What I Saw In Nepal

A Nepali recalls his recent stay in a country marred by conflict and political turmoil

By Gaury Adhikary

I am posting this report based on my visit to Kathmandu recently. I was in Nepal from Feb 6th, 2006 till 24th. My report is based on my chance meeting with many people and I emphasize it at the beginning that nothing was organized. Most of what I write is based on one on one spontaneous conversation.

We reached Kathmandu on the first day of Baundh. To our surprise the taxis were running form Airport to the town, so we did not have any difficulty in getting to our home. However the market and streets were deserted. Next day, Maoist shot dead a taxi driver near B and B Hospital so the Bandh was completely obeyed and Kathmandu looked eerily silent. On Feb 8th the election was held with minimal participation by the population. Most of the people did not seem to care or know the candidates etc in Kahtmandu valley. Government claimed legitimacy of the election but the general population seem to have ignored the whole affair. Bundh was lifted on Feb 9th, day after the election. Kathmnadu seemed business as usual.

Then came the historical unanimous verdict of Nepali Supreme Court dissolving the RCCC. In handing down the verdict, Supreme Court declared the current regime illegal on constitutional basis. This was further expounded in detail in Kantipur by constitutional lawyers next day. A feeble press release was issued by Nepali Congress 36 hours later welcoming the verdict but it was not followed up by any protest activity by any party.

King Gyanendra responded to the verdict by releasing Deuba and Prakash M Singh but ignored the constitutional basis of his regime so well questioned by the verdict. Instead of getting political process started he made a scheduled trip to Pokhara.

East Nepal: While in Nepal I made a trip to Eastern Nepal. On my trip to Koshi barrage and Chatara area I noticed many army bunkers along the highway which were ringed with barbed wire and land mines. The highway was reduced to one lane by creating the maze with barbed wire. At times traffic had to stop to clear the motors coming from opposite direction. At Biratnagar airport I noticed a young lad of around 18 on local undershirt (ganji) with uniform trouser of armed police force lounging aimlessly in airport area. He had his rifle slung into his shoulder with magazine of bullets in plain view. I wondered how well he would be trained to use his firearms in such a crowded area if he ever had to.

Similarly I had noticed rows of armored vehicle lined up in Tundikhel readied for Shivaratri Army parade. In totality this gave me the feeling that Nepal was hopelessly militarized to the brim. For the first time I felt Nepal was looking more like central American Banana Republic rather than a traditional Kingdom of the past.

During my stay I had chance conversation to many and this is how I could paint a picture of today’s Nepal:

On the Monarchy: King Gyanendra is still looking for legitimacy as a Monarch of the country. General people do not respect him as a traditional Monarch of the country. King is his own man and he takes advice very sparsely. Even the Monarchy’s close supporters are exasperated with king’s solo adventure. There is an impending sense of uneasiness among the monarchists which is very much palpable.

On the Political parties: I spoke to a central committee member of the Nepali Congress after supreme court verdict against the RCCC and asked him why Parties ( NC in particular ) were not following up on supreme court decision? He plainly told me that the NC leadership was far behind the general population in demanding full democracy. He could not explain the hesitation of the parties to go all out against the King’s regime.

On Diaspora: One of the close family friends of royal house asked me what diaspora’s view on Nepali political affairs was. I told him that the Nepali diaspora in North America think Maoists to be integral part of the political solution of Nepal. Maoists are knocking the door at Kathmandu valley. It is high time that the king should start opening the dialogue with civic society and political parties at its earnest, away from media glare and keep the door open for Maoists to join in. Sooner it is done better chances Nepal has to come out from this nightmare without loosing much of collective wisdom of Nepal. Otherwise we run the risk of getting into “zero sum game “of Maoists, where all will be destroyed in Nepal and we start from scratch. Nepali diaspora in North America does not think that Nepal has to go through all that, only if the King relents form his current position. He listened intently and asked me “how do we get this message to the King?” I laughed and told him, I was hoping he would be one of the links for that job. At that we both laughed together! Later I sensed how isolated King has become!

On RNA views on the King’s move: (based on conversation with a Royal Nepali Army colonel) King has asked for 3 years, so he should be given that time frame. He just finished municipal election and once he finishes the parliamentary election within a year he will hand over the power to elected government and country will be back on track. When I pointed out that King’s move has produced nothing for the country other than increased militarization he responded that the country’s very existence is at stake and King needs all the support he can get form all patriotic Nepali. RNA does not see King deviating form his roadmap.

