This week, for the first time in Nepal’s history, a member of the former royal family was arrested. Paras Shah, the former crown prince of Nepal, was apprehended after an incident that took place Saturday night (December 11) at the luxe wildlife resort of Tiger Tops in the Chitwan jungle. Paras had allegedly threatened a fellow guest of the lodge and fired off one round from his pistol.
The guest in question, Rubel Chaudhary, happens to be the son-in-law of Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sujata Koirala. And to make the case even more sensitive, there were diplomatic concerns: Chaudhary is from Bangladesh.
It’s not a question of whether or not India has treated Nepal unfairly. Historically, India has regarded Nepal as its poor relation to the north. Lopsided treaties between the two countries reflect that condescension. Illegal land encroachment continues to be a hotly debated issue. There are ample examples that can be cited in which India’s treatment of Nepal could and should be rectified.
However, when Nepali politicos exploit the long-standing resentments of their people, when they use India as their scapegoat for everything that needs fixing in Nepal, when anti-Indian rhetoric becomes the cynical tool for rallying blind nationalism (and easy votes), when they use India-bashing as a means for advancing their own political agendas-- then the people of Nepal should take a hard look at where that hate-mongering will inevitably lead.
Over the years, the turnover frequency of Nepal’s prime ministers has taken on a kind of flavor-of-the-month quality. Few were in power long enough to produce sustainable legacies, the (until quite recently) Maoist prime minister being no exception. Entrusted with the orchestration of the framing of a new constitution – the nascent republic’s most important task – Ex-Prime Minister Prachanda watched progress languish while being preoccupied with other matters.
Published by BUREAU OF DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND LABOR, issued on Wednesday, Feb 25, 2009
This is excellent resource material. The report’s breakdown includes:
1. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life 2. Disappearances 3. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishmen 4. Prison and Detention Center Conditions 5. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention 6. Role of the Police and Security Apparatus 7. Arrest and Detention 8. Denial of Fair Public Trial 9. Trial Procedures 10. Political Prisoners and Detainees 11. Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies 12. Property Restitution 13. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home by Security and YCL 14. Use of Excessive Force and Other Abuses in Internal Conflicts 15. Killings 16. Child Soldiers 17. Freedom of Speech and Press 18. Internet Freedom 19. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 20. Freedom of Religion 21. Societal Abuses and Discrimination 22. Freedom of Movement 23. Internally Displaced Persons 24. Protection of Refugees 25. Stateless Persons 26. Bandhs 27. Elections and Political Participation 28. Government Corruption and Transparency 29. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 30. Discrimination of Women 31. Discrimination of Children and Child Abuse 32. Trafficking in Persons 33. Persons with Disabilities 34. Treatment of National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities 35. Discrimination and Abuses toward Homosexuals 36. The Right of Association 37. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 38. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 39. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment 40. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Beginning today, Nepal adopts a new calendar. From now on, New Year’s Day coincides with the fourth day of Tihar, Gobardhan Puja (oxen worshipping).
According to the previously used Vikram Sambat calendar, this year is 2065. The new Nepal Sambat calendar adjusts the year to 1129 – moving the country back in time by nearly nine centuries and leaving the international community scratching its head.
Two days before Nepal elects its first President, and less than two months after King Gyanendra’s crown was taken away from him, additional members of the former royal family left Nepal in search of a new life in Singapore.
Former Prince Paras' wife Himani, her son Hridayendra (until recently second-in-line to the throne) and her daughters Kritikka and Purnika -- accompanied by Dilasha, the youngest daughter of Gyanendra's brother Dhirendra -- flew out of Kathmandu yesterday with ordinary passports.
TEA PARTY BASH AT THE FORMER KING’S PALACE On Sunday, a large gathering of Nepal’s governmental elite officially laid claim to the now vacated Narayanhiti Palace by pronouncing it a national museum. Droves of politicians of all stripes and colors, diplomats, military officials, police chiefs and journalists swarmed the former king’s home to partake in an inauguration tea party.
The extent of valuable items left behind in the palace has not yet been assessed. Before vacating the premises last week, former King Gyanendra relinquished his claim to the diamond and emerald crown, the royal scepter and golden throne. But there are presumed to be untold treasures and priceless documents stored in the palace’s underground vaults. Apparently, it’s not even known how many rooms make up the sprawling 4.1 million square ft complex. One item that will definitely be showcased in the new museum is the 1939 Mercedes-Benz given to Gyanendra’s grandfather by Adolf Hitler.
