Nepali Times Asian Paints

Tarai still tense

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
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As three major parties try to push through a new constitution despite the walkout of Madhesi parties, situation continues to worsen in the Tarai.

In Biratnagar, protesters tried to burn five policemen alive on Wednesday. A group of nearly 200 protesters vandalised a security post, poured kerosene on policemen but fled after an additional force intervened by firing in the air.

“Had we not reached there on time, they would have burnt our men alive,” said DSP Pramod Kharel. After the incident, the post where protesters attacked has been evacuated.

In Saptari, a protester was killed in police firing on Tuesday. Police said they had to open fire when protesters attacked them in Bhardaha while escorting vehicles through the blocked highway. The dead has been identified as 60-year-old Ram Kisan Raut, a resident of Portaha VDC-2 of Saptari district.

Raut has been a second protester to die in police firing in Saptari after Madhesi parties launched a street movement last month against demarcation of federal provinces. Earlier, 25-year-old Rajiv Raut had died in police firing in Bharadaha of Saptari on 18 August. After his death, Madhesi parties enforced an indefinite general strike that continues to cripple life across the Tarai for the fourth consecutive week.

After major parties demarcated federal provinces on 8 August, 30 people, including 10 security personnel, have lost their lives in several parts of the country, mostly in the plains.  However, there have not been serious efforts from either side to initiate political dialogues and resolve contentious issues through talks.

In Birganj, where five protesters were killed last week, protesters attacked a truck on Tuesday. Curfew imposed by the local administration after last week’s violent clashes continues in Birganj.

All Madhesi parties, including Bijay Kumar Gachhadar’s MJF (D) and Upendra Yadav’s Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN), have already walked out of the constitution writing process, expressing dissatisfaction with the way federal provinces are being carved out.

The Hindu royalist RPP-N, which has 25 members in the Constituent Assembly (CA), also decided to stay out of the process on Tuesday. The RPP-N has been demanding restoration of a Hindu nation and is miffed at major parties’ decision to include a clause of secularism in the new constitution.

Despite protests by Madhesi and other fringe parties, the NC, the UML and the UCPN (M) have continued with clause-wise deliberations on the new constitution. They are planning to conduct a vote on the constitution next week.


All about Ang Kaji

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
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Two Janajati activists pose with placards that read ‘I am also Ang Kaji, arrest me, too’ in Dharan on Tuesday. Photo: Bijay Limbu

Janajati activists held a protest rally in the eastern town of Dharan on Tuesday, wearing placards on their chests that read ‘I am also Ang Kaji Shrepa, arrest me, too’.

Ang Kaji Sherpa is the former General Secretary of the Janajati pressure group NEFIN and is now a central committee member of the Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSPN).

Sherpa, who has frequently courted controversy with his speeches viewed by many as inflammatory, is now in police custody. The Metropolitan Police Crime Division arrested him on 2 September from Boudha and charged with ‘disturbing social harmony through hate speeches’ under the Electronic Transaction Act-2008.

After five Madhesi protesters were killed in Birganj last week, Sherpa went on Facebook to label Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam a ‘murderer’ and demanded his dismissal. In another Facebook status, he had vowed to take revenge for deaths of Madhesi protesters.

Ever since violent protests erupted in the Tarai, Sherpa had been posting gruesome photos accompanied by what some saw as inflammatory comments on Facebook. Acting on an online complaint registered by Baburam Aryal, President of Internet Society Nepal, Facebook even marked his photos with warnings that they may ‘shock, offend or upset’ people.

But police have not made it clear whether Sherpa was arrested for his comments or photos or both.

Aryal says: “His posts can be termed as hate speech, and he also manipulates facts.”

Sherpa’s arrest has enraged Janajati activists, who were already on the warpath against the way federal provinces are being carved out in Nepal. They have termed his arrest ‘illegal’ and demanded his immediate release.

“So what if he labeled Gautam a murderer? Gautam is not an individual but an institution responsible for deaths of all protesters,” said Kamal Tigela, a Janajati activist. “Gautam misused his power to take personal revenge. If Sherpa is arrested, we should all be arrested.”

Sherpa has apparently offended many Bahuns and Chhetris, and some have posted offensive comments against him, too on Facebook. Janajati activists say police should arrest everyone who offended Sherpa before arresting him. “Someone morphed his photo into another photo of a dead man and wrote that ‘Ang Kaji died’, that Facebook post went viral,” said Tigela. “Should police not arrest those who posted that against him?”