On Maoist presence: Many people from various parts of the country that I spoke to informed me that the Armed Police Force and the Army patrolling do not go out of the barracks or their outpost after sundown. Maoists run the writ in much of the countryside and they decide how the administration is run in the district. Taxation to business in district has not abated; Maoists are invisible but in control of the countryside.

Indian perspective on Nepal: (based on talk with an Indian political analyst): India cannot and will not allow Maoist takeover in Nepal. The ramifications are unthinkable for India so they will not allow it to happen. India can accept Maoist as a part of the political mosaic of New Nepal but not their takeover. When I asked 12 point agreement seem to give credence to the fact that India is in control of Maoist he replied: yes, India is in contact with Maoists (as they are with Kashmiri separatist, Naga rebel etc) but India is not in control of Maoists. It is not possible and it s not the fact. India is very worried of Maoist takeover in Nepal and will do every thing possible to avoid that.

I further queried: does that mean India will support King Gyanendra instead? His plain reply was that King Gyanendra was not trustworthy partner. He has made many promises in the past that he deliberately did not keep. Besides, his popularity within Nepal is so slim he can not be supported even if India wished to. India can not afford to be on wrong side of the fence when it comes to Nepali people’s welfare.

I asked him “if and when Nepal gets a stable political system will India agree to a defense pact with Nepal (something like NATO pact) so that rest of the development work in Nepal can go forward in faster pace?” He categorically explained that such a move will not be possible because anti India feeling within Nepal runs very high. Politically it cannot be sold within Nepal. India will most probably welcome the move but Nepal can not make the offer as of now. He however agreed that such a move will help future development of Nepal.

I further asked: does India think China is providing substantial support to the current regime. Is India worried? He thought China has always kept a neutral position with Nepali affairs and nothing significant has changed currently. No, India does not see any evidence that China has provided substantial help to King’s regime.

At the end he emphasized that decision making process in Indian system is a messy one and there are lots of push and pull from various interest group. Unlike Chinese system, Indian decision making and implementation is complex. So to define Indian position with any certainty is near impossible. His analysis was based on his personal observations.

On Civic society: Best I could get is from Ms Shanta Dixit’s article in TKP:

On “Men who ruin Nepal” she clearly warns the extreme right to be aware of the impending danger Nepal faces if they do not come to their senses and then on ” Mind your language” she warns Prachanda to be careful (if he wants to be taken seriously by the intellectuals) when he uses the terms” either executed or exiled” while referring to fate of King Gyanendra in new Nepal. I think these article sums up the mood of Nepali population that they are fed up with the king’s regime as well as Maoists’ unrelenting violent method to achieve their political goal.
On Non Resident Nepali movement: during an informal chat among Nepali democrats on a Saturday morning I asked for their guidance on diaspora’s dilemma:

I informed them of our Nepal Democracy forum and debate we generate on the forum.
I asked them: Majority of diaspora feel strongly for ceremonial monarchy and many are for Republicanism and very few are for Monarchy as well. At times we get into heated argument as to who wins the day in favor of the democracy in Nepal. I asked what would be their advice to the forum. They all laughed and said that this is mirror image of Nepali society as well!

Mr Nilambar Acharya addressed the question thus: first agenda of the day is to restore democracy in Nepal so our common enemy is current regime. We must speak against it at all forums, and the degree of democracy etc will be taken as miscellaneous (tapasil) activities at a later date. To talk about Republicanism vs Monarchism is not productive at this time.

My next question was their impression about NRN movement vis a vis NRN’s stance of political neutrality: Again it was Mr Nilambar Acharya who has this to say about the movement: Overall, NRN movement has grown to be a global force and it is very encouraging for all in Nepal to see NRN get so mobilized. He however pointed out that the NRN leadership has not kept the political neutrality.

UWB Note: This piece was first posted by the author in Nepal Democracy, a member-only discussion forum in the Internet. UWB reproduced the article with permission from Gaury Adhikary.

Published by UWB

Pioneering blog from Nepal...since 2004.

24 thoughts on “What I Saw In Nepal

  1. I agree with Mr. Adhikary when he wrote that the Maoists should also be given to participate in the future power sharing arrangements. Like Nilamber Acharya, I am also of the view that the NRN should be involved in only economic issues but in general it should support democracy like civil society in Nepal are presently doing.

