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2000-2009



AJAYA JOSHI
The first decade of the new millennium was a dramatic one for Nepal in many ways. The country witnessed the spread of the Maoist revolution, a massacre of royals unparalleled in world history, a king's attempt to reinstate absolute monarchy, and a pro-democracy uprising that took the country from kingdom to republic.

On 1 January 2000 Krishna Prasad Bhattarai was the prime minister and that seems like a long time ago because we've seen 12 governments since.

That's just the politics. The last ten years were particularly good for banks and mobile companies. Remittances skyrocketed. Urbanisation doubled Kathmandu Valley's population.

This is a look back at the most dramatic decade in Nepal's history.


Politics

MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA

Royal massacre: On the night of Friday, 1 June 2001, King Birendra and members of his family were killed in a shootout in Narayanhiti Royal Palace. The entire country grieved the death of 10 royals at the hands of the crown prince Dipendra, who was believed to have turned on his family due to frustration at not being allowed to marry the woman he loved. According to the findings of the government inquiry, Dipendra carried out the massacre single-handedly, then turned a gun on himself. Still, he was made king and died whilst in a coma three days later.

Raging war: The massacre gave impetus to the Maoist revolution. The Maoists attacked the Royal Nepal Army base in Ghorahi in November 2001, dragging the army into a war that till then had been fought by the police. More people were killed in 2001-2002 than in all previous five years of the conflict. Human rights violations were rampant on
both sides.

Royal takeover: On 1 February 2005, King Gyanendra dissolved parliament and took complete control of the government, blacked out the media and even switched off mobile phones. Fundamental rights were suspended and newspapers were censored.

Mainstream Maoism: On 22 November 2005, rebel leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the Seven Party Alliance signed a 12-point agreement brokered by India to counter the king's rule. "It has become the need of today to establish peace by resolving the 10-year-old armed conflict through a forward-looking political outlet," the agreement stated. The Maoists thus entered into an alliance with the main political parties.

Jana Andolan, Madhes Andolan: The seven parties and the Maoists launched peaceful prom-democracy street protests on 6 April 2006. In 19 days, Gyanendra was forced to reinstate parliament and step down. Ten years and over 16,000 lives later, the Maoist insurgency finally drew to a close with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord on 21 November 2006.

"Beginning today, the politics of killing, violence and terror will be replaced by the politics of reconciliation," Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala said.

"This is the victory of the Nepali people and the defeat of regressive elements," Maoist chairman Dahal said, adding, "The people will perform another miracle by working on a war-footing to develop their nation after the elections of the Constituent Assembly."

On 17 January 2007, the Madhesi people launched violent protests demanding an amendment in the constitution. The Tarai region saw a surge in violence that continued for about six months as the government addressed their demands on an installment basis.

KIRAN PANDAY

Elections: The CA elections of 10 April 2008 were 'largely peaceful' although there were reports of intimidation and booth capturing. The Maoists emerged as the biggest party, winning 240 out of 601 seats.

The world's youngest republic: The newly formed Constituent Assembly passed a resolution with near total unanimity to declare Nepal a democratic republic on 28 May 2008. "Nepal shall remain a sovereign, independent and integrated, secular and inclusive country," announced the then Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula. This announcement also scrapped all the legal and traditional privileges of the royal family, who became commoners from that point on. The resolution was passed by 560 of the 564 members present.

Political impasse: After months of haggling over the post of president and prime minister, the Maoists formed a government on 16 August 2008 under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Earlier, NC candidate Ram Baran Yadav had been elected the first president of Nepal on 21 July 2008. The Maoist-led government resigned on 4 May 2009 when their attempt to sack the army chief was foiled by the direct intervention of the president. A coalition government of 22 parties led by UML was formed on 25 May. A six-month Maoist obstruction of the House, mirrored by increasingly intense nation-wide protests for civilian supremacy capped by the declaration of Maoist ethnic autonomous councils across the country, ended just short of Christmas 2009. The constitution remains to be written ahead of the May 2010 deadline.


Society

BHIM GHIMIRE

While political wrangling continued, the Nepali people showed unbelievable resilience to get on with their lives in the face of major hardships.

