Nepali Times
Headline
A year of living dangerously



# 23, 4 January 2001
It's not about Hrithik anymore
If we needed a proof of just how volatile Nepal's political scene has become, then this week was it. A rumour that Indian actor Hrithik Roshan had slandered Nepal in a television show on 14 December spread like wildfire, triggering riots and demonstrations all over the country. No matter that Roshan himself denied ever having insulted Nepalis. But the damage had been done. Street unrest took on a momentum of its own . Congress factions emboldened by the crisis smelt blood. A group of five Leftist student unions saw this as an opportunity to boost their agitation. Little-known Rightists spread leaflets demanding the restoration of "nationalist" rulers. In the wings, the Maoists benefited from the escalating atmosphere of anarchy. (Editorial)

#26, 25 January 2001
Kingdom of Amnesia
It was just two weeks ago, but it seems like ages have passed. In this Kingdom of Amnesia, we are good at pushing aside bad memories and not learning lessons. So we are back to where we started. Our leaders in the ruling party are still snarling at each other and the fight is about distributing the power to plunder. No one has any illusions about it anymore: this has never been an ideological battle over the best and quickest path to development and social justice-it is a Darwinian struggle involving the political survival of the least scrupulous. The Nepali Congress Kumbh Mela in Pokhara this weekend promises some pyrotechnics, but nothing major-just another boring bout between Girija Koirala and the mentors of Sher Bahadur Deuba. (Editorial)

#29, 15 Feburary 2001
Talks are a mirage
It has become fashionable to say that the Maoist People's War should be resolved through dialogue. But those who advocate talks should realise that good intentions alone are not enough for talks to take place. The only way it will be possible is if the present general discontent is recognised and comprehensive reforms implemented, political forces realign and there is a show of determined military strength . Driven by burning ambition and buoyed by their minor military victories and discarding an attempt to create a united front of like-minded forces, the only option the Maoists have is the path of armed struggle. (Commentary, Hari Roka)

#30, 22 Feburary 2001
1951,1960,1972,1980,1990,2001
As with geology, political pressure welling up within Nepal tend to be released in a ten-year cycle of social seismicity.In the past ten years the political leadership of all parties have had a chance to rule. But all they have shown is fecklessness, callous immorality, and a fatal deficiency in the art of governance. They have squandered their mandates on petty infighting, self-enrichment and self-centredness, radicalising a seething citizenry and bringing the country to its present sate. Today, 50 years after our first taste of democracy and 10 years after its restoration, the moral of the story is: democracy doesn't come with in indefinite guarantee. It needs to be safeguarded by careful and vigilant application. (Editorial)

#32, 8 March 2001
Prachanda's shining path
A 25 February statement signed by Chairman Prachanda advocates a combination of "armed mass revolt" and the People's War. The decisions were taken at a recent conference which decided on:
l Revolutionary models from elsewhere won't work, hence \'Prachanda Path' with Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
l A conference of all political forces to decide on an interim government to frame a "people's constitution"
l A \'Great Leap Forward' to expand secure base areas, strenghtening people's local governments and forming a people's central government (News item)

#33, 15 March 2001
What the Left can right
The issue is not whether the Maoists will prevail, it is whether questions and social justice can continue to be ignored. The Maoist People's War has fundamentally questioned the credibility of Nepal's mainstream Left. It is doubtful whether a dialogue devoid of an economic and political agenda would really contribute much to the resolution of the Maoist insurrection, and it would be up to the Left political parties to make a singular contribution by negotiating such an agenda, and bringing the nation back from the brink of a civil war in which there would be no winners. (Viewpoint, Pitamber Sharma)


#35, 29 March 2001
In memory of hope
In this all-pervasive gloom, it is getting increasingly difficult to keep the memory of March 1990 alive. But we must remember the Kathmandu Spring. It was a season of hope, an extraordinary time when Nepalis rose up spontaneously to express their determination to build a new future for themselves and their children.It is the death of hope that has immobilised the Nepali intelligentsia today. It must be resurrected if it is to have a future. Where are you, the doctors, engineers, artists and authors of the 1990 Kathmandu Spring? Where are you when the country needs you again? (State of the State, CK Lal)