The event was laced with pomp and circumstance. Interim Prime Minister G.P. Koirala raised Nepal’s national flag. Politicos mugged next to gigantic tigers forever towering on hind legs with taxidermal snarls. An army band played the new national anthem – this on the well-manicured grounds where, in 2001, almost to the day, the then Crown Prince Dipendra allegedly slaughtered the royal family before turning the gun on himself.
At the party, an AFP reporter asked the Maoist’s second-in-command, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, if it felt bizarre to be strolling through the royal gardens. He answered with a half-smile, “It’s not a palace anymore. It’s a museum.”
At a 14-minute long press conference held at Kaski Baithak, the main chamber of the palace, the ex-King said he accepted the May 28 declaration of a republic –- brought on by a decade-long Maoist insurgency and a country-wide revolt against the King’s autocratic rule -- and pledged to work for Nepal’s "peace, progress and independence."
Power Struggle between Maoists and Nepali Congress Nepal went back to work on Sunday as government offices and schools opened for the first time since the celebrations following the opening of the Constituent Assembly on April 28.
But already Nepal's leading political parties are locked in a power struggle. They have agreed to have a symbolic president and a powerful prime minister in the new republican system. But the centrist Nepali Congress, the second biggest group in the assembly, say the Maoists are demanding too much. "They can't have both the posts of a prime minister and the president at the same time," said Ram Chandra Poudel, a senior leader of the Nepali Congress.
Today it is official. The newly elected delegates of the Constituent Assembly voted 560 to 4 in favor of abolishing the monarchy, leaving Maoist leader Prachanda unquestionably the most powerful man in Nepal.
On hearing the result of the vote, thousands of people danced in the streets of Kathmandu, many waving different party flags and chanting, "Welcome to a republic". The government declared the next two days a public holiday.
Tomorrow is the historic moment when the newly elected constituent assembly is scheduled to officially proclaim Nepal a republic, thereby ending nearly two and a half centuries of monarchal rule.
King Gyanendra quietly left the Narayanhiti Royal Palace after dark on May 22. It may have been his final exit. Accompanied by his wife Queen Komal, he drove to his summer Nagarjuna Palace (about eight kilometers north of Kathmandu) – a move that, according to Jana Aastha, a royal family tabloid, was to avoid an “undignified tussle with the rabble.”
After the Maoists’ sensational victory, the dust has settled revealing an unenviable set of hurdles for the party to jump before a viable government in Nepal is possible. Although they won the largest number of seats in the April 10 elections, they have neither a majority nor the luxury of forming a government by themselves. Sleeves are rolled up but uncertainty continues while leaders within the party seem to disagree with each other on policies. And just when Prachanda seemed to be leading his party in a more statesmanlike direction, the Maoists’ Youth Communist League regressed to its old specialty, thuggism. The murder of one man in particular outraged much of the nation; Prachanda made a hatchet job of the affair by initially denying Maoist involvement, then admitting involvement but only after it became a public relations nightmare.
As the remaining votes are counted, the Maoists continue to claim their victory over the other two major political parties in Nepal, the Nepali Congress who led the interim government since 2006 and the Communist Party (UML). The Maoists won 120 of the 240 directly elected seats for the assembly that will rewrite the Constitution, while Nepali Congress and UML won a mere 37 and 32 seats respectively. The ethnic Madhesi party from the southern plains came in fourth with 28 seats. The directly elected seats make up about 40 percent of the total seats in the assembly. Tallying of the proportional representation should be concluded by the end of the day, although most analysts predict that the Maoists will garner approximately a third of those seats.
The question is: Will the losing parties choose to join the Maoists or will they sidle away to nurse their wounds?
The Maoists, whose campaign promised fundamental change, have already begun wooing other political parties in an effort to form a coalition government. But analysts say Nepal’s history of bickering and power mongering, and the reluctance of some top parties to join a Maoist-led government, could delay the formation of an operational government indefinitely. COMRADE BADAL -- The Maoists' Military Strategist Certainly one of the most controversial of the Maoist leaders is Third-in-Command Ram Bahadur Thapa, better known by his nom de guerre “Badal” (“cloud” in Nepali). Although far less known than Prachanda and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai –- and seldom photographed – Badal is feared (and has major influence) as the Maoists leading military strategist.