Kosi floods: Floods in eastern Nepal in 2002 killed 445 people and left some 128,000 families homeless. Nearly half the country's 75 districts were ravaged. Then in 2008, the Kosi broke its banks and carved a channel of destruction through Nepal and India. Over 70,000 people were displaced by the country's worst flooding in 50 years, and five million were rendered homeless in north India.

Far from home: On 31 August 2004, Islamic militants killed 12 Nepali migrant workers in Iraq. Politicians back home used the massacre to stage protests that soon escalated into an anti-Muslim campaign. Organised attacks vandalised migrant recruitment offices and media houses. It emerged later that most of the victims had contracts falsely promising them jobs in a five-star hotel in Jordan, but were diverted to Iraq by an American contractor, Kellogg, Brown and Root.

Karnali highway: After 15 years, the Karnali Highway linking Surkhet with Jumla was inaugurated in July 2006. Within 11 months, 20 people had lost their lives in 40 road accidents. The army opened the pilot track, but lack of maintenance means most of the highway has since become impassable due to landslides.

Jajarkot epidemic: More than 400 people died from a cholera outbreak in Jajarkot in mid-2009. The government said it sent teams of doctors and drugs to Jajarkot but locals claimed they'd seen neither three months later. Human rights bodies tried to shift the blame on food donors, but the long drought and delayed monsoons that contaminated water supplies were more likely culprits.


Business and technology

KIRAN PANDAY

Banking boom: Fuelled by remittance money, the banking sector grew exponentially and Nepal now has more than 40 commercial banks, 60 development banks, nearly 90 finance companies and several hundred cooperatives. There are 160 licensed deposit-taking institutions, and at least 24 financial institutions including five A-class commercial banks are in the pipeline. On 1 January 2010, Nepal will have to allow foreign banks as part of its commitment to the WTO. Local banks may struggle to compete, but consumers will enjoy more choices.

Housing boom: The remittance economy has also fed a housing boom that has resulted in growth in the market for construction material. With more than $1.5 billion entering the country in remittances every year and nowhere to invest but in real estate and housing, the second half of the last decade saw prices skyrocketing. Banks raced to offer loans and now have over Rs114 billion invested in housing and real estate, considered risky assets by Nepal Rastra Bank. It prompted a 25 per cent loan cap on commercial bank exposure. The days of 'unreal estate' may finally be over.

Mobile all over: Nepal Telecommunications Authority auctioned off a private mobile telephone license in 2000, bringing cheaper, and somewhat efficient, phone services to consumers. Nearly six million people in Nepal now own a mobile phone. Mobile phone coverage is available in all 75 districts of the country, as well as the top of Mount Everest. Mobile phones were also crucial in organising dissent during the royal takeover, forcing the king to clamp down on mobile services for four months in 2005.


Digital bridge: In 2007 Mahabir Pun, a teacher and a social entrepreneur, was awarded the Magsaysay Award in recognition of his outstanding work in setting up the Nepal Wireless Networking Project in his impoverished and wholly disconnected village of Nangi. Pun leapfrogged poverty with computers, solar power and wireless connectivity. Nepal's internet user base has grown from 200,000 in 2007 to 499,000 this year, a feat made possible by the decreasing costs of computer and internet services.

SAM KANG LI

Dark decade: Despite our much-touted hydro-potential, our energy crisis has gone from bad to worse to absurd, culminating in 16-hour-a-day power cuts in winter 2008. Nepal's second largest hydropower project, Mid-Marsyangdi, finally became operational in 2008. The wrangling over the gigantic West Seti continued through the decade. The future of our CFL bulbs may rest on community micro-hydro projects. An example: Palpa district alone has 22 community hydropower projects that produce electricity at a tenth of the rates of the national electricity supplier.


Culture

KANAK MANI DIXIT

Tales of conflict: Narayan Wagle made history with his novel Palpasa Cafe in 2005 selling over 16,000 copies that year. The novel won the Madan Puraskar and is said to have changed the reading habits of Nepali people. Kunda Dixit's trilogy A People War was combined with a travelling exhibition seen by 350,000 people across the country. In fact, it has been a pretty good decade for writers, especially those writing in English. Manjushree Thapa's Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy to Democracy put her on Penguin India's hit list, and Samrat Upadhyay came out with three books. Young writers like Sushma Joshi have followed suit and the literary scene promises much.