#37, 12 April 2001
Rukum Kot Massacre
A little Nepal died on Sunday night. Newars, Magars, Chhetris, Bahuns, highlanders and madhesis from different parts of Nepal were among the 31 policemen dead on that remote hilltop outpost in Rukum. Some of the policemen were apparently butchered execution style, after they had surrendered. Nepal's political history does not have a recorded parallel to the death toll this week. Only the infamous Kot Massacre of 1846 saw more deaths on a single night. (Binod Bhattarai)

#38, 19 April 2001
"Nepal Police was not set up to fight terrorism"
"Frankly, the Nepal police is not set up to fight such a conventional war and is not trained for that purpose. Now that the terrorists have started using sophisticated weapons and high power improvised explosive devices, it is increasingly becoming difficult for the police to fight them with obsolete and traditional weapons. However, we will keep on fighting with high spirits in the name of the people till an alternative is available." (Interview with Inspector General of Police, Pradeep SJB Rana)

#38, 19 April 2001
We, the people
What is the best way to solve the Maoist problem?
Talks between Maoists and government (76.38%)
Formation of all-party government (15.71%)
Don't know, can't say (14.26%)
Amendment to constitution (13.16%)
Mobilisation of the army (4.96%)
Mobilisation of armed police (4.09%)
Declaring a state of emergency (2.43%)
Others (15.32%)
(Public opinion poll, Himal Khabarpatrika-ORG Marg)

#40, 3 May 2001
What the Chief Sa'ab said
"While the country is going through unrest and confusion, there have been comments on the role of the army and its duties. The rank and file needs to be clear on the Royal Nepal Army's position on these issues. For there to be peace, security and development in the country, it is important to have political stability established. The Royal Nepal Army is not a party-affiliated mechanism, but a national institution. This is a non-political institution whose proud history is associated with the history of the making of the Nepali nation, its continuity and national unity.thus the army has to be used only in situations that would benefit the entire country. It is very necessary that these areas of interest be identified." (Chief of Army Staff, Gen Prajwala SJB Rana in a convocation speech to army cadets at Tokha)

#42, 17 May 2001
Janjatis want to be counted
Indigenous groups in Nepal are teaching their communities how to correctly fill out questionnaires in the 2001 Nepal Census next month on mother tongue, second language, religion and ethnicity. The result may give us a more realistic (and different) picture of Nepal's true diversity. (Hemlata Rai)

#46, 14 June 2001
Between grief and anger
As if the catastrophic curse that befell Nepal on 1 June was not bad enough, the information blackout that followed it made matters worse. Deprived of accurate information, Nepalis from all strata of society began to construct and believe their own wildest theories about what happened at the royal palace on the gruesome night of 1 June. Numerous royal family and army sources have confirmed to us the original account of the tragic calamity. There are slight discrepancies in the exact sequence of events: where precisely were the members of the royal family during the first and second bursts of automatic weapon fire, where were the wounds on the bodies, where were the ADCs, where exactly was Queen Aishwarya, did Paras leave the room? But on the question of who was involved, what emerges from extensive interviews is confirmation of a family quarrel gone horribly wrong. (Binod Bhattarai)

The kings are dead, long live the king
"This was an unimaginable tragedy in our country's history. Nepal has had to live through a series of sorrows. But we must bear with it and we must behave responsibly. We must prevent people from taking undue advantage of this crisis to threaten our sovereignty, democracy and constitutional monarchy." (King Gyanendra after his crowning at the Nasal Chowk on 4 June)

#47, 21 June 2001
Ke gardeko?
Those were the last words King Birendra spoke as he collapsed in the billiard room on Friday, 1 June. Shock, rather than pain, was writ large on his face. More than the shock of being shot, it was the shock of knowing who had just shot him. "What have you done?" he murmured as he slowly slumped to the floor. Nepalis will also want an answer to that haunting question as they agonise over what happened that night. As individual citizens and as a nation we will have to come to terms with this unspeakable slaughter and move on with our lives in the days ahead. (Editorial)

