The elite group of Nepal includes people from different ethnic groups and various places. The richest people in Nepal are still from Madhesi, Newar, Thakali and Thakuri groups, apart from Bahun-Chhetri. Likewise , based on access to land, government services and education, elites of different ethnic groups are far ahead of an average Nepali person.
Some handful elite families from various ethnic groups and castes were privileged to study in high quality English-medium schools and renowned educational institutions abroad. They benefited the most from the Rana and Panchayat regimes and continued to do so in democratic times. Today, they are the most influential class in Kathmandu with deep political and financial interests. In the past couple of decades, they have coined a jargon “hill upper caste ruling elites” to pose as advocate for marginalized people as they saw movements targeted against them.
The “progressive elites” have become successful in creating an illusion among foreigners that these poor and rural folks are the ‘demonic ruling elites’ of Nepal and they, the real elites who benefited the most from the Nepali state since centuries, are the agents of change and progress.
This coinage has successfully helped them shield themselves from the rights-based movements by creating a “new” enemy. In their narrative, the oppressors are the ‘hill upper caste ruling elites’ while oppressed are the marginalized ethnic, regional communities. And they ‘courageously’ side with the marginalized ones to attack the ‘hill upper caste ruling elites’, euphemism for the poor and rural Bahuns and Chhetris.
This is a letter to all these Kathmandu elites to remind them who they are and that there are many out there who don’t believe the narrative that they have been selling.
Dear Kathmandu elites,
Given that you and your families are part of feudal ruling elite class, you may think all Bahun-Chhetri enjoyed similar privilege. But hard facts like HDI figures and other research show there are many poor Bahun-Chhetri people. People of diverse communities have enjoyed more access and privilege from the Nepali state.
Kathmandu – “In order to allow India to save face, on 24 September in Rajbiraj we took the formal decision to take responsibility for the blockade. But when it came time, without informing us, India deployed plainclothes security personnel on 25 Magh/8 February to open the border point at Birgunj,” a top leader of the United Democratic Madhesi Morcha (UDMF) told Kantipur. “Now, the cadre, our supporters and the general public are angry with us.”
While talking for about an hour in Anamnagar, the leader’s two mobile phones rang continuously. He mostly ignored the calls, but when he did pick any one up, he would answer with exasperation, “Please wait a few days. We will sit and take a joint decision.”
The end of Srawan (mid-August) is the deadline for renewing government licenses, factory registrations and the like. By that time, the Morcha had already started its protests against the constitution-writing and federal demarcation. The Government offices in the Madhes plains were closed, making it impossible to renew any document. The cadre and supporters have been pestering the harried leaders to get the Government to cancel the fines slapped in the intervening six months.
Then there are the ordinary citizens, who have nothing more than their lives, their families and children, and perhaps a little plot of land. Among them, there are many who have been maimed or disabled. The Morcha does not have a count of how many died or were wounded during the movement.
The leader said, “If the talks (with the Government) had reached a certain point, we would have been in a position to make strong demands on all these matters. But right now, our self-esteem does not allow us to approach the Government. After all, we are in a movement.”
A general strike had been called in the plains by the Federal Inclusive Mahdesi Alliance on 15 August and by the Madhesi Morcha on 16 August. When the Constitution was promulgated on 20 September disregarding the Morcha’s displeasure and hectic Indian lobbying, India decided on its own to stop the transport of petroleum from the border points into Nepal.
After India started the blockade on 22 September, the Front felt pressured to act. In informal meetings, India asked the Madhesi Morcha leaders to formally declare the blockade.
“The fact is, in earlier meetings we had ourselves suggested obstructing the border after violence escalated (against) Madhes. We had even gone to Raxaul to ask Indian officials to prevent passage of goods,” said one Morcha leader. “At first, the Indians did not come forward, fearing financial loss. Later, it was they who forced us to take the formal decision to blockade.”
A debate ensued among the Morcha members at the Rajbiraj meeting, which got extended. The meeting ultimately declared the blockade on 24 September, but by then transport of petroleum products had already been halted (by India) at all border points.
By the time of the Chhat festival, all the transit points had been closed, barring some consignments of fruits and grain that were allowed across. Thereafter, however, only the Birganj-Raxaul transit point was completely blocked while the others were all open.
Today, the Morcha’s senior leaders are pained to ask, “Why did India, after urging us to declare the blockade, proceed so enthusiastically on its own to lift it.”
The second-rung leadership of the Morcha is even more confused: “At the Bijuli Bazaar meeting in the middle of January, our senior leaders had already announced that they would change the nature of the movement after 1 February. So why did India deceive our leaders? Or did our leaders fail to understand India’s suggestion.”