    The major problem here lies with the Maoists. Unless and untill the elections to the Constituent Assembly are announced through the constitution of an Interim Government, the maoits are not going to lay down their arms.

    On the other hand the King is not ready for that. Lately, American are, in a way, supporting the King vis a vis Maoists but they have also said that the King should hand over the power to the parties.

    The political parties rule for about 12 years showed that they are interested in fast becoming rich rather than taking care of people’simmediate needs. Democracy is sweet but as per the experience it was bitter for the people. Again, people are not ready to tolerate that the parties and leaders benefit from Thekka Patta and commissions. Several people in the parties are waiting to go for Ambassadorial posts and waiting for big projects so that they can have good commissions. Who will give guarantee to the people that such things will never happen in New Nepal ?

    The only solution of the crisis is the election of the Constituent Assembly under international surveillance. I am sorry that Mr. Adhikary failed to sense it during his trip to Nepal recently. He has not spoken a single word about Constituent Assembly, in his write up above, which is the demand of the hour today in Nepal.

  2. one of the biggest problem is that the parties are not in tune with the people. there is no real support for the parties because people do not want to see the likes of girija et. al come back to power. hence this democracy movement in nepal is very half-harted. if the people were fully behind the “democratic” leadership I belive things would be alot different. but when you have a senario where the parties have to bribe protestors with free food and money this democratic movement of ours is suspect. or when you see parties like the NC who don’t even have a democratic system within their own party it is difficult to place faith in them.

    if only the party leaders, the king and the mao-duo (prachanda/baburam) could be sent in exile somewhere.

  3. Congratulations to Mr.Gaury Adhikari for this commendable work.

    I disagree with Mr.Layman on that we can trust maoists when they say they will lay down their weapons if the election of constituent assembly is announced.Who can take the guarantee,as the US ambassabor says,once the constituent assembly is announced and maoists laid down their arms partially and again start threatening the people and change the shape of the mandate then what path will our country take.For every one who has a problem of “political amnesia” please let me tell you why we cannot trust the maosist.

    a.When they started the violence and started killing people they said they wont touch the political party workers and we believed.

    b.They started killing RPP and congress workers implying they wont touch the fellow communists.

    c.Then they started killing the leftists too once they became more and more powerful and guess what our leaders did-nothing.They still thought they can use maoists against eachother to gain ‘satta’.

    d.They started killing policemen and said they only have problem with policemen and wont fight with the army and our army believed!!How foolish is that,when maoists attacked the police post and killed 75 policemen,our army men just across the river kept watching.

    e.Maoists kept engaging the gov.on peace talks suddenly withdrew without any reason and attacked the army base.Then alash…….everyone woke up from deep sleep.

    f.To avoid talks they said,we will only talk with the “MALIK” and not the nokars.Now malik is in power and now they have preconditions before talks.

    h.They have their 12 point understanding with the parties to show to the rest of the world their legitemacy.They promise 12 diff things on that and do just the opposite,killing,abduction,closure of schools everything is still going on.They have also killed a NC cadre and beatup other party cadres.Blasted bomb in the middle of a business hub said they were very very sorry and did it again with in 24 hours.Now can you still trust them? I cannot!!

    g.As a precondition for talks they have said Constituent Assembly should be announced.Who can be sure that this is not one more ploy to gain one more political advantage.Nobody except for maoists can make us believe them but they certainly are not doing so.

    My whole point is,YES some of the points raised by maoists are genuine,if we are to build a NEW NEPAL they have to be addressed.YES the villages of nepal are still very very backward.But NO they did not raise the issue for the people,NO they dont represent the rural poor.NO by giving a gun to a rural poor women she doesnt become powerful.The means is education which they dont want.The means is development which they wont let happen.

    Constituent assembly is not a magic treatment of our ills,it never was.There is no one magic pill that can cure a age old disease.The need of the hour is for the King to step down,dissolve his cabinet.Make a cabinet with leaders of all the parties,like we did in 2046.That cabinet will call the maoists for talks,they will come,they have to come,there is no other way out for them.And have a general election.Then its for the people to decide who should rule this country,who should drive our motherland to prosperity!!