If truth be told
Two weeks after the ghastly slaughter at the Narayanhiti Palace, the findings of the probe panel have finally brought us closer to the truth. But, like a mirage, the truth keeps receding the closer we get to it, as an intrigue-obsessed public finds reality too hard to swallow. They are swayed by the government media's secretiveness, the private media's proclivity for either self-censorship or politically-inspired sensationalism, and the fixation of our Panchayat-era mandarins with information control. We are trapped by the lies . One day the truth will set us free. (Comment by Kunda Dixit)

#50, 12 July 2001
How many more bodies?
The royal massacre of 1 June has put the Maoist revolution on fast forward. It prompted the party to accelerate its preparations for a mass uprising which would prepare the ground for an interim people's government at the centre. Maoist leaders saw the street protests that followed the massacre and widespread public scepticism about the new king as an opportunity to cash in on the confusion. There are indications now that the party brass miscalculated . There just wasn't the critical mass in the protests. The Maoists have therefore gone back to Plan B which is to foment confusion in urban areas using "banner bombs"-booby trap explosives hanging from banners denouncing the new king and the prime minister. (Sudheer Sharma)

King Gyanendra's burden of living
The throne was thrust upon him, and the only silver lining may be that exemplary leadership is often forged during testing times. Despite the enormity of his own family grief King Gyanendra may not, however, expect much sympathy from for his personal situation or the task he has at hand. He carried the burden of living, where death may be the only proof of innocence. (Opinion by Saubhagya Shah)

#51, 19 July 2001
"The price of the people's war is worth it"
"Though it is anachronistic to attach a \'price tag' to an epoch-making revolutionary process in terms of human casualties, we feel the \'price' paid by the Nepalese masses so far in the six years of the people's war has been rather on the lower side. Such \'prices' in genuine revolutions are paid in millions, and not in thousands. Considering the power and prestige gained by the poor and oppressed masses of the Nepalese countryside during the past six years, the \'price' paid has been definitely worth it." (Interview with Baburam Bhattarai, Maoist politburo member)

The mid-west is red
Does nothing shock us anymore? It was the highest casualty on a single night during this whole mad war: 41 policemen slaughtered, nine attacking Maoists killed and three non-combatants dead. It was the largest number of Nepalis killed by other Nepalis in a 24-hour period in our nation's entire history. How did we react? In Kathmandu our elected leaders were in the narrow corridors of power, bickering endlessly. The guardians of our human rights were busy ringing Tundikhel. The commander-in-chief was on a junket to Britain and saw no particular reason to hurry home. Some argued cautiously that getting the army to fight the insurgency would invite civil war, but many asked: aren't we already in the midst of a civil war? There is no military solution to this insurgency, the only solution is political. The government knows it, and deep down in their heart of hearts, the Maoist leaders must know it too." (Editorial)

#52, July 26 2001
Exit
After vacillating for months and after surviving one crisis after another, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala finally decided to step down 19 July. It took the combined effort of powerful dissidents within his own party, the opposition led by the UML, and the Maoists to bring him down after more than six months of trying. The reason they wanted him out: Koirala was getting just too powerful. To be sure, Koirala failed in all three tasks he gave himself: in March 2000: streamline governance, control corruption and resolve the Maoist insurgency. (News item)

#53, 2 August 2001
No honeymoon for Deuba
This being his second time in Baluwatar, Sher Bahadur Deuba does not need a political honeymoon period. Nor should he expect one. But he could take a pointer or two from the fate of other second-time prime ministers in our region: how they came to grief because they never learnt from the mistakes of their first term in office. There is a glimmer of hope, the temporary truce announced by Deuba and Prachanda appears to be the result of behind-the-scene contacts. The question now is: are both sides sincere about it, or is this a tactic to buy time and regroup? (Editorial)

Women's property rights
The "women's bill" is one step closer to being made into law and people on all sides of the debate want to know how it will be implemented. The 11th amendment to the Muluki Ain bill, being given final shape by the Parliament's Law and Justice Committee, is a major step in the Nepali women's movement. The bill addresses a mix of women's issues, in large part concentrating on property and inheritance laws. (Ramyata Limbu)