The ongoing turbulence within the Morcha today is the result of India’s diplomatic carelessness, maintains a leader of Sadbhavana Party. He is also perplexed as to why India opened all the other border points and kept only Birganj blocked for such a long time.
The Morcha has come out with its new schedule of protests, but they seem merely symbolic. Meanwhile, differences within the Morcha are escalating. On 3 February, TMLP Chair Mahanta Thakur went to stage a sit-in at the Miteri Bridge on the Birganj-Raxaul border, together with Vice-Chair Brishesh Chandra Lal and General Secretary Jitendra Sonal. There, Thakur said the blockade would continue.
The Sadbhavana Party Chair Rajendra Mahato arrived in Biratnagar the next day, on 4 February, and proclaimed there was no logic in keeping Birganj closed. This created a furor within the Morcha. When in a 8 February meeting the Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal Chair Upendra Yadav and TMLP leaders demanded that Mahato retract his statement, the latter staged a walk out. He has since threatened to start his own grand coalition or front.
TMLP’s Sonal said he did not believe Mahato would be able to start an independent front. He said, “We have asked him to correct himself and join the common platform. He has yet to announce his plans. Meanwhile, we will analyse the situation gravely and go before the people.”
Sadbhavana Party General Secretary Manish Kumar Suman said that while there were some misunderstandings within the Morcha, his party would not be diverted from the movement. Even though there is propaganda that the blockade was conducted by India, he claimed that in reality it was the Morcha’s doing.
Said Suman, “If the border sit-in and general strike has benefited the Madhesi people, we will get the credit. If it has done harm, we will have to accept the blame. Why talk of others? There is no need to feel disheartened for having lifted the blockade. We should not forget that the other leaders had already announced their intention to change the nature of the movement before Sadbhavana’s Rajendra Mahato spoke up.”
सामाजिक सञ्जाल पनि बडो अनौठो लाग्छ । यसो केही लेख्यो प्रतिक्रियाहरु थुप्रिने । तर आधिकारीक भने नहुने ।
प्रगतिशील भनिएका लेखक खगेन्द्र संग्रौलाको झण्डै ३ महिना पहिला छापिएको एउटा अन्तर्वार्ता आँखामा ठोकिन आईपुग्यो । अन्तर्वार्ताको हेडलाईन थियोः “लिम्बुवान स्वायत्तता नभए ठुलो रक्तपात हुन्छ˝ । अन्तर्वार्ता पढ्नासाथ मेरो मनमा थुप्रै प्रश्नहरु ओहिरिए ।
सुझाव संकलनको नतिजा राम्रो।नाम र सीमासहितका प्रदेश, प्रत्यक्ष निर्वाचित कार्यकारी, आमा वा बाको नाममा नागरिकता नभए अब आगो बल्ने भो।राम्रो भो।
कति सजिलोसँग हिंसाको लागि उकास्न सकेका यी मनुवाले भन्ने । अर्कोतर्फ फेरी यही हेडलाईन मनमा खेलाएँ र सम्झिँएः के यो अभिव्यक्ति हिंसाको पुजारी बाहेक सामान्य मानिसले दिन सक्छ? अझै गहिरो प्रश्नः ठुलो रक्तपातको लागि त रगत बगाउनुपर्छ । रगत कसले बगाउने? संग्रौला परिवारले? के संगौला परिवार रगत बगाउन तयार छ? के होसहवास् मै यस्तो बोले त खगेन्द्र संग्रौलाले?
यसपछि मेरो मनमा थप प्रश्नहरु उठ्दै गए । संग्रौलाजी जस्तो “आर्दशवादी” व्यक्तिले आफू र आफ्नो परिवारलाई रक्तपातमा नहोमी लिम्बुलाई रक्तपातमा होमिन कसरी आव्हान गरे होलान र?
