependent businesses go bust one
after the other.
All too often, planners,
policy wonks and lobbyists
recommend that tourism
should be made the centerpiece of the Nepali economy.
Placing overemphasis on
such sensitive sectors as tourism is unwise. The thrust
should instead be on moving
away from the present quantity-focused paradigm toward diversifying
the economy so that it is made more resilient and better able to
absorb shocks.
Let us therefore hope that, among other things, the new tourism
policy provides: mechanisms for managing the tourism industry, including the flow of tourists, better; doesn't go against national security concerns and interests; emphasizes community-managed tourism for rural
development, not "quantity tourism" of dubious and speculative merit;
and encourages non-price competition while keeping undercutting in
check.
Now, if we could only fly RNAC on strategic international routes to
capture the real bulk of the tourist's budget long before they even enter
Nepal.    □
.L
34
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 II
Pilgrim's
Picks
Eleven Minutes
By Paul Coelho
Sex and love, probably the most in
triguing subject ever explored by
the human mind, is the central theme
of celebrated new-age
fabulist Paul Coelho's
I new book, "Eleven
Minutes." Coelho
seeks to dive through
the murky layers of
love and the darker
sides of sex and emerge
' with insights on the
essence of this basic
human instinct. The author attempts to
tackle this tough subject through the
life of Maria, a Brazilian prostitute—
who's obviously seen it all.
The Third World War
By Humphrey Hawksley
The Third World War" written by
well known BBC correspondent
Humphrey Hawksley, charts the
possible course the world could take if
the present arms race between India and
Pakistan, and the overall political
climate in the world
continues. The world-
war is set in motion by
two events that take
place in the subcontinent: the Indian
parliament is bombed
and the president of
Pakistan is assassinated.
In the wake of these
events, the region falls into chaos and
soon the whole world in embroiled in a
world-war. Written like a typical Tom
Clancy novel, the writer spins his novel
from stories taken from the popular
press. The book is well-paced, but the
author could have probably done better
than simply taking his defining tone
from the U.S. views on the 'War on
Terrorism."
PILGRIMS BOOK HOUSE
Tel. 4700942
Business Office: Tel. 4700919
Fax 977-1-4700943
Fatal Obsession
REVIEWED BY SMRITIJAISWAL
Iastyear, "Adaptation," an offbeat movie
starring Nicholas Cage and Meryl
Streep, was nominated for four Academy Awards. The movie owed its success to "The Orchid Thief," a runaway
bestseller, on which the movie was based.
"The Orchid Thief," is a non-fiction
that follows the world of orchids and
Florida, a devastating combination. John
Laroche, the wacky protagonist, is an
orchid smuggler under trial for having
poached endangered flowers from a government-protected sanctuary. Laroche,
"a tall guy, skinny as a stick, pale eyed,
slouch-shouldered, and sharply handsome, in spite of the fact that he is missing all his front teeth," strikes many
people as eccentric. The
Seminole Indians, for instance, have two nicknames for him:
"Troublemaker" and
"Crazy White Man."
But the readers will
find more than just the
protagonist eccentric. As
the trial unfolds
Laroche (Mr. Encyclopedia) emerges as the
meteoric character
many wish to be but few
have the wit for. The
book dives into a conglomeration of weird
events, histories,
crimes, people, passions, places and
flowers. For someone not really into the
botanical world and its surprises, orchids will take on a whole new meaning
after the read. And for those not criminally inclined, crime might become a
fascination.
While reporting the various amazing
forms of the more than 30,000 known
orchid species, Orlean imparts startling
information about this flower. "One species," she says, "looks just like a German
Shepherd with its tongue sticking out.
One species looks like an onion. One
looks like an octopus. One looks like a
human nose. One looks like Mickey
Mouse. One looks like a monkey. One
looks dead.. .there are species that look
like butterflies, bats, ladies' handbags,
bees, swarms of bees, female wasps,
clamshells, roots, camel hooves, squirrels, nuns dressed in their wimples, and
drunken old men." It's not surprising
they drive orchid-lovers crazy. "The
Orchid Thief" is about the madness of
and for orchids. Only the variety of orchid fanatics hankering after these "queer
freaks" matches the oddity of the flora.
