Nepali Times

As a retrospective, Nepali Times brings a selection of opinion columns from the past 600 weekly editions of the paper since May 2000 during which the country went from constitutional to absolute monarchy, suffered a war and a royal-military coup, saw a ceasefire, an interim government, the election of Maoists to power and the peace process.

The Kathmandu spring

This State of the State column by CK Lal was censored from the 11-17 February 2005 edition of Nepali Times #234 after the Feburary First coup by king Gyanendra. It is finally printed below for the first time.

Now that political stability is set to return, many journalists fear that they could be redundant. No shenanigans of party-chiefs to report, no significant political affair to analyse, no perceptible trend to spot, no movement on the horizon to predict, and no ideological drift to pontificate about, no more parachutists to brief, nothing but official communiquťs and florid ministerial speeches to transcribe.

Since peace has begun to reign inside the Ring Road, life is so normal that even a man biting a dog doesn't make news anymore. The consternation of reporters and editors is understandable.

Due to rationed news and censured views in the public domain, it's no longer necessary for us to whack our brains with the lessons of the past, put them in perspective with experiences of the present and then risk being proved wrong by trying to predict the future. It's much safer to navel-gaze and shoot off another column befitting the ground reality.

Outside the valley, newspapers have been asked to keep mum for a while so that their freedom can be protected. And some human rights activists and journalists have been taken into preventive custody to protect their life and liberty.

In the capital, journalists are enjoying unprecedented levels of freedom of expression. Cartoonists have the liberty to lampoon any party leader of their choice. There is no restriction on lambasting the misdeeds of Girija Prasad Koirala, ridiculing the stupidity of Sher Bahadur Deuba or satirising the insatiable greed of Madhab Kumar Nepal. The less said about the excesses of their acolytes in the press the better. Many opinion-writers, like this scribe here, have already started exercising these unfettered freedoms.

Freedom of civil society to welcome royal proclamations knows no bounds. People are free to stage flag-waving motorcycle rallies in defiance of a ban on demos, take out peace marches and shout slogans against corrupt leaders. Surely, no peace-loving citizen in an insurgency-torn kingdom could ask for anything more.

Businessmen, wilful defaulters, wheeler dealers and movers and shakers have discovered that they have full freedom to place colourful ads in daily newspapers welcoming February First. This has a multiplier effect: it infuses cash into hardup media houses that haven't paid salaries to staff for months. The guardians of the national interest are now free to scoff at the international community who have been mindlessly voicing concerns for peace, democracy, and human rights in clear violation of our sovereign right to do whatever we want.

Plato said the human soul is a chariot pulled by the two horses of reason and emotion. Reason demands that we learn to live in the present. Emotion dictates that we take the help of music to endure the unendurable. Perhaps that's the reason local FM stations have been told: "No news, no views, no analyses, no discussions, only music." Thank god for these small mercies.


Page 2-3 of the Nepali Times #234 of 11-18 Feburary 2005 after the military imposed direct censorship on the media. Soldiers entered the newsroom and would expunge content deemed objectionable before the paper went to press. A cartoon that was taken out from the op-ed showed a tear drop below the rainbow eyes of the Buddha. CK Lal's State of the State column was censored in its entirety, and the editors replaced it with the picture of a ten-day old baby who was born at the exact moment of king Gyanendra's coup on 1 February 2001. Even a letter to the editor was taken out.

All the news that is fit to print

In his Under My Hat column, Kunda Dixit satirised the clampdown on the press and the column itself was censored in the #234 edition of Nepali Times of 11-17 February 2005.

Statutory Notice: An official fact-finding Committee has pre-tested this column on lab animals and certified that it contains permitted synthetic dyes and preservatives and has declared it fit for human consumption provided the childproof seal is not broken at the time of purchase. However, one can't be too careful during these perilous times so readers are advised to exercise individual caution on a case-by-case basis. Management is not responsible for the consequences, especially if perpetrators are apprehended perusing this in broad daylight, charged with indecent exposure, and sentenced to 36 lashes with a wet rattan cane on each hind cheek.

Now that we have those legal niceties out of the way, we can get down to what you have all been impatiently waiting for with barely-concealed boredom, which is a roundup of this week's main events.

Leaders Irked by Continued Freedom
Political leaders and activists who have not been taken into custody have complained that they are still free to roam around the streets.

"It's been a week and they have still not put me under preventive detention," complained a Nepali Congress leader on condition of anonymity, "This is discrimination, what do I have to do, burn some more tyres?"

