Nepali Times
High noon at Himal


"These are not the idealistic revolutionaries I covered during the war

For the first time in my 13 years in journalism I was beaten up last Sunday. And I was beaten up for saying I was a reporter.

Not even during the war years, when I spent days collecting news with the guerrillas walking up and down the mountains, did I ever feel threatened. On

21 December, they came barging into our office at high noon.I was in my cubicle working on the next issue of Himal Khabarpatrika. The regular Sunday morning meeting was taking place down the corridor between CEO Ashutosh Tiwari and the heads of editorial, marketing, distribution and finance departments.

I saw a gang of 25 people heading purposefully towards the meeting hall. There was a big commotion, a chair came crashing through one of the windows, it had been aimed at Tiwari but it missed him because he had ducked to pick up his broken spectacles.

When I looked into the meeting room, it looked like a battlefield. They had pinned down the terrified staff inside and were beating them mercilessly. "You dare write against the workers?" they shouted. Besides Tiwari, Himal Khabarpatrika's Executive Editor Kiran Nepal, Managing Editor Indra Shrestha, WAVE's Editor Shitu Rajbhandari, marketing managers Sambhu Guragain and Subash Kumar Das and Bindira Shakya and Karma Lama from the finance department were also inside.

Somehow, everyone managed to escape from the room. But more blows waited outside in the corridor. They threatened people not to make any phone calls. The last issue of Himal Khabarpatrika had a report on the rise of anarchy unleashed by militant unions on industries. They were searching for Rameswor Bohara who had written that investigative piece. He managed to flee to the roof and escaped serious injury.

Tiwari was being dragged to his room. Surendra Sharma and Bir Bahadur Tamang of the administration department were injured trying to protect him. Meanwhile others proceeded to vandalise the office.

Right then, I saw a familiar face: Ramesh Babu Pant, the chairman of the Maoist affiliated All-Nepal Hotel and Restaurant Labour Union. His picture and quotes had been featured in a previous issue of Himal. He was obviously leading the attack because he was shouting: "Follow the directives from above, don't damage more than instructed."
Just then Kunda Dixit Nepali Times editor and co-publisher of Himalmedia, came out of his room and three attackers immediately pounced on him. As blows rained on him, he said: "Is this your democracy? Is this the new Nepal you are trying to build?" This was dangerous, and I tried to get Kunda Dai out of there.

I told the attackers, "Please don't use force, let's discuss this." They asked me who I was. Thinking that I would be more safe, I said I was a reporter. But as soon as I said that, they started raining blows on my face. I had collapsed on the floor as blood started spurting out of my lower lip. Kunda Dai tried to rescue me, but they hit him again from behind. It lasted 15 minutes and then they all left.

Another group of 25-30 attackers were guarding the gate on the street outside. The whole offensive looked like a military operation. By the time the police arrived 20 minutes later, they were all gone.

Later that evening, I heard Maoist union leader Salikram Jammarkattel lie in parliament and say that it was his people who had been attacked by us. He repeated that on the BBC Nepali Service later that evening. But the very next day on Avenues TV he said it was indeed his group that attacked us and he threatened to do it again.

At Patan Hospital, they discharged me, but my wounds still hurt. It is clear that these Maoists are different than the revolutionaries I walked with in the mountains five years ago. These are no longer idealistic young men who want to build a New Nepal and treat journalists with respect.

I was never afraid during the war. Now I fear the Maoists, and I fear for my country.

Dambar Krishna Shrestha is Special Correspondent of Himal Khabarpatrika

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)