यस विषयमा जान्ने इच्छा तिव्र भयो र मैले संगौलाजीलाई प्रत्यक्ष सम्बोधन गरेर ट्विट गरेँः तपाँई उग्र क्रान्तिकारी भएकोले सबैले सोधिरहेका छन्ः तपाईँका सबै सन्तान यहि देशमा छन्? की अमेरिका युरोपमा? जवाफ दिनुस है मान्यबर ।
ट्विटगर्ना साथ टिवटे प्रतिक्रिया शुरु भयो । मोटामोटी रुपमा ट्विटमा (टाईमलाईन र डिएम)मा के कस्ता प्रतिक्रिया प्राप्त भए भन्ने म यसरी प्रस्तुत गर्न अनुमति चाहन्छु:
तपाईँका सन्तानहरु विदेशतिर छन् । तपाईँ पनि केही समय अमेरिकातिर बस्नुभएको थियो । त्यता बस्न गाह्रो भएर नेपाल नै फर्कनु भयो । तपाईँले छोरा विदेश गएपछिको दशैंमा दशैंको प्रतिकात्मक महत्व दर्शाउँदै छोराछोरी विना दशैं मनाउन पर्दाको पीडा समेटेर लेख लेख्नुभएको छ ।
कतिपयले भने तपाईँको उमेर पुगेका छोराछोरीको उनीहरु अनुकुल जीवन बिताउनु अधिकार हो । यसमा सार्वजनिक बहस जरुरी छैन । भन्ने प्रतिक्रिया पनि व्यक्त गरे ।
म व्यक्तिगत रुपमा तपाईँको छोराछोरीको गोपनियताको हकको उच्च सम्मान गर्दछु र यो देशका हरेक बयश्क नागरिकले आफ्नो व्यक्तिगत निर्णय गर्न स्वतन्त्र छ भन्ने पनि विश्वास गर्दछु ।
सँगै म सम्झन्छु माहात्मा गान्धीलाई । उनी भन्दथे जुन कुरा तिमि तिम्रो जिवनमा लागु गर्न सक्दैनौं त्यो कुरा अरु व्यक्तिमा लाद्नु ठिक होइन । उनी यतिसम्म आदर्शवादी थिए की आफूले चीनी खान छोड्न नसक्दासम्म गाउँका बालबालिकालाई चीनी धेरै खान हुन्न भन्ने अनुरोध समेत गरेनन् । अर्थात आफुले नै कार्यान्वयन गर्न नसक्ने आदर्श अरुलाई सुनाउन हुन्न भन्ने ठान्दथे गान्धी ।
ठुलो रक्तपात भन्ने शब्दले बोकेको अर्थ के हो पक्कै थाहा पाएर नै तपाईँले अन्तर्वार्ता दिनुभयो होला । रक्तपातको “आदर्श” छाँट्नु अघि तपाईँले एकपटक आफ्नो छोराछोरीको रगत बगे के हुन्छ भन्ने कल्पना गर्नुभयो? की तपाईँलाई कथित प्रगतिशील र क्रान्तिकारी बनाईदिन जनताका छोराछोरीले मात्र रगत बगाउनुपर्ने हो?
यदी म तपाईँकी छोरी भईदिएको भए निश्चय नै भन्ने थिएँः बाबा सोझा जनतालाई रगत बनाउन आव्हान गरिएका विचार छाड्नुहोस् । तपाईँ आफ्नै सन्तानका अनुहार सम्झेर भएपनि मर्ने र मार्ने कामको वकालत छाड्नुहोस ।
मलाई आशा छ तपाईँको छोराछोरीले पनि तपाईँलाई यो अनुरोध गर्नुभएको छ । तपाईँको छोराछोरीलाई यो महसुस पक्कै होला की यो देशमा “ठुलो रक्तपात” हुँदा साना मान्छेहरु अर्थात गरिब मान्छेहरु नै मारमा पर्दछन । उनीहरु जस्ता सयौं छोराछोरीहरुको विचल्लि हुन्छ । ज्यान जान्छ ।
गोपनियताको हकको सम्मान गर्दै, व्यक्तिगत प्रश्न भएकोमा माफी माग्दै म नम्रतापुर्वक प्रश्न गर्न चाहन्छु कृपया एकपटक आफ्नै छोराछोरीलाई सोध्नुहोस्ः मैले गरेको ठुलो रक्तपातको आव्हान कसको लागि हो? यसले सोझा जनताका छोराछोरीको हित गर्छ ? गरिब लिम्बुहरुको हीतमा छ ठुलो रक्तपात?
संग्रौलाजी काठमाडौं निर्मम छ । निर्दयी छ । टाठाबाठा बाहुनक्षेत्री र टाठाबाठा जनजाती नेताहरुको एकता छ । हिजोका शाषकका सन्तानहरुसँग केही टाठाबाठा जनजाती नेताको मुद्धाहरुमा एकता जस्तो देखिन्छ । खास त्यो स्वार्थको एकता हो । धनी र शाषक बाहुन र धनी र अग्रभागमा रहेका अन्य जातजातीको मिलोमतो छ । टाठाबाठा बाहुनलाइ गरिब बाहुनको सत्तोसराप गरेर “प्रगतिशील/क्रान्तिकारी” देखिनु छ भने टाठाबाठा जनजाती नेताहरुलाई पनि टाठाबाठा बाहुनको समर्थनमा मुलधारमा उपस्थिति देखाउनु छ । तपाईंकै दर्शनमा हिजो देशका गरिबलाइ चुसेर पढेकाहरु आज अचानक “क्रान्तिकारी” हुनु कत्तिको प्राकृतिक हो? आफैं बुझ्नुहोला ।
सबै क्षेत्रीबाहुन शाषक हुन भने तपाईँ पनि शाषक नै हो नी होईन र? सबै क्षेत्रीबाहुन शोषक हुन भने तपाईँ पनि शोषक नै हो नी हैन र?की तपाईँजस्तो बिचार राख्ने बाहुन मात्रै “प्रगतिशील” र फरक विचार राख्ने गाउँको हली पनि सामन्त हो र? गोलमोटोल शब्द प्रयोग गरेर धनी बाहुन र वास्तविक शाषकहरुको चाकडी र गरिब पहाडे बाहुनलाई सत्तोसराप गर्नुको फाईदा के?