A multi-partisan group calling itself the All-Nepal Federation of Unjustly Undetained Politicians threatened to launch a decisive nationwide stir if their demand to be arrested without further ado is not implemented with immediate effect by the concerned higher-up authority.

The statement said: "If they don't put us under house arrest, then we'll go into cardiac arrest."


The office of Himalmedia was attacked and vandalised by Maoists on 23 December 2008 in retaliation against a cover story in Himal Khabarpatrika, the sister publication of Nepali Times, about the Maoist militant union extorting and attacking businesses. Among those who visited the Himalmedia office in Hattiban to express solidarity was UNMIN chief, Ian Martin (left).



Artha Beed's Economic Sense column from Nepali times #90 of 19-25 April 2002 about the epidemic of bandas.

In Nepal as in other South Asian countries, all parties that have come to power, or even remained in opposition, have used bandhs effectively and institutionalised it with the necessary ingredients of violence, coercion and fear. This is why even a banda called by an otherwise obscure association or group of people is scary and so vehicles remain off the roads, shutters are down and all institutions are closed.

Many keen observers of our glorious way of life insist that bandhs are so successful in Nepal because they fit in perfectly with a core characteristic of the Nepali psyche-evading work. Although methinks this is an overly cynical, possibly even defeatist position to take, it is true that bandhs are often openly discussed in terms of being a windfall break, especially for people in government, when one signs the attendance register, to be sure, but follows that by simply sitting back for a fun-filled day with exciting card games, endless cups of tea, naps and a few discreet moments of personal grooming. On a bandh, even government civil servants, what an ironic description, at the highest level make no attempt to either work themselves or make sure that others do too.

Underbelly of the beast

Kanak Mani Dixit writing from detention in Duwakot after the royal regime arrested him and other human rights activists in edition #294 of Nepali Times 14-20 April 2006.

DUWAKOT-Taken in by Kathmandu's royal regime with two dozen other protesters last week for willfully (and with prior announcement) breaking the curfew order, this writer had an opportunity to see how a 'militarising' autocratic state machinery can ride rough-shod over some of the weakest members of society. It was an opportunity to take a look at the underbelly of the monster that the government can be. What we have seen during our incarceration is something that the privileged with contacts in high places or money to buy oneself safe passage rarely care to see or understand.

Four kids were resting inside a bus at a bus stop where they work as cleaners when they were dragged out: Dhruba Timilsina, 17, of Hetuada, Buddha Lama, 16, of Sindhupalchok, Ramesh Thapa Magar,17 and Ram Lama, 20, of Chapagaon. They have all been moved elsewhere. Individuals who are in the lowest class bracket in detention get the toilet that is furthest and the rice that is the worst. It will be important for the ICRC to determine their fate and whereabouts.

Duty in distress

Column by Hari Roka in the aftermath of the royal massacre in the 6 June 2001 edition of Nepali Times #46.

It may be too hasty to hope that the Peoples' War being waged by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) against the whole system for over half a decade would provide a new path for the nation. The insurgency has helped push the nation further into confusion and disarray. It is not possible to expect this power to steer the nation away from the current crisis, since it is difficult to gauge how organised the movement is.

Trapped between the structurally underdeveloped political groups and the political confusion and anarchy they themselves have created, the biggest tragedy in the history of the country occurred in the royal palace on the night of 1 June, 2001. This incident and the events that followed it have destabilised the palace, which was perceived to be a solid and monolithic structure for more than 250 years. This last week has pushed the nation into an unprecedented dilemma and crisis. The Nepali nation is bewildered and alarmed.

At this moment of unstability and lawlessness, many may be tempted to fish in muddy waters. But doing so would only invite more grief to the people and the country. Events in the world and in neighbouring countries have already demonstrated that during times of such uncertainty, reactionary forces from inside as well as outside will try to push nations towards the precipice.

The insurgency's human face

Barbara Adams wrote these lines in her Barbara's Beat column in the 11-17 May 2001 #44 edition of the Nepali Times, just before the royal massacre.

The new Plan to defeat the Maoists is supposed to win the "hearts and minds" of Nepalis, but this slogan which might have made sense three-and-a-half years ago when it was rejected by Girija Koirala, is a joke today.

The Maoists have already won the hearts and minds of much of Nepal including many intellectuals in Kathmandu. If the prime minister thinks the way to win over the villagers is to send more and more force to shoot through the hearts and blow out the minds of Maoists or their sympathisers, they today understand even less than they did three years ago when they launched Kilo Sierra II. One only needs to look at the same discredited faces who still surround and advise the prime minister, and who have presumably concocted another exercise in killing, to realise why this plan is doomed to failure.