#55, 16 August 2001
High and dry
Despite the truce, the Maoists are going for the state's economic jugular. The method is psychological warfare: intimidation, threats and panic. The Maoists' ban on alcohol sales and consumption nationwide from 18 August is a move that will cost the already cash-strapped government Rs10 billion a year in revenue alone. More than 500,000 people directly and indirectly dependent on the brewery and distillery industries will be affected. Some 50,000 retailers and wholesalers across Nepal will be hit. (Binod Bhattarai)

What to do when big brother knocks
How exactly is foreign investment in media detrimental to our "national interests"? The general consensus with which our editorial bosses have opposed FDI is a syndrome of the schizophrenia that characterises our dominant national culture, whereby the evocation of nationalism has been an effective strategy to prevent further debate and scrutiny of the concerned subject. Nepali society is not so weak that some media products supported by foreign investment will break its back. What really is at work behind this bogey of nationalism is the fear that the mediocrity of those who rule the Nepali media world will be further exposed. (Commentary, Pratyoush Onta)

#57, 30 August 2001
Capital fright
Prime Minister Deuba announced a nationwide ban on land registration that will hold until a new law to set a ceiling on land holdings is passed. A chain reaction of panic swept the spooked business community. If it was land now, they reasoned, could cash and assets be far behind? Businessmen reportedly carted out hundreds of millions of rupees through unofficial transfer channels to India and elsewhere for safekeeping. There was a partial run on the banks, and the Rastra Bank governor had to go on national TV to assuage the public. Land redistribution, it seems, will only redistribute poverty. (Binod Bhattarai)

Living goddess
On Saturday, a new Kumari receives a new King and the Hanuman Dhoka sees the enactment of a ritual that is as old as Nepal itself. Preeti Sakya is a precocious looking four-year-old girl who is adjusting to life as Kathmandu's newest living goddess. Taken away from her parents, she still has to get used to living with the staff at the Kumari residence. She succeeded her predecessor on 10 July chosen from among hundreds of little girls according to an age-old criterion that stipulates a perfect and fearless girl to be the virgin goddess. (Salil Subedi)

Samrat Upadhyay
"I am interested in the intimate moments of Nepali peoples' lives, especially of middle-class Kathmandu, as that's the world I know well, the world that lives with me even in my long sojourn abroad. At some level I suppose I am deconstructing some common stereotypes of what Nepali people are supposed to like, especially those in mainstream travel narratives. You know the \'happily spiritual' people with that winning smile even in the face of intense poverty. My characters are spiritual all right, but their spiritual self reveals itself concretely in their everyday struggle with love and desire." (Interviewed by Manjushree Thapa)

#59, 13 September 2001
Wait-and-see
The Maoists and their mentors now have a choice: come above ground, or fight to the finish. The talks have started, the truce is holding, and the Maoists are in deep huddle here in Rolpa this week to plan their future strategy. The party is at crossroads: after six years of insurgency. It is dazzled by the prospect of being a legitimate political force and is preparing to come out in the open. But its leadership cannot just abandon the "peoples' war" that it was fighting and winning. (Sudheer Sharma in Libang)

#64, 18 October 2001
Kathmandu and Kabul
Nepal cannot expect to remain untouched by the monumental reconfiguration of the international architecture post-11 September. We sure can learn a lesson or two for our good. Afghanistan, a multiethnic, multilingual, landlocked and mountainous country may be a good place to begin. With Mohammed Zahir Shah out of the throne and the country for more than three decades playing a prominent role in AFghan national reconcilisation, we should know how to straighten out our national priorities. Nepal could find in an Afghan-style loya jirga a useful way of evolving a national consensus. (Somewhere in Nepal, Puskar Bhusal)

#70, 6 December 2001
Let's get this over with
Let's be perfectly clear about this, the Maoists brought this on themselves. They wilfully took the "peoples' war" to the next phase to bring down this country's constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. While there may have been a few other options, it is clear why the elected government decided to declare a state of national emergency. By breaking the truce and the talks to attack the Royal Nepal Army on 23 November, the Maoists knew exactly what they were getting into. They must have foreseen how the government would respond, they must have known it would plunge the country into civil war. And yet they went ahead and did it. Why? (Comment, Kunda Dixit)