संग्रौलाजी तपाईँको जस्तो लामो अनुभव त मेरो छैन । कहिलेकाँही सुन्थे तपाईँ बामपन्थी विश्लेषक हो भन्ने । वामपन्थि विश्लेषकले वर्गको कुरा कस्तो भुलेको?
वर्गको कुरा भुल्नुस ठिक छ । तर जातजातिकोबीचमा फाटो ल्याउने काम नगर्नु होला । हरेक पटक बोल्दा सम्झने गर्नुस तपाईँका छोराछोरी र अरु बाआमाको छोराछोरीको जीवनको मुल्य बराबर होईन र?
अन्तमा, व्यक्तिगत टिकाटिप्पणी हुन पुगेको भए माफ पाउँ। अप्रिय र बिझ्ने शब्द परेको भए नि माफ पाउँ। यो मेरो व्यक्तिगत भावना हो। तपाईंको छोराछोरीको उदाहरण प्रस्तुत गरे पनि म वहाँहरुले यो देशका आम मानिसका छोराछोरीले जस्तो द्वन्द र हिंसा भोग्न नपरोस भन्ने कामना गर्दछु।
KATHMANDU – Major disruptions in food and fuel imports across its southern border with India have severely affected Nepal’s supplies and caused a worrying increase in food prices, says the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
A border blockade to protest Nepal’s new constitution began in September. Trade has now slowed to a trickle in the landlocked country, causing a food and fuel shortage that is in its third month. With Nepal heavily dependent on imports, especially from India, severe shortages are now being felt in local markets. The cost of some basic food staples, such as cooking oil, rice, lentils, sugar and salt have soared in recent weeks as supplies dwindle.
“If trade remains restricted and food prices continue to rise, a serious humanitarian crisis will be hard to avoid,” said David Kaatrud, WFP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
“People are struggling to feed their families as the cost of food rises beyond their grasp. Coming so soon after the recent earthquake, this crisis could severely test people’s ability to cope, and may lead to an increase in malnutrition.”
On average, the prices of lentils, pulses and cooking oil have increased by more than 30 percent since August and more than 50 percent since last year. In remote areas, including parts of the country worst hit by the 25 April earthquake and aftershocks, the price of food commodities has increased even further, doubling in some cases. For example, in Gorkha, a community close to the earthquake epicenter, a 25 kg sack of rice now costs 5,000 Nepali Rupees (US$46.80) – up from 2,500 Rupees (US$23.40) before the blockade. The price of cooking oil and sugar has also doubled in the town.
At the same time, the price of fuel has sky rocketed across the country. The cost of refilling a cylinder of cooking gas has increased from 1,500 Nepali rupees (US$14.00) before the blockade to between 8,000 and 11,000 rupees (US$75 and US$102) today, an increase of as much as 630 percent.
“WFP urges all sides to once again allow the free flow of food items across the border to ensure that Nepalis, especially those who struggle on a day-to-day basis to feed their families, are not the ones who bear the burden of this protracted political stand-off,” said Kaatrud.
A quarter of people in Nepal live on less than US$1.25* a day, and on average spend 60 percent of their income on food. This means that most have only a limited capacity to cope with shocks such as disasters and soaring food prices.
Last month, WFP warned that the fuel shortage caused by the border blockages was hampering earthquake relief efforts. There have been severe delays in WFP efforts to provide food assistance to more than 224,000 earthquake-affected people. WFP has only been able to deliver one-third of food supplies earmarked for distribution by the end of the year. The delivery of non-food items, such as medicine and shelter material for winter, has also been severely affected by the dispute.
The constitution which has been adopted by almost 90 % of the deputies is a big success and a proof that after years of conflict and struggle, the way to a new and modern society is paved. The constitution comprises all basic rights which we in Europe esteem essential for a free and democratic society. Nepal can be proud of this document which symbolizes a cornerstone in its development.