It is now becoming more and more apparent that the process of creating a peaceful and socially just Nepal can only begin with a departure from the political scene of Koirala and his self-serving entourage.

One year itch

The late Saubhagya Shah wrote a regular Guest Column, and this one is an excerpt from the #41 edition of Nepali Times 23-29 March 2007.

There must be something in our national psyche that makes the Nepali mood swing so swiftly between irrational exuberance and incorrigible pessimism. Much has happened politically in the past year that has generated immense enthusiasm for the future. The whole state machinery, the political parties, civil society, and regional and ethnic forums had begun to focus their energies on the task of holding the elections to the constituent assembly. For a moment it seemed as if we could all live together happily ever after.

Alas, except for just the small matter of the South that had been forgotten during the celebrations. The sudden violence that engulfed the eastern Tarai left April's triumphant paradigm in tatters. There was the sight of mighty leaders and their auxiliary intelligentsia first dismissing the Madhesi uprising as the handiwork of a few miscreants, then threatening the use of force to put out fires supposedly ignited by fundamentalists and reactionaries, and finally making a 180-degree turn to embrace the same revolt as their own - all within a week.

Murkier and murkier

Prashant Jha's Plain Speaking column dealt often with the fate of the Madhes Movement ahead of the 2008 elections. This one is from edition #392 of Nepali Times 21-27 march, 2008.

The main enemies of the Madhesi people are the present Madhesi leaders themselves. It is now increasingly apparent that the second Madhesi movement of January-February happened only to generate a support base and ensure political survival for the three parties. Their demands (undefined autonomy, self determination) did little to help ordinary Madhesis. The promise of inclusion had already been made earlier, and was only reiterated. All the three-week agitation did was channelise Madhesi discontent, and generate a wave. But in less than a week, the Madhesi parties blew it all away.


Manjushree Thapa in this column from #149 of Nepali Times 13-20 June 2003 pokes fun at the return of the days of the Thapas.

Till last week, the Thapas merely headed only the Royal Nepal Army (Pyar Jung Thapa), the Nepal Police (Shyam Bhakta Thapa) and the Armed Police Force (Sahabir Thapa, who is of Magar origin unlike the others, all Chettri Thapas).

Now Surya Bahadur Thapa has become the prime minister for the fifth time in his life-not counting his chairmanship of King Mahendra's advisory council in 1958. The last time there were so many Thapas in government, the Panchayat regime collapsed under their weight.

What do non-Thapas make of this? Mostly they are too tactful to say anything, not wanting to engender caste disharmony, though the republicanists among them do secretly wonder if the weight of Thapas will now lead to another regime change. The Bahuns, who are sick of being blamed for everything that has gone wrong in the past 12 years, breathe easier now that they can point out the Chettris, who did after all govern Nepal for the entire period preceding 1990.

The Thapas themselves are quietly exhilarated, discussing at family gatherings the infinite kinship lines that ultimately-by marriage, over generations, many times removed-connect them all to each other. In the end a Thapa is a Thapa unless he is a Magar Thapa, in which case he should consider changing his name or at least tacking on a nom de guerre.

So: The Nepali state has dismally failed to be inclusive. What, other than this, is there to say? The Chettri Thapas are back in control of the court. Break out the Khukuri Rum.

1. Rajani Thapa
Nepalis are poor in wealth and education. The ruling class has used this conditions to abuse the people as well as the Nation. India has been also abusing Nepal since the 1950s era. But, now the case is different. Many Nepalis are well educated as well as wealthy. However, the mindset of a male dominated society and the bullying of the weaker class continues like crazy. Nepalis can follow the example of Singapoore when it come to rule of law as well as economic devlopment. The Maoist leaders want to rule like the Shahs of Nepal. This is a nightmare. Whatever !  We must empower women, we must empower the people if we want a healthy and prosperous Nepal going forward in the 21st Century. We need a group of fearless and young leaders to do this job. The senile and lazy and corrupt party leaders need to hit the door, only then can we have a hope for the future of our children.        

2. Nirmal
I just ask the entire society for a sincere reflexion and a self-criticism on whether it was the previous model --the parliamentary system-- an obstacle to progress of nepali people or it was the people with a miserable management capacity from the perspective of Democracy --the leaders of old and new Nepal--.  Let's do this altogether before it is too late.