  4. Gauri ji jasto buddijibi manchhe le fatta futta bheteka manchhe haru ka aadhar ma pura Nepal lai ‘generalize’ garnu bhayena… It is ok to feel the perceptions of ordinary citizens of country from different ideologies and working class. However, he should have visited high ranking people like king (not too sure!!), leaderships in govt, leaderships in parties, leaderships in rebels, key foreign diplomats, etc. If i were him, i would do so… Otherwise, oodaharan ko lagi sasurali ma dhog bhet garna janda bato ma beteka manchhe haru ko kura kani ko aadhar ma yeti dherai hangama machhaunu bhayena.

  5. [icd] [W]hat gives [Gauri Adhikari] freedom to be representational of all “Nepali diaspora in North America”? As varied as Nepal or US is, so is the diaspora. One person claiming to understand it all is clearly exposing one’s ignorance of the matter.

  6. I agree with all points made by humanji except only point that the elecctions held by the Interim govt also cannot solve the problem. Because the demand of the Maoists, that is of CA, is not fulfilled. This demand of CA is agreed by even the seven political parties. Only the King is the exception. Even Pracha

  7. Even Prachanda has said time and again that whatever the decision of the CA he is ready to respect it even the Monarchy or constitutional monarchy. Many paties have already gone too far embracing Republic. At this stage, why the King not dare to announce it ? He always boasts of the support of the village people. Why not dare to announce the elections of CA ? with the international surveillance.

  8. A JOKE:GO TO NEPALJAPAN.COM. SEE THE PHOTO OF SUJATA THERE.

    SHE IS WITH OPEN MOUTH TARGETTING WITH HER HAND THE COMMISSIONS SHE SEES COMING IN THE NEAR FUTURE BY BUYING ONE BOEING FOR THE RNAC. HA HA HA !!!!!!OF COURSE IF SHE COMES TO POWER WITH HER FATHER ??

  9. I beg to differ with Chanke when he gives the impression that each and every report should be filed with dibyagyaan from thulabada. The voice of general public matters very much in today’s Nepal. People like Gauri Adhikari should talk to the public, general and unknown people and that will help understand the real situation and aspirations of Nepal. Why meet king and high-profile leaders all the time?

    They are speaking one thing in the morning and the other thing in the afternoon and all that will be widely reported in the media and general people is supposed to listen to and read that with great attention. We have seen this one flow of information. Journalists and other thula bada are also interested in meeting with only influential and glamorous people. They hardly go and understand general public’s views. So what Gaury Adhikari did is absolutely fantastic job. I got so many insights of what’s going on in Nepali society right now. Thanks.

  10. I disagree with everyone who sees the corrupt Maoists as a positive force.

    MAOISTS ARE DAMNED ENEMY OF NEPALIS. THEY ARE KILLER AND THEY HAVE NO OTHER AGENDA OTHER THAN KILLING NEPALIS AND AMASSING MONEY. HAVE YOU HEARD THAT PRACHANDA AND BABURAM HAVE THEIR SWISS BANK ACCOUNT? AND THEIR KIDS ARE ENJOYING NEPALI’S LOOTED MONEY IN ENGLAND. IN FACT, I HAVE HEARD BABURAM’S DAUGHTER HAS BEEN A DRUG ADDICT IN LONDON. IT MAY BE JUST HALLA, BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT THESE ARE JUST DACOITS. THEY HAVE NO POLITICAL AGENDA.

    HAVE THEY EVER TOLD WHAT KIND OF SOCIAL OR ECONOMIC STRUCTURE WILL THEY BRING IF THEY COME TO POWER? EVER TOLD WHAT REFORMS? THEY JUST SAY ‘NO KING’. SO WHAT? HOW DOES NO KING HELP THEM ACHIEVE SOCIALIST GOAL SINCE THEY DON’T HAVE ANY. THEY ARE JUST BUNCH OF MURDERERS. THEY MURDER INNOCENT NEPALIS. THE ONLY WAY FOR ALL THE PARTIES, IF THEY WANT TO SAVE THEIR IDENTITY AND SAVE NEAPL IS TO SUPPORT KING TO WIPE OUT CRUEL MAOIST GANG. THEY WILL SURELY BE WIPED OUT. THEY ARE MOST CORRUP PARTY IN FACT, MORE THAN CONGRESS OR UML. EVERY LEADER HAS AMASSED PROPERTY AND BANK BALANCE. YOU WILL BE A FOOL TO BELIEVE IN THEIR WORDS!!!