How do you see the current situation in Nepal following the promulgation of new constitution?
First of all allow me to congratulate Nepal for the promulgation of its new constitution. The constitution which has been adopted by almost 90 % of the deputies is a big success and a proof that after years of conflict and struggle, the way to a new and modern society is paved. The constitution comprises all basic rights which we in Europe esteem essential for a free and democratic society. Nepal can be proud of this document which symbolizes a cornerstone in its development. Unfortunately, there seems to be a deficit in communicating its substance to the people. In my eyes, there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding about some of its articles. Moreover, as someone who has studied law, I can assure you that in the years to come, many of the clauses will be reviewed and clearly defined by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court. There will be, as well, amendments of the constitution in future according to the needs of the society. It needs responsible political leadership to communicate this to the minds of the people instead of allowing the spread of rumors that create an atmosphere of public confusion.
As an Ambassador to this country I can assure you I would be happy if more would be done to inform the broader public about rights and duties of the new constitution and I appeal all relevant parties, after three months of different forms of protests, to reach a political compromise and bring an end to the ongoing horrible crisis.
People have already suffered too much, particularly all those who were affected by the heavy earthquake and are still fully dependent on support from the outside world. The present situation with its strangulation of people in need, children, elderly people and those living under harsh conditions in the mountains is showing signs of a violation of human rights.
With the promulgation of the new constitution, there is unrest in Madhes with border blockade; the supply of essential commodities is negatively affected, which is developing into a major humanitarian crisis. How do you look at it?
From my point of view, there is no doubt that the international community should raise its voice to prevent a major humanitarian crisis which will go beyond the suffering of the people after the heavy earthquakes in April/May. The borders to India must be opened as soon as possible to allow in medical supplies and shelters needs for the people living under critical conditions. By opening the borders, the transport sector of the country which has almost come to a complete stop because of the shortage of fuel, should start activities again and secure distribution of all essential goods to the people in need. It cannot be accepted that suffering people are held hostage in the name of a future design of the country. I’m very worried about the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people of Nepal.
As Federal Republic of Germany has been supporting institution building at Municipal and VDC level for last many years, do you have any plans to support developing provincial institutions in the present context?
I really hope that the ongoing supply crisis will end soon and leaders will thereafter focus more on reconstruction of the country and implementation of its constitution. Both efforts will show if Nepal will be capable of proceeding to a brighter future and safeguard stability. Institutions will have to be strengthened; there should be more delegation of decision-making processes. Nepal needs a service-oriented administration; wide-spread practice of immunity for misbehavior on all levels of the society should end. This requires a strong and independent justice system.
Regarding your question on a possible support to the development of provincial institutions, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that a federal system in its true sense needs a sound foundation of well-functioning municipalities. It is the municipalities to which citizens have the closest and direct contact with administrative structures. It is the municipalities from which citizens expect the best services for their daily needs such as access to water, waste and waste water treatment, health care, school facilities and much more. These services can be replaced neither by provincial nor by federal authorities. It is therefore obvious that first of all administrative structures on municipality level must be strengthened so that they can operate to everybody’s satisfaction.
In my eyes, a federal system finds its justification only if it leads to an improvement of services to citizens. The functions of provinces are focusing more on rules and regulations of regional matters. There is less direct contact of provincial authorities with citizens, same as for federal institutions. Therefore I’m convinced that the process of implementing federalism into the Nepalese environment could only and should start with all kinds of support for the municipalities. Since Germany and Nepal have a longstanding cooperation in support of institution building at municipal and VDC level, there is every reason to look into continuing this support.
As the new constitution demands new institutions and new legal system for its implementation, what do you suggest?
In discussions a team of German experts recently had with representatives of Nepalese authorities involved in the process of implementation of the new constitution, the focus was on three fields of possible support from our side: support of the legislative process, training of judicial staff and advisory services for establishing well-functioning administrative structures. The German IRZ, Institute for Judicial Cooperation, will be in charge of defining future projects in shaping new federal structures. There might be as well support for training facilities for trainers of administrative personnel. For the time being we have not yet concluded specific projects of cooperation but we are preparing them in the near future.
One of the problems in Nepal is the weak institutions at all levels. How is the German experience in this, from which Nepal can benefit?
Weak institutions are an obstacle for the development of a country. Progress and success of a society very much depends on qualified staff on all levels of the administration, on a set-up of rules and regulations understood and respected by the majority of people and a clearly defined mechanism for self-rule and availability of financial resources on municipal level. These are some of the most important sectors for stabilizing a country bottom-up.