Since the establishment of parliamentary democracy in 1990, mainly 3 evil forces --the hardcore royalists, the maoists and the corrupt and immoral leaders from all the parties-- did everything they could to tarnish the image of the system. The parliamentary system was a major success in Nepal since its inception because the economic, politic and social development of Nepal --although not in great scale-- would not have been realized without it (I understand that we're in front of Baburam's lollypop of big leap --double digit growth-- although our infraestructure would not allow us).

 Well, I'm not trying to convince the maoists who never act in good faith in support of parliamentary system no matter it doesn't get tired of claiming itself of being on the left spectrum of Nepal but I'm fingering out the right which always presumed of being the real democrats of Nepal --the NC, the UML and Madhesi netas--. How come they, after enjoying almost all the priviledges of parliamentary system, having even the most notorious and inefficient leaders in its rank and file now come to think (read it as compromise)on parliamentary democracy!! Jun thaalma khaayo tesaima chhadne, what an attitude! That they are talking about mixed or presidential system just makes me sick. That they finally came to believe that the parliamentary system was the main source of political instability makes me laugh. It is true that since King Gyanendra attempted against the parliamentary system with his coup, this right along with the most voracious and violent Maoists has placed the system in the eye of the cyclone and with the pretext of  12 points peace pact they are leading, altogether, a campaign to dismantle it completely . But this right has never spoken and behaved so clearly as the President of the NC and the product of political dynasty, Sushil Koirala is doing these days. All in name of flexibility required for consensus, unity and pact. The mantra that GPK taught to his near and dear ones which just seems purely a hackneyed subject in this context. The first thing one can notice is how he gets the idea that by establishing mixed or presidential system, we'll have political stability in the country to move the country to progress in order to improve the lives of marginalised ones. Which kind of stability, the one that the Panchayati system had --33 years of stability!!-- or the one the Rana regime could impose --107 years of stability--? Just tell us honourable president of the NC, which kind of stability you'd like to see in Nepal? Does the mere fact of you people as leaders of so called mainstream politics being corrupt, immoral and ineffective could disregard the whole parliamentary system? I'd not blame the nepali parliamentary system for all the ills that occured after 1990 but rather individuals who jumped to politics to stick to the powerful posts by any licit and illicit means. Instead of setting out the problems in order to dignify the parliamentary system the so called democratic right is hell bent on demonising it to have the benefits in the short term. All that for the single photo of the year which we'll see in the newspapers as a proof of their consensus.

3. Soni
Do you not realise just how ridiculous all these people now sound? How empty and hollow!

I don't think you do

4. nepali hypocrite

ÔŅĹbob dylan sang - dignity's never been photographed. well, it certainly can be poured on paper.

5. suman
Dear editor:   "A minister who tries to control corruption in the labour export industry is hounded from all sides."  Are you talking about recently fired Sarita Giri or the newly appointed Mathabir Singh Thapa?  Instead of just making a passing reference, can you do a investigative story on  this?  Thanks

6. Gita Gurung
The young generation needs to rise and revolt. No one should trust Koirala or Dahal or Madhav or whoever. They are all puppets of India. They will sell their soul to the devil for a  few gold coins in the way Judas betrayed Christ. Nepal's future looks very dark and bleak with the current criminal elements who are in power. We must get rid of them to save Nepal.  We are in big trouble. Every one needs to wake up and smell the roses. 

7. Krishna S.

Enough of this blaming everything on India. Take an example of Sikkim, our neighbours just east of Kanchendjonga, very similar topography, mirror reflection of the make up of demography, but with a tiny difference . They were "brutally" annexed into India in 74.

Here are some facts about that unfortunate little EX-Himalayan Kingdom now: GDP Nominal: 1200$, HDI: .684, Literacy: >82%, Electrified Household: >92%. Somebody please find these data on our side of the mountain and let's tally!

8. who cares
7. Krishna S,

fee of prostitute 5k/hr

9. who cares

wages of others: 5500/month

10. Trilochan Rana
Its exactly people like Krishna S., who love to kiss the Indian butt, that Nepal is behind 50 years in current day modernisation and progress. I want Nepali leaders that can eyeball with India, not bow down to the Indians in New Delhi.  Its sad that from the days of Surya Bahadur Thapa to the current Baburam Bhattarai,  and all others in between have always taken their orders from the Indians. This equation has to change for Nepal to advance. Nepalis are to blame for this lop sided relation. To date, we have only cowards and traitors for our leaders, we need a real Nepali to stand up and take charge. Its Indian policy to keep Nepal in  turmoil and bribe the Nepali leaders so that it can keep maintaning an upper hand. Enough is enough.     

