Nepali Times
'It doesn't make any difference to me if there is a raja in Kathmandu or not'


Although there were celebrations in Kathmandu and low-key processions in some district headquarters across the country, most Nepalis don\'t seem to care much that the country has become a republic.

Rita Maya Baniya is a subsistence farmer who has been forced to work as a day labourer at a construction site for a new prison in Diktel in eastern Nepal. On Thursday morning she looked up from a load of bricks she was carrying on her back and said she didn't know Nepal was a now a republic.

In fact, this was the first time she had heard the word 'republic'. She voted Maoist in the election, and couldn't believe that the leader of her party overthrew the king. "Really, is that so?" she asked.
Laxmi Khatri was also shoveling sand, and paused to ask: "I wonder who will rule the country now?"

At the Champawati Secondary School here in this eastern district, teacher Bhakta Shrestha was happy to hear the news from Kathmandu. He had to move away from his village during the war, and he hopes the Maoists will return his confiscated property.

At the other end of Nepal, Bal Bahadur BK is planting corn seeds in a narrow terrace field. He hasn't heard the news and says it won't make much of a difference to him who rules in Kathmandu. "I don't know about monarchy or republic, all I am worried about is if it will rain, and whether I can feed my family," says BK, who lives off the land with his wife and four small children.

Farmers in the Dang valley were often caught in the crossfire between the army and the insurgents during the war, and there is a sense of relief here that now that the Maoists form the new government, and there won't be a return to conflict. Other than that, villagers don't really have a preference about what kind of government there is in Kathmandu.

"My uncle was killed by the guerrillas during a big battle on the highway to Lamahi," says Biswo Chaudhary, "but we voted for the Maoists because we wanted peace. Now there will be peace, I am convinced about that."

In Nepalganj, there was a victory rally for a republic by professional organisations that went through the main bajar on Thursday morning, but without much fanfare and no overt outpouring of joy.

"I think people are still not quite sure whether we are really a republic yet because the 26 nominated members still haven't voted," said a shopkeeper.

Watching it all was Lalaji Mahut, 42, a rickshaw puller from Hirimaniya near the Indian border. He has worked the streets for the past 18 years and earns Rs 150 a day of which he has to pay Rs 40 to the rickshaw owners.

"I just want to be able to buy two square meals for myself and my family every day," he told Nepali Times, "it doesn't make any difference whether there is a raja in Kathmandu or a republic, I need to find enough work to survive."

Reporting also by Raju Rijal in Dang, and Rameswor Bohara in Banke

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)