Badal was born in 1955 in a Magar community. His father, Karn Bahadur Thapa Magar, was an Indian Gurkha Army personnel. After his retirement the whole family lived in the Chitawan district of Nepal. His mother's name is Nanda Kumari Thapa Magar.
Badal is remembered (by his childhood teachers) as having had a precocious interest in politics. He was a self-taught communist who joined the party in 1981. On a scholarship, he studied agriculture in the USSR, but eventually dropped out and returned to Nepal to engage in the revolutionary movement under weigh there. In 1982 he was arrested and jailed for 10 months. After that Badal went underground.
In 2003, Badal emerged as a member of the Maoist rebel negotiating team during the peace process of that year, coming across as a “self-effacing advocate of the people.”
He also gained attention by coining an alternative metaphor to King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s famous, “Nepal is like a yam between two boulders,” referring to India and China. Badal’s version was, “Nepal is like dynamite between two boulders.”
Last Sunday, during a nationally aired discussion of whether President Bush would attend the Olympic opening ceremonies in Beijing, Stephen Hadley, President Bush's National Security Adviser, repeatedly and erroneously referred to Tibet as “Nepal”. Said Mr. Hadley, “The president thinks that the way to address the issue of Nepal is not by a statement that you are not going to the opening ceremonies…what he is doing on Nepal…” and so on. Five times Hadley spoke of Nepal, meaning “Tibet”, and five times the interviewer, George Stephanopoulos, either didn’t deign to listen or didn’t see the big deal in correcting the jarringly obvious mistake. Even the producers glued to their offstage monitors apparently didn’t get it. Click here for youtube download
Hadley is not a moron. Somewhere in his memory bank, Hadley knows that Nepal is an independent nation recognized by the United Nations while Tibet is an ancient civilization that was colonized and subsumed by the Chinese in the 1950s. But the sloppy speechifying which stood uncorrected by prominent newsman (who, after all, gets paid to exploit such blunders) points to a far deeper, systemic and ominous problem in the United States. America’s complacency with dodgy Asian geography is, in fact, one of the reasons the 21st century will be Asia’s century, not America’s. Asians have their globes dusted off, their bifocals squeaky clean and their attitudes greedy and fine-tuned for getting the fine print right.
Why should Americans give a damn about Tibet or Nepal?
March 8, 2008 Kanak Mani Dixit is a journalist and civil rights activist in Kathmandu and editor of the Himal Southasian monthly magazine. To read more about Dixit, and to read my interview with him,CLICK HERE This article was first published in The Hindu Newspaper: "India and Nepal's Constituent Assembly:The Indian government is duty-bound to prevent the criminal-militant nexus from using Bihar and Uttar Pradesh as a base from which to threaten the Constituent Assembly process in Nepal."
REHEARSING FOR THE APRIL ELECTIONS: UNHARMONIOUS PRELUDE
In the first eight weeks of 2008, the Nepali power struggle was a flurry of elbows – a mishmash of baton-wielding conductors vying over who should lead the orchestra, the result being that not enough attention was paid to the orchestra: Some musicians disdained the sheet music; some had tin ears and never should have been allowed to play in the first place; some played instruments that were either anachronistic or foreign; some couldn’t get to the hall because their cars were out of gas; and some simply boycotted the rehearsals, preferring to play the military marches of regional bands.
Follow-up meeting with Baburam Bhattarai January 31, 2008 Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct a follow-up interview with Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai at his home in Kathmandu. For a look at my first interview, as well as background material on Dr. Bhattarai, CLICK HERE
DUNHAM: In your most recent book, Monarchy vs. Democracy, you said that history will ultimately reveal what happened on June 1, 2001: “It is by now universally accepted in Nepal that Gyanendra, his criminally-inclined son, Paras, and the Royal Army chief Prajjwal Rana, were the ringleaders of the bloody palace coup d’etat…” Would you please explain in more detail how this conspiracy transpired?”
