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KUNDA DIXIT in DANG



BILASH RAI

Twelve years after the Maoist revolution began in the mountains north of here, people are still waiting to pick up where they left off when the war began.

The constituent assembly election slated for 10 April would bring finality, but no one is sure it will happen. After being let down twice the euphoria that accompanied the ceasefire two years ago has been replaced by disillusionment and resignation.

"If it happens, I guess I'll go and vote," says youth activist Sanam Poudel in the highway town of Lamahi. "But we need the election so we can close this chapter in our history and move on with our lives."

That view is echoed across the towns of Western Nepal. Local politicians, like NC's Krishna Chandra Nepali in Nawalparasi district, realise that the people are blaming them for the delay. "Their heart is not in elections. We have let the people down, now we have to reassure them that polling will take place," Nepali told us.

The public meetings organised by the seven parties across the country that ended on Wednesday in Birganj have been well attended despite bombings and strikes by Madhesi groups. But most of the crowds were party faithful.

In Satbaria, where 52 policemen were slaughtered in a Maoist raid in 2003, the gutted building has been torn down. There are few scars of war remaining. And when Satbaria's most famous son, former NC home minister Khum Bahadur Khadga, visited this week there was only a lone police van accompanying him. Sujata Koirala also passed through recently, but hardly anyone noticed.

There is a wait-and-watch mood here among the people who have seen the quality of their lives deteriorate despite the absence of war since 2006. The local economy is still stagnant, there is no investment and young people are migrating by the tens of thousands. Although there has been some reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, health and education are still in a shambles. For many, the elections are synonymous with peace, without which they know there will be no development.

"We haven't had a peace dividend at all," says Ram Hari Rijal, a teacher in Ghorahi. "If the elections are held, hopefully we will finally see an improvement in our lives."



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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