Old and new music: Folk music is the most popular music in Nepal and cheap recording technology and mushrooming tv stations have granted artists new-found status. Twenty-seven-year-old Anju Pant's folksy ballad "Na birse timilai..na paye timiliai.." was downloaded by a million people. Nepa-laya organised peace concerts across the country during the insurgency, and continues to nurture uniquely Nepali talent through its regular sit-down jam sessions. Jazz and blues festivals became a fixture on the Kathmandu circuit, and proved Nepal is not quite a backwater.

Documentary capital: Kathmandu seems to have an insatiable appetite for documentaries that is only whetted by festivals like Film South Asia and the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival. Filmmakers like Kesang Tsetan, Prem BK and Mohan Mainali made impressive documentaries chronicling tales of the conflict and the Nepali underclass. Tsetan and BK's Frames of War was the biggest documentary blockbuster: it was seen by more than 150,000 across the country. Our commercial film industry, unfortunately, is too busy emulating Hollywood scripts (badly) and lifestyles (with tragic results).

DEEPENDRA BAJRACHARYA

Life's a stage: We might not have Mamma Mia or Billy Elliot, but we do get plenty of A Doll's House. Arun Baral's Pratiwimba and Sunil Pokharel's Aarohan theatre groups are the two pillars propping up theatre life in Nepal. In the last ten years, they have introduced classic foreign theatre to Nepali audiences with junkets like the Ibsen Festival.

Sports: Nepali sports fans haven't had much to cheer about. For the most part, our teams have fared poorly in international competitions. The national football team won a bronze medal in the 1993 South Asian Football Federation Cup, but has made early exits in most competitions since. Our martial artists haven't done much better, winning several medals in regional tournaments, but none in the Olympics. Our national sports authorities haven't helped. The top division of the domestic football league, for instance, was inactive for years because of rifts between the Nepal Sports Council (NSC) and the All Nepal Football Association.

Cricket, however, is a different ball game altogether. The Nepali national youth cricket teams first hit the headlines when they reached the finals of the ACC trophy in 2000, and went on to win the ACC Premier League in 2004 and 2006, and the Plate Championship in the 2006 Youth World Cup. Such success was in large part the result of a concerted state effort to develop the sport, and perhaps NSC's Vision 2020 will change our fortunes.


Media

KIRAN PANDAY

Journalists in the cross-fire: Whether working as district correspondents in Maoist strongholds, or at headquarters in Kathmandu, journalists faced threats and censorship, and 29 lost their lives on the job at the hands of the state and the rebels.Lournalists were arrested right after the royal massacre, Maoists killed journalists like Gyanendra Khadka in retaliations, and the army edited copy in newsrooms during the royal takeover. Press freedom continues to suffer.

Mushrooming media: Despite the challenges, Nepali media has flourished. There are now nine privately owned broadsheet dailies and two broadsheets under state ownership. There are 10 television stations and 22 others have been granted operating licenses. The growth of FM stations has been phenomenal throughout the south Asian region: Nepal now boasts 200 FM stations, mostly community-operated, and 150 more are set to go on air soon.

SEE ALSO:
The decade in pictures



1. KahireDai
Several corrections need to be made in the Sport section: the 93 football team WON the GOLD medal (not the bronze as reported above) at the South Asian Games. Also, the U-19 cricket team (presumably what the author means by 'youth') WON the ACC cup in four consecutive appearances - 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007. Nepal has so few international successes - it is a shame that this author has overlooked several of them.

2. Nepali Times
Thank you Kahire dai for your comment. Nepal did win the under-19 ACC cup in four consecutive appearances, as you mention, in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007. It was a regretful omission and we are very proud of their achievements. ACC has a list of their recent achievement on their website: http://www.asiancricket.org/index.php/members/nepal As much as we wish we had, Nepal did not win the gold medal in 1993 South Asian Football Federation Cup. India won the gold, Sri Lanka won silver and Nepal won bronze.