From what Orlean tells us, orchids
sometimes arouse more passion than romances. They are "the sexiest flowers on
earth," she writes, and several—several— orchid hunters have died in the
effort to own them. Some have drowned
an collection expeditions, some have died of
dysentery, some have
been lost and some have
even been murdered
during their quest. The
engths to which orchid
:ollectors go to are both
fascinating and
Dtherworldly. It seems
pretty bizarre that there
really are these dreamers living their lives in
hothouses, and there really are flowers so cunning, so deft as to have
"outlived dinosaurs;
and] they might outlive human beings."
Even if one is not too hot on flowers,
"The Orchid Thief" is still a must read
for its curt, understated but uproarious
use of language and information. Orleans
does not dilly-dally with words, and yet
she is a lyricist: the novel is streaked with
poetry.
The author's wide-eyed amazement
at the people she meets, the places she
visits, the facts she learns all conduct
themselves to the reader, like visiting a
different world—one too wild, too
tropical, too extravagant, sizzling hot, and
so so intriguing. As Orleans declares of
Laroche, many things are "incredible or
staggering or cracked or improbable, but
they [are] never boring."    □
nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
35
 Khula Manch
Bringing on the
Blockbusters
While many cinema halls in the country
have closed down and many others are
struggling, Jai Nepal Cinema Hall has
been doing good business. The credit for its success goes to the young entrepreneurs of Vision
Quest who have introduced a number of trendy
innovations in the theatre world: blockbusters
screened within days of release, air-
conditioned hall, state-of-the-art
sound system and most importantly a
clean, cool place to hang out.
Bhaskar Dhungana, one of the
owners of the Jai Nepal Cinema Hall,
talked with Sushmajoshi of the
Nation Weekly about the hall's history,
upcoming plans for digital exhibition,
and the potential for Nepali films to be
widely distributed with new digital
technology.
Why isn't cinema doing
so well in Nepal?
Cinema is not cinema anymore. It was a
social event before. Now it's a place
where people are herded together in a
commercialized space. We had to
recreate the social aspect and make it
fun. We wanted a clean environment
and a place where families and children
were welcome.
How did you get interested in
starting a cinema hall?
I always thought it would be nice to
have theatres like the ones in foreign
countries in Nepal. I was studying in
the United States from 1990 to 1996, in
Luther College in Iowa. After I came
back, I was interested in making my
own films, but I never found people to
collaborate with.
What attracted you to this location?
I went to see "Caravan" at Jai Nepal
Hall, and thought it would be a great
hall to refurbish and renovate. I
passed by one day and talked with the
owner about the state of the hall. He
mentioned he was interested in
leasing it, so we got a 10-year lease.
How did you fund the
initial renovation?
There are three of us at Vision Quest:
me; Nakim Uddin, myjwai (brother-
in-law); and Rajesh Siddhi, who
studied with me at Luther. At first, we
had no money. We approached a lot of
institutions. Finally, we got funding
from the Nepal Share Market, plus
our own initial investment.
How do you choose your movies?
We don't give priority to high-brow
movies. The average Nepali doesn't
like them. We like to show action-
oriented movies in Hindi and English.
Nepali films don't run well. We ran
"Bhedako Oon Jasto" for seven days,
but that had a lot to do with the good
marketing of the producers. Bluntly
speaking, Nepali films are not of good
quality, technically and content-wise.
Bollywood is not far behind Hollywood in technical terms.
You are starting digital exhibition of
films in your hall for the first time.
How would this affect viewers?
We are working with GDC and
AdLabs, two companies based in
Hong Kong. They're promoting a
new technology that put films on
digital data disks. The quality of this
is higher than DVD. We're promoting digital exhibition in five theatres
nationwide. This is a useful tech
nology for small cities and towns
which don't have access to a print
release.