Federal Republic of Germany has been providing much needed support to earthquake victims, how do you support in the post reconstruction phase of build back better?
The German Government has supported Nepal from the very beginning after the earthquake. In addition to 5 Million Euro humanitarian aid, amounts of 30 Million Euro for recovery and rehabilitation- on top of our ongoing bilateral programs- have been granted. Our rehabilitation support will mainly focus on three districts: Nuwakot, Dhading and Rasuwa and support primarily the health and energy sectors. We will, for example, ensure the reconstruction of several district hospitals and construct more than 40 health posts. We have also agreed to rehabilitate the central Load Dispatch Centre in Kathmandu and will work on the repair and extension of electrify transmission lines in quake-hit areas. For the past six months, we have also supported shelter and immediate needs of affected communities. Now it is important to move from recovery towards long-term rehabilitation.
As the Reconstruction Authority is yet to establish, has it made any difference in implementing the projects?
German Development Cooperation focuses its recovery and rehabilitation programs on those sectors in which we have been engaged in for a long time, such as health and energy. Hence, we have been fortunate to benefit from already-existing partnerships and networks. This has allowed us to deliver faster than others and to effectively support the people in need immediately after the earthquakes happened. However, the lack of an effective coordination mechanism and the lack of GoN guidelines for the reconstruction process severely limit the impact of what the international support could achieve. It is urgent that the authorities in Nepal step up efforts to put in place the institutional framework for a coordinated, accountable and effective reconstruction process. Otherwise, “Build Back Better” will remain only a slogan and the lessons learned from the recent disaster might quickly be forgotten.
Is Germany providing additional support to Nepal along with regular programs?
The commitments made for recovery and rehabilitation after the earthquakes came on top of our ongoing programs and will be implemented mainly in three of the earthquake-affected districts as I have already stated. At the same time, it is important for us to maintain our existing projects in the energy, health and economic development sectors with a geographical focus on the Mid and Far West.
What are the priority areas for German support in the context when Nepal has been facing a lot of challenges like poverty, food insecurity, climate change and disasters?
With the current priorities of Nepal-German Development Cooperation (health, renewable energy / energy efficiency and economic development and trade), we hope to contribute to addressing these problems and challenges that are most pressing for Nepal’s development. The ultimate goal of all our programs is poverty reduction and a more sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development of the country. Let me take the example of our long-standing support for renewable energies and energy efficiency in Nepal: progress in these areas translates both into positive social and economic impacts, while at the same time also addressing the issue of climate change.
Ian Martin was the head of Amnesty International before serving as UN special envoy to East Timor and Nepal. He acted as the inaugural head of UN Mission In Nepal (UNMIN) from 2006 to 2009. UNMIN was established to assist Nepal’s peace process following the peace agreement between Nepal government and Maoist rebels in 2006. Martin is a Cambridge educated Briton, whose controversial role in Nepal led the Nepal government to reduce UNMIN’s mandate, before finally ending the mission in 2011, on a rather bitter note.
Martin has been heavily criticized by Israel for a report prepared by his team in 2009. He led a UN committee of four to investigate incidents during the Gaza War. Israel was joined by the US in calling the report as biased. Israel’s criticism stated, “in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee.”
For the first time after the time of UNMIN, some of their activities and unreported incidents have been brought to light in a book by a former senior UN bureaucrat. Kul Chandra Gautam, who served as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, has been involved with Nepali civil society and in the peace process. His book, “Lost in Transition: Rebuilding Nepal from the Maoist mayhem and mega earthquake” is out tomorrow. It has already created a lot of ripples in Nepal, including very approving reviews for its counter-narrative to the dominant view in Nepal that eulogizes violence and undemocratic means to grab power by destabilizing the state.
What follows is an exclusive excerpt from the book, detailing some role of UNMIN and its high officials in Nepal that very few people other than Gautam have been privy to.
… People began to see that UNMIN was unable to restrain the massive pre-election threats and violence by the Maoists against candidates of other political parties. Following the elections, and the installation of the Maoist-led government, people saw many illegal and criminal activities taking place in Maoist cantonments or by Maoist combatants outside the cantonments. UNMIN’s seeming inability to control or even monitor such activities began to erode the public’s faith in UNMIN.
A video-taped speech by Maoist Chairman Prachanda at a party training event in the Shaktikhor cantonment just prior to the 2008 CA election revealed how the Maoists had hoodwinked the UN into accepting much larger number of combatants than was actually the case, and how the party intended to use its cadres, including its ex-combatants, to influence the election. UNMIN’s credibility nosedived, when instead of protesting the Maoists’ cynical remarks disparaging it, UNMIN sought to defend itself and the Maoists by saying that Prachanda’s remarks “needed to be understood in a certain context”.