From Salleri
When the Maoists attacked Salleri late on 23 November, they stormed two places simultaneously. At one end of the village, the army fought back fiercely. At the other, government buildings and workers fell victim to the onslaught. Down a grassy slope from the bazar, two young girls were staring into a small ravine. At the bottom, dogs gnawed a camouflage-clad corpse of a Maoist. (Daniel Lak in Salleri

On Saturday, a new Kumari receives a new King and the Hanuman Dhoka sees the enactment of a ritual that is as old as Nepal itself. Preeti Sakya is a precocious looking four-year-old girl who is adjusting to life as Kathmandu's newest living goddess. Taken away from her parents, she still has to get used to living with the staff at the Kumari residence. She succeeded her predecessor on 10 July chosen from among hundreds of little girls according to an age-old criterion that stipulates a perfect and fearless girl to be the virgin goddess. (Salil Subedi)

Samrat Upadhyay
"I am interested in the intimate moments of Nepali peoples' lives, especially of middle-class Kathmandu, as that's the world I know well, the world that lives with me even in my long sojourn abroad. At some level I suppose I am deconstructing some common stereotypes of what Nepali people are supposed to like, especially those in mainstream travel narratives. You know the \'happily spiritual' people with that winning smile even in the face of intense poverty. My characters are spiritual all right, but their spiritual self reveals itself concretely in their everyday struggle with love and desire." (Interviewed by Manjushree Thapa)

#59, 13 September 2001
Wait-and-see
The Maoists and their mentors now have a choice: come above ground, or fight to the finish. The talks have started, the truce is holding, and the Maoists are in deep huddle here in Rolpa this week to plan their future strategy. The party is at crossroads: after six years of insurgency. It is dazzled by the prospect of being a legitimate political force and is preparing to come out in the open. But its leadership cannot just abandon the "peoples' war" that it was fighting and winning. (Sudheer Sharma in Libang)

#64, 18 October 2001
Kathmandu and Kabul
Nepal cannot expect to remain untouched by the monumental reconfiguration of the international architecture post-11 September. We sure can learn a lesson or two for our good. Afghanistan, a multiethnic, multilingual, landlocked and mountainous country may be a good place to begin. With Mohammed Zahir Shah out of the throne and the country for more than three decades playing a prominent role in AFghan national reconcilisation, we should know how to straighten out our national priorities. Nepal could find in an Afghan-style loya jirga a useful way of evolving a national consensus. (Somewhere in Nepal, Puskar Bhusal)

#70, 6 December 2001
Let's get this over with
Let's be perfectly clear about this, the Maoists brought this on themselves. They wilfully took the "peoples' war" to the next phase to bring down this country's constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. While there may have been a few other options, it is clear why the elected government decided to declare a state of national emergency. By breaking the truce and the talks to attack the Royal Nepal Army on 23 November, the Maoists knew exactly what they were getting into. They must have foreseen how the government would respond, they must have known it would plunge the country into civil war. And yet they went ahead and did it. Why? (Comment, Kunda Dixit)

From Salleri
When the Maoists attacked Salleri late on 23 November, they stormed two places simultaneously. At one end of the village, the army fought back fiercely. At the other, government buildings and workers fell victim to the onslaught. Down a grassy slope from the bazar, two young girls were staring into a small ravine. At the bottom, dogs gnawed a camouflage-clad corpse of a Maoist. (Daniel Lak in Salleri)


#73, 27 December 2001
Death in Dang
Shredded flesh and torn papers from schoolbooks hung from trees around the house. Yet even amid this doom-laden devastation a ray of hope shone brightly, a glimpse of the resilience of poor Nepalis without the time or luxury to indulge in angst. Most of the women sifting through the wreckage were looking for one thing-rice grains from this year's harvest. They carefully carried baskets of rubble to a nearby farmyard and tossed it on nanglos, separating the brick dust and bone chips from the precious food. (Daniel Lak in Botulpur, Dang)



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