11. Padma Ghimire
The fact is -   NC and UML leaders are miserable failures since 1990. The Maoist duo BRB and PKD are now acting like the rulers from the Shah Dynasty. Ex King Gyanendra is making a come back and why not. History repeats itself.  Yes, India is heavily involved in all this. Also, the Indian policy in Nepal is failing as well. So, nothing but total failures. A new generation of Nepalis, are begining to question the dominance of Nepali political Mafia as well as the unbalanced and one sided India policy towards Nepal. Its the right time to do this. As a jounalist, Kunda Dixit has the power to bring this injustice of Nepali people by criminal politicians of Nepal as well as outdated Indian policy makers in Delhi.  I think we are all in for a radical change and a wild, wild ride. So every one, brace yourselves.         

12. Naren Chhetri
There we go again, another bout of insane India bashing when the subject is about something else. The Indians are not saints (they are in fact exploitative, argumentative, loud-mouthed bullies) but by showing this knee-jerk xenophobia, we Nepalis expose our own deep-seated neurosis about ourselves. India's rulers (since the days of the British) just exploited this lack of unity, insecurity and moronic mediocrity to serve their own national interest. Who wouldn't?   

13. nepali cheli
it just shows how stupid we are. this 'special 600 piece' was to commemorate the past 12 years in the history of NT and the country. and look what we end up talking about? INDIA!

why not talk about how some of these articles are as relevant to Naya Nepal as they were 5 or 8 years ago to the Purano Nepal? why not discuss how far we have come since the days of the insurgency in 2000 but how much progress there needs to be done? how we are repeating the mistakes of the past? how the Maoist are as slippery and hard to pin down as they were 10 years ago?  

14. Krishna S.

Hey, "Who Cares",

Please go see Kamathipura. I am sure you won't find many Indian Domiciled Nepalis. But........... Who cares? Right?

15. Jyoti Dhungel
I agree with  Naren Chettri whloeheartedly. His comments hits the bulls eye.  Nepali are always jealous of each other, and cannot get along. Even in foreign lands, Nepalis are not united. They form different groups of Bahuns, Newars, Chettris and try to bring each other down. This is the inborn Nepali charecter. Do not blame the Indians. Yes, the Indians have always outfoxed Nepalis, why, because we Nepalis are stupid, poor, uneducated and lack self respect. I agree slightly with Nepali Cheli.  How can Nepal move forward with people like Dahal and Nepal and Khanal - communist - at the helms. Nepal needs to led by a group of  IT savvy, MBAs and Lawyers who can foresee the future. As President Clinton used to say, its the ECONOMY STUPID. Also, how a woman leader ??????     

16. Rashmi Sharma
The students who will become future leaders and members of civil society need a more active role in driving the national issues. We cannot let a handful of men, tainted by corruption to decide the fate of the Nation and the all the Nepalis.  Morally bankrupt and selfish leaders that promote their own welfare instead of the country and people should be sidelined. Why is there so much corruption, why is every so quiet and complacent. Maakuney wants to jail Gyanendra, who is going to jail Maakuney for the corruption he has commited. Economic agenda should drive the focus not the same old politics. So, let the new generation take the challenge,  not just be a spectator of Nepali politics as well as future of Nepal. 

17. Kamala Ghimire
The people of Nepal must start make the govt. more accountable. Govt. officials involved stealing millions of rupees should be jailed. The old style of government must be replaced with an effective modern government. The govt. also needs to stop growing. The civil service needs to be revamped.  Where is the civil society, why are they so quiet. The people should be able to enjoy the gains from 1990. Above all,  communissm shoulkd be cremated in Aryaghat. If Dahal and Bhattarai want to embrace a free market, democratic values, they can switch party and join the N C. That would be a good thing. Ronald Reagan was a Democrat that switched to a Republican Party and became a great President of USA. We must thank Dahal and Bhattarai for the good things they are now doing. Maybe they will take  my advice and join the N C or even start a new democratic Party.    

18. Rajendra Singh
Enough politics. Just move your butts and go to work. Everyone. We Nepalis are famous talking more and doing less. I would like to read the positive news sans politics. What can be done to change the corruption, things like that. How can we provide good quality education? How to invest in future generations? How to restore law and order. A handful of people, corrupted to their bones cannot be left in charge of the henhouse. How can we bring them to justice and punish them. Nepalis had big dreams since 1990, how can fulfil those dreams. Lets have the dialouge about what we can do for the future. The past is past. Nepal has a bright future, we all must work hard to make that a reality. So I say, talk less and do more. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)