Some dramatic cases of criminal activities in the Maoist cantonments; the free access and use of the cantonments by Maoist leaders for political training and indoctrination; and the seeming inability of UNMIN to do anything about such actions, led to serious disappointment with its performance, especially given the Nepali public’s very high expectation of UNMIN. Increasingly a growing number of leaders of the non-Maoist political parties, civil society and the media became critical of UNMIN’s performance, many attributing a certain pro-Maoist bias on the part of UNMIN.
Worried about their poor judgment, in early 2010, I wrote a long memo entitled “Quo Vadis UNMIN?” and shared it with Karin Landgren, Ian Martin and Tamrat Samuel. I cautioned them about giving undue benefit of doubt to the Maoists and unfair criticism and pressure on NC/UML to be more flexible and compromising. I have retained copies of my long private exchanges with them – mostly by emails – in my files.
In essence, the UNMIN leadership listened to my views politely, but generally chose to ignore them.
UNMIN became so influenced by the circle of self-proclaimed “progressives” that it ignored and dismissed the views and advice of many Nepalis who had a much deeper understanding of and respect for the United Nations, including those who had served in senior positions in the UN system …
In September 2010, UNMIN had prepared a report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2010/453) on the status of Nepal’s peace process recommending further extension of UNMIN’s mandate. This report was so unbalanced and objectionable that four former Foreign Ministers of Nepal coming from different political parties – KP Sharma Oli, Chakra Bastola, Ram Sharan Mahat and Prakash Chandra Lohani – wrote a joint letter of protest to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
As former foreign ministers, and strong supporters of the United Nations, they registered their objection to the tone and content of the whole report and pointed out several specific paragraphs which were against the letter and spirit of Nepal’s Comprehensive Peace Accord and related agreements. They objected to the report’s treatment of Nepal’s national army on par with the former rebel force, whose members were in temporary cantonments awaiting integration and rehabilitation. They also objected to the report essentially treating the Government of Nepal on par with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
Indeed, neither the UN nor most Western diplomats insisted with the Maoists that if they wanted their cooperation, they had to unequivocally renounce violence, accept political pluralism (not just “multiparty competition”), and abandon their declared objective of “state capture” through either ballots or bullets.
Martin’s implied assertion that Nepalis … could not think for themselves, reminded me of the former Singapore Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani’s book entitled “Can Asians Think?” Yes, I argued, Nepalis can think for themselves.
United Nations agencies and their aid partners based in Kathmandu have expressed their deepest concern over critical and growing shortages of lifesaving medicines and supplies across Nepal.
The agencies urged all sides to address restrictions on the import and free movement of essential supplies including vaccines, drugs and other medical goods as a means of respecting and facilitating the human rights to access quality health care services.
“The health and humanitarian implications of the present scenario are grave,” reads a joint statement by World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Department for International Development (DFID), German Development Cooperation (GDC, GIZ, KfW), and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
“In recognition of the right to timely access to quality health care services, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and as detailed in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 14 on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, we emphasize the seriousness of the present situation and its humanitarian implications,” the statement said.
Dr. Karan Singh’s statement (click here to watch his full statement) in Indian parliament yesterday is full of factual errors and lies. Perceived as a person who’s knowledgeable about Nepal, Singh’s understanding of Nepal’s complexities and nuances appear to be very insufficient and based on a distorted view on Nepal’s situation, probably fed by a few sources who do not understand Nepal very well. Here is a point-by-point evaluation of his claims versus the facts.
1. The constitution alienates a large section of the population
Fact: The constitution was voted for by almost 90% of all members of Nepal’s Constituent Assembly, the elected body that was drafting the constitution. It has been approved by a large section of the population, including many Madhesis. A large majority of Madhesi elected representatives voted for the constitution.
3. If the present constitution is continued, identity of Madhes is going to be destroyed
Fact: The constitution ensures a separate province for Madhesis, thus protecting their identity (although majority of Nepalese expressed in last elections that there are better ways to protect identity than through such ethnicity-based provinces). The constitution has provisions for multiple languages to be used in local bodies. No province has been created for other ethnic groups including Gurung, Magar, Tamang, etc. Madhesis are treated specially by the constitution, which many argue, is against the spirit of equality in democracy.
4. The eight-point agreement in 2007 with the government headed by GP Koirala has been jettisoned
Fact: Previous governments have made such agreements with many ethnic groups including Tharus, Limbus, Chure-Bhawar society and so on. Like explained in point 5 below, multiple groups live together and have competing claims. It has been a subject of long political debate in Nepal and so far there has been no consensus. The arrangement proposed in the current constitution is the only one that has received least opposition and was accepted by about 90% members of the Constituent Assembly. The constitution ensures a separate province for Madhesis, while other groups’ demands for similar provinces have not been respected. There are voices within Nepal who think this special treatment to a small section of Madhesi politicians is unfair for the rest of the groups who share these regions.