People say that Nepali films are not
being given priority, as theatres only
show Hindi films.
Movies are not made or selected for
nationalistic reasons. People won't
watch it unless they enjoy it, or at least
they get their money's worth. Why
shouldn't we give Nepali films
priority? If they did well, it would be
great for us as distributors.
Any plans to go into the
production business?
We thought about it. But first we have
to develop a platform in which these
films can be shown. It's useless to have
a movie with good sound if the hall
doesn't have the equipment to broadcast it.
How do you see Jai Nepal
in the next 10 years?
I think it will be thriving. There need
not be a revolution in production.
There can be a revolution in distribution, like the large format I-Max
theatres.
How would this new technology
affect the distribution of Nepali
films?
Nepali films could eventually get a
worldwide audience. It is also easy to
subtitle in digital. In 10 years time, it
will be a different ballpark. That's the
future.       □
36
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
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nation weekly |   MAY 2, 2004
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Last Word
VI
The moral ground that Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa
stands on has always been soft and
slippery: he came into office heading a
non-representative government the political parties didn't want. Yet when he
took office in June, people reluctantly
gave Thapa the benefit of doubt in the
hope that the King had his reasons for
passing over Madhav Kumar Nepal, the
five parties' prime minister-designate.
The view was that King Gyanendra
wasn't exactly a fan of the gaffe-prone
CPN(UML) General Secretary. And
Thapa got the nod.
The UML chief made little effort to
hide his disappointment over the Royal
nomination. But
Nepali Congress
President Girija
Prasad Koirala remained tight-
lipped. It was plain
common sense that
was behind his silence. Thapa and
Koirala shared reasonably cordial personal
ties and many considered Thapa a liberal, at
least by RPP standards. That meant that
the chances of his government making
progress on two crucial fronts were better than his predecessor's. Lokendra
Bahadur Chand was seen to be too cozy
with the Palace to inspire confidence
either among the political parties (to
make way for an all-party government)
or the Maoists (to add vigor to a peace
process that seemed to be going nowhere) .
The Prime Minister has failed on
both counts. His narrow political base
looks starkly exposed. Notably on more
than one occasion he has spectacularly
failed to follow up on his grand promises—his commitment paper on human
rights, for one—which would have given
him a political cover he so badly needs.
He seems to have almost completely
used up his political capital as a closet
liberal. It was always open to question
whether he had any grip over the Army
but recent events even force us to ask,
"Does the Prime Minister control anything?"
On April 16, riot police assaultedjour-
nalists while they were doing what they
had been doing for the past couple of
weeks: covering the street protests. Two
Kantipur reporters—Hari Bahadur
Thapa and KhimGhale—were held overnight in custody that fateful Friday. Seventy others who came out in their support were also detained for a short while.
The next day scores of j ournalists rightly
defied the Home Ministry's prohibition
order on protest rallies.
A number of journalists who were at
the rally, including our own photographer, Sagar Shrestha, tell us that the turn
of events that day was
TtfF- FfiEEDJ'l',     a bit disturbing. On
than one occa
sion   police   came
Ur\ close to clubbing the
protestors. If things
didn't turn nasty, it
was because some senior police officers
knew many of the
journalists personally,
and journalists gave
themselves up to the
police without resistance.
On Wednesday Shrestha was injured
on while covering the protests. We suspect the stone that landed on his head
may have come from plainclothes policemen. Outfitted in the easily identifiable "press jacket," Shrestha has been out
on the streets every single day since the
renewed round of protests began on
April 1. It is highly improbable that the
protestors would have targetted someone who has in the past two weeks exposed police high-handedness through
his camera. There does seem to be a deliberate attempt to intimidate the press
and we join the Federation of Nepalese
Journalists in demanding a public apology from Prime Minister Thapa.
Editor
38
MAY 2, 2004   |  nation weekly
 Himalaya
0
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1
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