28 March-3 April 2014 #700

700 weeks

We have had a ringside seat to the country’s ups and downs for the past 14 years

Fourteen years is just a blink of an eye in the history of nations. And it seems like yesterday when the first edition of this newspaper came out on 19 July 2000. In fact, Nepali Times started coming out online before it launched its weekly hardcopy edition, and the digital archive of this paper is a much-sought reference tool for researchers.

Looking back at the 700 front pages since then will give readers an idea of time wasted, hopes of peace and development raised only to be dashed, democracy won and lost and won again. The nation underwent a dramatic transformation: from monarchy to republic, from conflict to ceasefire, yet many things remain the same.

Seven of those 14 years the country was at war, and seven years have passed since the ceasefire went into effect. But the objective conditions that gave the Maoists the reason to opt for armed struggle still remain: the feudalistic exclusion of a large section of the population, discrimination and ostracisation, social inequities and injustice. So what was all the killing for, the people ask. Although remarkable improvements were made in increasing the lifespan of the average Nepali, the quality of life deteriorated as development was pushed back a decade by the war.

Hopelessness and joblessness pushed Nepalis to migrate in increasing numbers in search of work overseas. Today, half the young men between the ages of 20-40 are working abroad, many midhill districts have seen a human haemmorhage with declines of up to one-third of their population. In contrast, the cities and the Tarai are exploding.

Here at the paper, we got a ringside seat to all the major events of our recent history: the spread of the Maoist conflict to large parts of the country, the 2001 royal massacre and its aftermath, king Gyanendra’s military coup in February 2005, the People’s Movement of April 2006 and the ceasefire, the 2008 elections and the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, right up to the 2013 election and the slow motion four months since. And each time the country took a step forward towards consolidation of democracy and ensuring stability, it took two steps back.

We have closely followed the pulse of the people through the Himalmedia annual public opinion polls, which have accurately predicted the outcome of elections and the people’s trust and faith in the democratic system even though they don’t seem to think much of the politicians on offer. The polls have reflected a clear public perception that equates local elections with local development. The surveys have also indicated that the people trust the media more than any other institution of government, legislature, judiciary or civil society. This puts an enormous responsibility on the shoulders of the media to be public service oriented, and to defend the citizen’s right to information.

We at Himalmedia thank the readers and partners of Nepali Times for their trust and support over the past decade-and-half for our effort to ensure independent, in-depth and meaningful journalism.

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