According to Electronic Transactions Act-2008, a person found guilty of disturbing social harmony through social networking sites can be slapped with a fine of up to Rs 1,000 or up to five years in jail or both. It is yet to see how serious charges will be framed against Sherpa.

However, by arresting Sherpa at the cost of irking a large ethnic community, the government has hinted that it will no longer tolerate inflammatory comments being posted on social networking sites. Particularly in the aftermath of the Kailali killings, the government seems to have grown more cautious about hate speeches.

This week, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has instructed all civil servants from abstaining from posting, sharing, commenting or liking any posts that would hurt some community’s sentiments and lead to communal violence.

But there are also fears that the government might use Electronic Transactions Act-2008 to silence its political dissenters or some powerful ministers take personal revenge by using it. Last year, Home Minister Gautam had ordered police to arrest a government official who commented on Facebook that ‘leaders like Gautam should be shot dead’. Raju Sah, administrative officer at Lahan of Siraha, had posted this comment on a photo of Gautam violating traffic rules by crossing a divider in Ratna Park. Sah was later released on bail.

 


Hard to reconstruct

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015
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Govind Raj Pokharel, the newly-appointed CEO of the National Reconstruction Authority spent the last week negotiating with a doctor who was on hunger strike for an entirely different reason – reform Nepal’s health care system.

Pokharel was holding talks with Govinda KC, a doctor who rose to fame after a series of hunger strikes, at a time when he should have been busy drafting post-earthquake reconstruction guidelines and procedures. But the ordinance that was issued two months ago to form the Authority expired. Pokharel is now CEO of an agency that doesn’t legally exist.

As the ruling and opposition parties wrangle over the new bill, Pokharel’s plan to finally start post-earthquake reconstruction work is now in limbo. He is not even sure whether he will remain CEO. Some have argued that the present authority has been dissolved with the ordinance’s expiry and there should be a new CEO when it is set up again.

Law Minister Narhari Acharya blamed the main opposition UCPN (M) for putting a spanner in the works of the new bill and prevented it from being tabled in parliament to legalise the Authority. But the UCPN (M) says it is against the new bill because the government has not held consultations with the opposition parties before tabling it.

Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, the Chief Whip of the UCPN (M), told Nepali Times that the government was not serious enough to undertake timely and effective post-earthquake reconstruction efforts.

“The government had two months to consult the opposition parties, prepare a new bill with every one’s consent and table it in the parliament before the ordinance expired,” he said. “But neither the government nor the ruling parties realised the urgency to replace the ordinance with the new bill. They woke up only after the ordinance expired and now want to push through a bill without our consent.”

The UCPN (M) wants a bill that gives more power to the Authority. “The present reconstruction authority cannot even acquire land and has more ministers than experts,” Pokhrel said. “We do not want an authority that is not capable of rebuilding people’s lives.”

UCPN(M) Vice-chair Baburam Bhattarai was keen to lead the Authority, and many say this is the reason his party is now blocking the Reconstruction Bill. But Pokhrel said: “We are ready to accept the PM’s leadership if a more powerful authority is formed.”

As the fate of the Authority hangs in balance, nearly 2 million people made homeless by the earthquake will have to wait longer to get support for reconstruction. Use of the $4.4 billion pledged by donors at a conference in Kathmandu two months ago is also uncertain.

Also read:

Reconstruction in limbo

Better build back

 


US woman killed in Nepal

Monday, September 7th, 2015
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Dahlia Yehia poses with Nepali women. After she went missing, this photo was posted on facebook by her friends trying to find out her whereabouts.

An American woman who reportedly arrived in Nepal to help the earthquake survivors has been murdered, police said.

Dahlia Yehia, a 25-year-old US citizen, had arrived in Kathmandu on 20 July – nearly three months after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 8,500 people in Nepal. CNN reported that she came to Nepal to help the earthquake survivors.

But Yehia was beaten to death by a Nepali man whom she had met in Pokhara through a website, according to the Kaski police.

DSP Govinda Adhikari told Nepali Times that Narayan Poudel, a local teacher who hosted Yehia in Pokhara, admitted to killing her and throwing her body into the Seti river. But her body has not been found yet.

“Unless the dead body is recovered, we cannot be sure whether what he (Poudel) told us is true,” Adhikari said. “He also told us that he killed her for money, but we are still investigating into this case.”