3. Budabaaje
Another correction in the political section seems in order. Gyanendra did not dissolve parliament in Feb 1, 2005. The parliament had already been dissolved in May 2002 as per the prerogative of then PM Sher Bdr Deuba. The country ran without a parliament from May 2002 to the king's takeover in Feb 2005.

4. gaule hero
If Nepali Times survives the test of time (I really hope so) and writes a similar review in 2019, the following might be the highlights of the decade (2010-19), (a) Political: After years of political upheaval, a strongman arrives on the scene to restore much needed law and order (much like Bhim Sen Thapa in 1806, JBR in 1846, MMBS in 1961 and Gynendra in 2005). He is able do so by uniting the powerful but disparate conservative political/military/religious/landholding/business classes fearful of Maoist dictatorship, and by keeping all important foreign interests (India & US) happy with his anti-Communist rhetoric, (b) Society: Nepalese continue to pour out of the country in search of better future; (c) Economics: Remittance as percent of GDP is the largest in the world; Huge capital inflow but lack of investment opportunities pushes real estate prices to new heights

5. gaule hero
...continue from previous post

6. jange
gaule hero, I see this scenario- a) political- after much histrionics and with Mr. P going on a daily 4 hour (8 hours as relay with BB) hunger strike for a year, a constitution not much different to the previous one was implemented. No one is much interested in politics as it has taken second place to industry, commerce and money making generally. The Maoist revolution is regarded as a phase of temporary insanity and people can't really understand why the Maoist murder loot and extortion was considered revolutionary and a force for social change. Former Maoists shy away from divulging their Maoist past and vehemently deny it when found out. Large numbers have gone to Burundi to open up Manpower companies and provide "security" services. All blame is heaped on Prachanda and/orBaburam for the fiasco. Both have gone to the University of Plagiaristan to do a Phd on where they are wrong/went wrong. b)Society- Big competition by industrialists to establish manufacturing and service industries to service the rapid rise in industrialisation of Tibet, Bihar and UP. Nepalis own the biggest gold mine in Tibet which the Tibet government threatens to nationalise. c) Wage rates soaring; caused by the high demand for labour. Nepal has a labour agreement with Burundi to import labour to meet its labour needs. d) Culture/Arts- Jumla has become the cultural and artistic and literary powerhouse of South Asia. Dixit brothers move to Jumla, leave NT behind.Alternative scenario- Dixit brothers own 80 % of the media in South Asia and so have moved to Burundi to show them how to do do "real" development and also because this place has become too small for them.

7. Arthur
Another possibility goes like this... the anti-Maoist parties continue to put all their energy into denouncing the Maoists, threatening to unleash the Army and grabbing what they can while they can, while the Maoists continue to organize the people. In 2010 all sides accept that they don't want another civil war and there is no alternative but fresh elections. The Maoists win a bigger majority but the other parties still exist (thanks to Maoists supporting proportional instead of First Past the Post elections). The other parties continue shouting about "totalitarianism" for a while and continue to resist integrating the two armies, but the Nepal Army doesn't want another civil war either so they eventually settle down and look for business opportunities in the New Nepal. jange joins the House of Dixit in a publishing venture aimed at creating a viable opposition to the Maoists to replace the old dying parties and prevent the Maoists winning a two-thirds majority at the following elections.

8. Anuj
A possibiity that is not impossible. .. 31st Dec 1919: all the Janajatis, Dalits and all other disadvantaged alike united as ONE under the charimatic leadership of Mr. Tamu or Mr. Rai or Mr. Thakali or Mr. Magar or Mr Choudhary or Mr. Limbu or Mr. Choudhary or Mr. Biswakarma or Mr. Tamang . Maoist will be sidelined from mainstream political equation becasue they fail to keep up the promise given to people as their political strength was founded on the strong support of Janjatis, Dalits and Madhesis. Congress and UML will be still considered "Indian puppets" so they are taken as serious threat to national sovereignty. There will be a tripartite meeting bewtween China, Nepal and India on builidng railway in terai (east to west) and national highway across hill and mountain region. This will be expected to boost national and local economy. Economists alike will considers this as a lifeline to ailing economy of Nepal.