Kanak Mani Dixit is a Nepali journalist, activist, publisher and writer of fiction living in Kathmandu. He edits the English-language magazine Himal Southasian (www.himalmag.com) and the Nepali magazine Himal Khabarpatrika (www.himalkhabar.com), the first newsmagazine in Nepali. He also runs a publishing house and Nepal's preeminent printing press, as well as writing occasional children's novels.
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai When reporting on the Maoists in Nepal, Western journalists tend to focus on Chairman Prachanda, (nom de guerre of Pushpa Kamal Dahal), usually overlooking the major influence that Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has wielded within the Party—from the very beginning to the present time. Although it is Prachanda’s face that will greet you on the official Maoist website, it is fair to say that it is the combined efforts of Prachanda and Dr. Bhattarai, together, that have so altered the course of Nepal’s history.
The Nepalese government is poised to ask the United Nations for a year’s extension of the term of its UN Political Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), following the postponement of national elections previously scheduled to begin in late November. The elections, which were postponed indefinitely several weeks ago, would have chosen a constituent assembly to rewrite Nepal's constitution and decide on the future of the monarchy. It’s been reported that the Maoists also support the extension.
BRIEF HISTORY OF BRITAIN’S RELATIONSHIP WITH NEPAL Interview with Ambassador Hall
The history of relations between the United Kingdom and Nepal span two centuries, dating back to Great Britain’s colonial rule in India. A brief war between the army of the British East India Company and the Kingdom of Nepal took place from 1814 to 1815 when, in the south, Gorkha forces encroached upon British territory. Nepal, which had continuously expanded its boundaries since King Prithvi Narayan Shah’s consolidation of Nepalese territory in the late 1700s, now overplayed its hand. The British troops ultimately prevailed and a peace agreement resulted in Nepal losing nearly a third of its previously claimed territory. The Anglo-Nepal War officially ended with the ratification of the Treaty of Sugauli (1816). Thereafter, a British Representative was stationed in Kathmandu in a large compound provided by the Nepalese government.
Peace and rule of law are the prerequisites for economic development—basic ingredients currently absent in Nepal. The cancellation of the November elections was the latest bad political news. A meeting between the Maoists and Seven-Party Alliance was convened in an effort to break the deadlock; the talks broke down two days ago.
According to the leading party in Nepal, the Nepali Congress (NP), the Maoists’ demands for electoral reform and the immediate abolition of the monarchy are in direct contradiction of the original peace terms agreed to one year ago.
Buddha is Nepal’s most famous citizen. 2500 years ago, along the southern Indo-Nepalese border, Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born in the ancient kingdom of Kapilvastu. The Queen bore him in the garden of Lumbini but died one week later. King Suddhodana came to see his son and was told by the sages that the boy would become either a great ruler or a completely enlightened being—a Buddha. Fearing the later, the King brought Prince Siddhartha back to his Kapilvastu Palace (present-day Taulihawa-see map) and imprisoned him in the lap of luxury, determined his son would never experience the harsh realities of the material world. According to the legend, however, the youthful Siddhartha escaped the palace walls and witnessed, for the first time in his life, old age, sickness and death. He was devastated. Finally, a mendicant monk came along and consoled him with the possibility that worldly suffering could be overcome. The Crown Prince vowed to follow a spiritual path from there on. He renounced his royal heritage. He left the Nepali Kingdom of Kapilvastu forever. He walked to India and eventually became the Buddha.
Although monsoon season is coming to an end, the toll of floods, flashfloods and landslides has created havoc for Nepalis, particularly in the low-lying southern districts. Nearly 300,000 natives have been seriously affected, more than 20,000 families have lost their homes and the death toll is now nearing 150. Rescue efforts have been minimal. The biggest health concern is now about outbreaks of water borne diseases, as villagers slowly begin to return to their homes.
But there is an ugly political side to the annual natural disaster caused by summer monsoons.
Everything about Nepal is a contradiction. It’s a tiny landlocked country of astounding topographical diversity. From the tallest mountains in the world, Nepal plummets to subtropical tiger jungles stretching at sea level along its southern border—all within a distance of 92 miles. It’s caught between the two giant webs of Asia: China and India. Although the United Nations and the international community recognize its independence, Nepal cannot reach the outside world without the expressed approval of its powerful neighbors. The reality is that, at every point on the compass, Nepal’s independence is compromised.