5. Madhesh has been sliced up in such a way that they are marginalised in all but one province
Fact: Nepal is a diverse country with more than 100 ethnic groups and languages (see this post for a statistics on some of these groups). The settlements in Nepal are mixed (many ethnic groups live close together) and it is extremely difficult to carve out provinces that is exclusive to each group, while still being fair to others. There are competing claims by different ethnic groups for provinces in the same areas. For example, in the Eastern Terai, Madhesis constitute less than 20% of the population but some Madhesi politicians (most of who have lost elections there) want it to be named as an exclusive Madhesi province. Other ethnic groups like Tharus, Limbus, Rajbamshis, Chure-Bhawar society also demand similar provisions in the same region. For over 8 years, this discussion has been going on in Nepal, including during two elections for the Constituent Assembly, that were dominated by this very debate. Finally, various parties agreed on the current federal solution that has the least amount of opposition. During the election of the Constituent Assembly, the agenda of ethnic-based provinces was defeated by huge margin. Similarly, the previous constituent assembly failed to draft a constitution because the ruling parties of that time wanted ethnicity based provinces while the opposition disagreed.
8. Madhesis have been looked down in that country for many centuries
Fact: Madhesis have been treated specially in Nepal’s history. They used to be part of the Royal court in Kathmandu. Today, several Madhesi groups (like Dalits) are among the most backward and disadvantaged in Nepal. At the same time, several other Madhesi groups (like Madhesi Brahmins, Kayasthas, Rajputs) are ahead of all other ethnic groups in Nepal in terms of Human Development Index (HDI), education, wealth, access to government services and opportunities. Madhesi is not a single homogeneous population group.
9. The current constitution goes back on the provisions made in the interim constitution
Fact: The current constitution is drafted by an elected Constituent Assembly that was sovereign. The Assembly was elected to replace the interim constitution based on the popular will expressed through elections. Current constitution ensures more progressive provisions including for language, women and minorities. It includes affirmative action provisions for additional groups like disabled and poor, which the interim constitution lacked. The current constitution ensures federalism, and a separate province for Madhesis. which the interim constitution did not have
The Nepalese Government MUST NOT accept the type of caste-, ethnicity- or region-based federalism – despite the continued protests by Madhesis with direct support from the Hindu extremist Modi Government of India. Such a long Indian blockade has not been easy, but we should not sow the seeds for further ethnic/caste violence in the future by accepting the demand of a few parties representing the south/South.
धन्यवाद माओवादी! तिमीले सुरु गरेको जातिवादी राजनीति र हिंशाले कालान्तरमा देशै टुक्रने पो हो कि भन्ने खतरा बढेर गएको छ। तात्कालिन सत्तास्वार्थका निम्ती सबै जातिलाई राज्य दिन्छु भन्दै हिंड्ने र अनेक मोर्चा निर्माण गर्ने गर्दा आज सिंगो मधेस र देशको स्थिती यहाँ अाइपुग्यो। र यो सारा चिज समिक्षा गर्ने, मुल्यांकन गर्ने र आवश्यक परे क्षमायाचना गर्ने हिम्मत यिनमा छ? के कुनै वाद वा विचारको नाममा देशै टुक्र्याउन पाईन्छ? अझ यसको जिम्मेवार बौद्दिक नेता झन नयाँँ शक्ति भनेर सर्लक्क पाखा लागेका छन र अझै जातीय द्वन्द फैलाउने उद्देश्य राखेका छन्। के नेपाल भट्टराईको प्रयोगशाला र मानव बधशाला बनिरहने हो? भट्टराईहरूले जति नेपालमा अरु कुनै पनि तानाशाहले हत्या हिंशा मच्चाएको रिकर्ड छैन, राष्ट्रको संपत्ति ध्वस्त पारेको छैन। र यिनीहरूले यति हत्या र यातनाको योजना बनाएर नेपालीलाई सखाफ परेका छन् कि आजसम्म उनीहरू पश्चिमा मुलुक भ्रमण गर्न डरले सकिरहेका छैनन्। तैपनि अझै कतिपय यिनीहरूले नै देश बनाउछन भन्ने कल्पना गर्दछन्! नेपालीको आँखा कहिले उघ्रन्छ?
(This article was originally posted as facebook status by Mr Mitra Pariyar. We have reproduced here with his permission.)