After Yehia went missing, her family had contacted the US embassy in Kathmandu for help. The embassy had informed the Kaski police about the case on 28 August.

“We knew a lot about the case after arresting Poudel,” DSP Adhikari told Nepali Times. “But retrieving the body has been very difficult. The gorge of the Seti river is too deep and dangerous.”

 


NC office set ablaze

Monday, September 7th, 2015
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Protesters have set the Nepali Congress (NC)’s party office on fire in Janakpur of Dhanusa district on Monday.

Cadre of Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha, a coalition of four Madhesi parties, burned down the NC office. A fire engine was immediately called in, but the fire had already caused damage before it was extinguished.

Police fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse Madhesi protesters. The Madhesi front has imposed an indefinite shutdown in the Tarai for more than three weeks, rejecting the federalism model approved by the top three parties.

Although the NC, the UML and the UCPN (Maoist) have agreed to create a Madhes province stretching between Parsa and Saptari district, the Madhesi front wants the southern parts of Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa as well.

Madhesi parties have also demanded their proportional representations in all state structures and organs – a provision enshrined in the Interim Constitution 2007.

After the MJF (D) Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar dissociated himself from the four-party alliance, no political force representing Nepal’s plains is now involved in the constitution drafting process.

However, the three parties have decided to move forward and push through a constitution by using their combined numerical strength. Although they are apparently not much concerned about holding talks with other Madhesi parties, they are trying to persuade Gachhadar to join the process.

 


Dr KC ends hunger strike

Sunday, September 6th, 2015
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7Dr Govinda KC ended his sixth hunger strike today after reaching an agreement with the government at midnight on Saturday. He ended his fast onto death by drinking juice from the hands of Subhani Upreti and Phurba Dolaphu.

The breakthrough came after the government agreed to all the demands put forth by Dr KC after extensive discussion on the demands between representatives of both sides. Chief Secretary Som Lal Subedi, Vice-Chair of National Planning Commission and Dr KC signed the 11-point deal on Saturday.

As per the deal the government has agreed to implement the report of Mathema-led committee, formation of a Health Profession Education Council by the next Cabinet meeting, gradual decrease in the number of MBBS seats to 135, 115 and 100 in the next three years, set maximum fees to Rs 3.5 million at undergraduate level, form a probe committee to look into the irregularities in affiliations, admissions and appointments, halt the process of establishing a medical university, launch a probe into Devdaha and Birat Medical colleges and bring up the ratio of government and private medical colleges to 1:3 among others.

Dr KC, a senior orthopedic surgeon and professor at TU Teaching Hospital had gone into his sixth fast-onto death after the government failed to implement the Mathema report and work on the previous deals. Dr KC’s movement had garnered much support from various quarters. Although, Dr KC says he is wary the government may not implement the deal even this time, he would continue pressurizing the government until and unless all the demands are finally met.


Seven provinces remain intact

Saturday, September 5th, 2015
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Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal and UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal before entering the meeting room on Saturday. Photo: RSS

Three major parties have decided to address the demands of the indigenous Tharu community only after forming a state-restructuring commission.

After a day-long meeting, the Nepali Congress, the CPN (UML) and the UCPN (Maoist) on Saturday evening decided to keep the seven-province federalism model intact for the time being. However, they agreed to form a commission to address the demands of the Tharu community.

The Tharus have been on the warpath ever since the four parties reached an agreement on 8 August to carve out seven federal provinces. But the Tharus have rejected this federalism model because it has included two districts in the western plains – Kailali and Kanchanpur – in the far-western province.

The Tharus have been imposing an indefinite general strike in the western plains for the last two weeks demanding an autonomous Tharuhat province. They considered the province 6 stretching between Nawalparasi and Bardiya district as their Tharuhat province, and want Kailali and Kanchanur districts to be in this province.

Last week, protesters demanding a Tharuhat province had killed eight policemen including an SSP and one child in Tikapur of Kailali district. Even this week, they killed a police constable.

The four parties have also decided to keep the word ‘secularism’ intact in the new constitution. The Hindu Royalist RPP-N has been on the warpath demanding removal of this word and restoration of a Hindu state.

In a move to appease fringe parties, the four-party alliance has also decided not to keep the provision of threshold in the new constitution. Fringe parties were against the threshold provision fearing failure to enter the future parliaments.

 

 

 


 

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