9. Rodya,Pune
Kudos to all the fecund minds of NT commentators . Let me add my own music that isn't impossible on 31st Dec 2019 here : Nepalese youngsters who had flown to foreign shores have now begun to return to their homeland. Government is directly recruiting IVY-league Ph.D.s as undersecretary at various ministries. Huge money has been invested in education sector and Nepal surprisingly leads in education , at least , in South-Asia. Education in public institutions is much sought after than that in private shops. Dixits' business Rato Bangla is finding itself obsolete thanks to the few idealists and dreamers who worked day in and out at the Education Ministry to establish an education system in which opportunities to a child are not exclusively due to his/her parents' wealth . Compared to meagre few lakhs of nepali currecy as their starting salary a decade ago , Nepali engineering graduates are recruited directly from their campuses by companies working as far as Singapore or Japan with offers of globally competitive salary . But again few idealist opt to join the Research Wing of Science and Technology Ministry . Research in basic sciences has flourished to such a height even Indians and Chinese are lagging far behind in the number of quality research articles that appear in the world-class journals.and so on .... please do not let the dreams die ....

10. Sargam
It is like living in time warp. Ten years it's nonetheless quite a long span of it. And during all this precious time what our compatriots Nepalese were they involved in? They were involved in killing, looting in the name of a warped account called as revolt imported by some of those zealots of 'permanent revolution' vented erstwhile by Lev. Davidovitch Trotsky who finished assassinated by a Mexican who hammered the ice pick into his skull. Many countries were fashioned through revolutions, but amongst them France and Russia, each regrets today the unwanted past carnage and the destruction of many historical sites and precious objects of the by gone past which belonged in each one's common patrimony. France elects the president of the Republic who governs as a Monarch, lives in a palace with the entourage like that of a Monarch with guards of honor on the horses' back all clad with and donned as if they were still in a monarchy. Whereas Russia is trying her level best to render the élan and magnificence of erstwhile to the palace of Saint Petersburg by spending a hunk of dough in hiring the foreign experts from France, Italy and the Great Britain to restore the Tzarist glory and tinsel because the citizens are avid of their common glorious past. If we ponder over the case of Nepal, the inhabitants until now so modest, gleeful and peace loving, amongst them Siddhartha Gautama Buddha illustrated himself by becoming the only holy person who tried to give life a sense in redeeming his own actions of whom even after 2600 years later the disciples are increasing day by day in this materialistic world as a moral beacon. Inasmuch,Tensing Norkay, a modest Sherpa who accompanied Edmund Hillary on to the top of the Everest for the first time on May 29, 1953 and a cluster of Gurkhas illustrated themselves by fighting against the oppressive enemies with dignity and bravery, these same Nepalese became at once avid and vindictive toward those who possess, in search of the realization of immediate profits as much as they could amass by applying illegal ways and means. Which is why It's said that jealousy is the twin of success as such the Nepalese commoners who became some what sophomoric without proper apprenticeship of life thanks to lack of proper orientation are required to be quick on the uptake so that all those who left the country out of any old how must come back to construct a new Nepal of their proper choice. Those innocent lot duly indoctrinated by the Maoists have lost the notion of what is good and what is bad, so why their violent and unlawful methods would be quelled severely by law one day when the populace will regain her composure as it is upright happening in Cambodia where the former Khmer rouge tyrants such as Duch, 67, still alive are being judged by the international court whose condemnation to death penalty is imminent. I am hopeful that when the serenity and the notion of togetherness of belonging in a beautiful country called Nepal is restored completely, Nepal will reintegrate the civilized world where she belongs.