  11. supriya ji, the situation in Nepal is already obvious. As His Excellency US Ambassador has also admitted in one of the interview in the recent past that a large part of the countryside is under the control of rebels. In this triangular conflict each has their own version. As you know the proverb “merai goru ko barai takka”, the country is going through same situation. I do not see more than that in Gauri’s field report which is indeed true. He has presented some issues, but what i want to see reasonable strategies for the given issues.

  12. layman ji,
    Tapai ko kura malai acchamma lagyo.How can you agree with me when u think you can still trust Prachanda!! After i wrote this post he has a UN office and once again caused a shootout in public place in Pokhara.We cannot trust this guy!! Or lets put it this way he doesnt let us trust him.

  13. The problem with half witted people like this writer is that they generalise things based on their short stay and based on one person’s statement/experience.

    For him/her to represent Nepali diasapora’s view defies belief. I can’t believe that some one with sane mind would do that.

  14. Why does this blog print articles of Doctors like Gaury. Dont they have any other articles to print. Who is this guy anyway? He is a doctor living in the U.S. and has concerns but why are we focussing on him in a public forum? He is free to place his concerns as a regular blogger, why does he have to be made a journalist? Is he Wagle’s Uncle?

    I would put him in the same category as a parachute journalist, except the difference being he sees Nepal through the same foreign eyes as these foreign paratroopers.

  15. Mr. Shah said he wanted three years. I’m willing to wait. I’ve heard that Kathmandu’s electricity problems are worse than they have ever been, and there’s hardly any running water in so many places. That’s Kathmandu, by the way, where Mr. Shah claims to have peace and security.

    Way to go, Mr. Shah. Wonder what you’ll do in one more year. Go and smoke more hashish with your son and think you’re doing a great job.

  16. And now they’ve attacked Ilam. (‘Thousands’, according to Nepalnews.com).

    Give it up, Mr. Shah. I mean, all those attacks using helicopters in W. Nepal have come to nothing. Here they are in the east, coming out in their thousands. Thousands! Any sensible man can see that victory is impossible. Kathmandu is uncomfortable, the country is in ruins, the Maoists decide when and where they’ll attack, and still Mr. Shah and his cronies go on saying the Maoists are finished. “Petty crimes”, eh, Mr. Shah?

    Go back to your palace and smoke some more of your hash. Enjoy getting stoned, man.

  17. any more info on ilam attack?

    please update us asap. we have been relying upon you for this.

    thanks for the hard work

  18. Dr. Adhikary’s informal scoop posted to the original discussion forum, “Nepali Democracy Google group” is being warmly received except for some reservation to the specifics of the assertion that the majority of Nepali Diaspora is for “Ceremonial Monarchy”.

    I think Dr. Adhikary is right up to the point that “Ceremonial monarchy” and “Republic democracy” together will be what the majority of Nepali Diaspora stands now for. However, a dichotomy between “Ceremonial Monarchy” and “Republic democracy” and particularly the quantified claim that the former is in majority might very much be inaccurate. I also think that this would hold true not only for Nepali diaspora but also for people in Nepal. Here is why.

    1. My general observation is that “Ceremonial monarchy” is a popular vocabulary for the senior generation (I would say roughly 50+ years age group) and “republic” is the same for the younger generation.

    Note than the senior generation is in minority both at home and in Diaspora. However, their larger and stronger social exposure might give an illusion that they are in the majority. If Dr. Adhikary’s assertion is not based on any specific data, then he most likely was a victim of this illusion.

    2. Although popular among the senior generation, “Ceremonial monarchy”, I believe, represents a psychological transition of thought process of our senior generation rather than a distinct political system envisioned for Nepal.

    The psychological transition is happening between fading hangover of monarchy and strong encounter with the new reality of republican discourse in Nepal.

    So, “Ceremonial monarchy” and “Republic democracy” are not two different paths, but two different points at the same path, at least at the mental level of those who are talking about “Ceremonial monarchy”.

    I think we should interpret Dr. Adhikary’s statement in this light and not conclude that “Republic democracy” represents a minority voice, which otherwise would be inaccurate.

  19. Nepal is in dire need of ‘Republican Hawaldar’ like Nepe!! Namaste, nepe ji…

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