25-31 December 2015 #788

Worst year ever

Possibly a whole lot more of the same to look forward to in 2016
Bidushi Dhungel

2015 is coming to a close and it has been, without a doubt, the worst year ever. It all started with a Turkish Airways jet that got stuck on the only runway in March at Kathmandu Airport and caused all flights to be grounded for three days.

From there onward, we went on a downward spiral for the rest of the year. The big earthquake hit on 25 April, and then we had the big temblor on 12 May which doubled the destruction of the first one. That was followed by an unkind monsoon with its floods and landslides on unstable slopes. The death toll continued to rise as packed buses were derailed and torrential rains filled the tents of those still homeless from the quakes.

In June came the constitution and that big donor conference, both the sum of empty promises for a better future and a Nepal that would be ‘built back better’ in every sense of the term. Instead, more destruction followed. Protests against the constitution in the plains intensified in August. Even before the constitution promulgation, a handful of people had already been killed, both protestors and security forces and the statute was passed with some districts in the Tarai under curfew.

As if that wasn’t bad enough there was the massacre at Tikapur, which killed 9, and heralded the beginning of what looks like a seemingly endless and violent impasse among the three major political forces in Nepal: the NC-UML-UCPNM coalition, the Madhesi Front and India. But indeed matters worsened when Sushil Koirala’s government came to an end and was replaced by Khadka Prasad Sharma Oli, smooth talker extraordinaire. After that, when people – Nepali citizens – were shot at and killed, it was summarised as bad mangoes falling off trees.

As such, the festive season ended up being not so festive after all as, by then, the ‘unofficial blockade’ had already begun. The position of every side in this three-sided showdown had hardened so much that one really began to understand that for more than a decade the Nepali people had been taken for a ride on the false promise of a constitution, which would at least usher in stability.

After the festivities, Bidya Bhandari was declared the country’s second president and another woman, Onsari Gharti – a former gun-carrying Maoist rebel -- the Speaker of the House. The former has publicly spoken against women’s rights and stands by unequal citizenship provisions, and the latter’s appointment works to cement and legitimise the violence of the bygone conflict years. Both lack the charisma and leadership acumen already so short in supply among the political elite.

The ‘communist’ president’s visit to Janaki temple occurred under some seriously tight security as protests erupted against her visit. But perhaps worse is that a cleansing ritual upon her departure was undertaken, because Bhandari is a widow and that it is against the Hindu scriptures to allow a widow into the temple. There are so many things wrong with the entire event that one can do nothing but put it on the year itself, ladled as it has been, with out-of-this-world stupidity.

And here we are in Kathmandu, with no gas, lots of induction cookers and no electricity, smuggled petroleum, transformers blowing left, right and centre and the coldest winter in years. Elsewhere, the situation is worse: seven quake victims have already died this year from the cold and the Reconstruction Authority Bill has only just passed. A four-point agreement has been signed with India, but the unofficial nature of the blockade has meant that it is impossible to know when it will unofficially be called off. The protests in the Tarai are still intense and while the tripartite are all looking to save face, it is becoming increasingly clear that this impasse will linger and expose the true face of each element.

In the meantime, here is to a bad 2015, the harshest winter in years, and an impasse which will carry on to the next, rendering 2016 as possibly one of the unhappiest yet. Apologies if awful details or events from the year were left out: so many that it’s hard to keep count.

Not to worry, a whole lot more of the same to look forward to. Cheers! 


Read also:

Nothing left to say, Editorial

Years of living dangerously, Anurag Acharya

Deciding to de-escalating, Kanak Mani Dixit

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