11. Sargam
The former president of the United States the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy on January 20, 1961 in his inaugural address spoke of the necessity for every US citizen to be participating in country's life by saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Also he further asked the nations of the world to join together to fight what he called the "common enemies of mankind: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself." Today also the aforesaid quotation is truly applicable to all Nepalese who love their motherland. The pointing of fingers in the blame game doesn't help us regaining trust and confidence necessary for the rehash of reconciliation. In our foreign diplomatic policy we need badly both of the neighbors to build the country. Hence we ought to be firm but amicable to both India and China. Every 1st day of the new year (at 12 am. precisely of the EU time) the Orchestra Philharmonic of Vienna throws a sumptuous 'Danube Blue Waltz' which broadcasts all over the world. And to have the glimpses of it I invite you folks to log on to the following URL (To be sure first push down the button Ctrl + click on the following): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4rUaITuXSg&feature=related Those who like Hindi songs you have a choice here below. If it doesn't work just write on website www.youtube.com ; Agar dil kahe ke (it's mostly for the gorgeous shooting places like Geneva, Paris, Rome and London); http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=BQxMZ6jqNcA On January 02, 2010 Nepalese expats of Los Angeles (USA) are going to celebrate Gurung Lhochar i.e. the New year's celebration of 'Maghe Sakranti'. For more information log on to the following URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=S2b-UnyAuv On this auspicious occasion of New year 2010; May you all get untold happiness, With every passing day; For you all I wish, The very best of everyday.

12. Arthur
Sargam dreams that Nepal's "commoners" will be "quelled severely" and emigre courtiers will somehow restore the glories of old Nepal as the rightful possession of people like himself: "If we ponder over the case of Nepal, the inhabitants until now so modest, gleeful and peace loving, ... these same Nepalese became at once avid and vindictive toward those who possess,... the Nepalese commoners who became some what sophomoric without proper apprenticeship of life thanks to lack of proper orientation are required to be quick on the uptake so that all those who left the country out of any old how must come back to construct a new Nepal of their proper choice. Those innocent lot duly indoctrinated by the Maoists have lost the notion of what is good and what is bad, so why their violent and unlawful methods would be quelled severely by law one day when the populace will regain her composure ... I am hopeful that when the serenity and the notion of togetherness of belonging in a beautiful country called Nepal is restored completely, Nepal will reintegrate the civilized world where she belongs." Sargam is indeed living in a timewarp. Surrounding this stuff with appeals to foreigners in english reflects how unreal his hopes are. The "civilized world" he speaks of consists of countries that suppressed their own "mandale" long ago. Foreigners aren't buying it either!

13. jange
"9. Rodya,Pune Kudos to all the fecund minds of NT commentators . Let me add my own music that isn't impossible on 31st Dec 2019 here : Nepalese youngsters who had flown to foreign shores have now begun to return to their homeland. Government is directly recruiting IVY-league Ph.D.s as undersecretary at various ministries. ..........". Please spare us the IVY -league PhDs. Please.Please.

14. Rodya,Pune
@13, Junge : what's wrong with that , after all ?

15. Devendra Pant
Nepal witnessed unprecedented epoch-making historical events over the last decade. The decade started with an infamous royal massacre of June 2001 and ended with the overthrow of 240 years old institution of monarchy. A "New" Republic of Nepal is born in the world map; the long-cherished dream of an election to the Constitutional Assembly has been finally realized; Nepali people are now eagerly waiting for the true People's Constitution. For the first time in history an ordinary Nepali citizen can head the Nepali State. Aren't these achievements monumental? They have certainly set stage to widen political horizon and create opportunities for democratic participation by the wider mass. However, there are also unparalleled challenges ahead. First and foremost, the mind-set of the political leadership (for that matter also that of the professionals and intellectuals!) has yet to change; the feudal culture is still tenaciously lingering all around; there is an ever increased external interference in the domestic politics of Nepali state. Nepal is yet to choose intrinsically what sort of economic model she is going to adopt in future. How state restructuring in terms of federalism is going to impact the overall strategic development, power dispensation and religious, ethnic, local harmony among people of different regions of Nepal, has yet to be seen. Are we ready to respond to these and other challenges? History has demonstrated that people are the greatest forces of change. The challenge ahead is whether leadership and intellectuals in Nepal could demonstrate creative craftsmanship to take Nepali society towards modernity yet balance the inner souls of our land, people, and history. Grafting from abroad is much easier, building inner capacity with real transformation from within is much harder.

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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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