Janajati Nepal Banda: Royalists in Charge (and Other Headlines)

Any idea who is Shekhar Gurung? I am sure you do know him. He came to limelight when Gyanendra’s autocracy was in climax. Shekhar Gurung was appointed the Zonal administrator, a post created by the royal regime to strengthen the autocratic hold in the state of affairs, for Bagmati Zone. With the restoration of democracy in April, the likes of Shekhar Gurung went on hiding from public eyes. Not anymore. The agents of regression have made a comeback. Thanks to the pro-democratic, pro-republican Janajatis who provided him a forum today by organizing Nepal Banda, the general strike.

“I was coming to office this afternoon,” said Hari Bahadur Thapa, chief reporter at Kantipur daily. “Some people stopped me near Kupandole and one of them asked for my [press] identity card. I was shocked to see that the person who was demanding my identity was no other than Shekhar Gurung.” Shekhar Gurung inspected Thapa’s ID and told, “Ok, You are from the press. Go.”

I always thought royalists had infiltrated into the agitation in Terai and other parts,” Thapa said. “Today’s incident was yet another solid proof about the royalist involvement in destabilizing the democratic government. This is also a matter of shame for the organizers of today’s Banda that people like Shaker Gurung were openly active in the name of Janajati demands.”

Banda Update: Normal life across nation has been affected today due to Nepal Banda (shutdown) called by the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NFIN) to pressurise the government to fulfill its 24-point demands. The bandh was organised demanding ethnic autonomy, federal system, linguistic freedom, proportional representation in the constituent assembly and guarantee of self determination, among others. NFIN, which held talks with the government on 26 Feb, refused to withdraw the bandh despite government requests. NFIN is scheduled to hold the second round of talks on Friday (2 March). (more here)

Developments of the Day:

Bhattarai on Monarchy: Kishna Prasad Bhattarai, a former Prime Minister and former Nepali Congress leader, arises from tumb (many had though that he wasn’t in this world anymore) to defend the ‘powerless monarchy’ in Nepal. We haven’t forgotten that panwalla Bhattarai used to defend the 1990 constitution until recently saying that the statue formulated by his government 17 years ago was “best in the world and there is no need to change a line in it.” Now he thinks going for republic will not be a good idea for the country. Bhattarai, who had returned from pilgrimage to Benaras, India, made those remarks talking to journalists in Bhairahawa this afternoon.

Koirala Health: “Has [Prime Minister] Girija [Prasad Koirala] died?” SMS with these words have been circulating among mobile users in Kathmandu since yesterday and people were tuning in to radios to be sure about the PM’s health situation. We heard that a foreign ambassador contacted to a foreign news agency’s Kathmandu office regarding the news compelling the reporters to make a call to family members of Koirala. “He is absolutely fine now and has shown a lot of signals of improvement,” the family source told a reporter. Then there was one minister who went on public to tell the public latest about Koirala. “I have just now met with him and he appeared fine,” Ramesh Lekhak was heard saying that in Radio Nepal today.

Prime Minister Concerned: Koirala is okay and he is concerned about Maoist arms, says a report. The Prime Minister, during his discussion with the government talks team with the Maoists, today expressed concern over the vast differences between the number of Maoist combatants and the arms registered. Koirala directed the team to make arrangements to declare the arms of the Maoists not registered with the UN as illegal. The UN had registered 30,852 Maoist PLA members and 3,428 arms.

Other headlines of the day

Govt-Maoist discuss interim govt, CA polls
CA election dates will be announced by Thursday: Prachanda

Ethnic Assertion, Constituent Assembly Elections and Defensive Maoists

By Siddhartha Thapa
Comment of the Moment (Originally posted here.)

Even as the Terai starts to breathe again, various ethnic groups across the country have renewed their calls for further protests. The latest turmoil in the Terai is a direct consequence of the murky politics envisioned by the Maoists; the same ideologies that provided the base for the Maoist revolution – inciting of minority groups on the thesis of “self determination.”

Despite the successful conclusion of the April revolution, ethnicity has been (and remains) an unrealized but gargantuan niche in Nepalese politics. While political pundits belonging to various political systems have ignored the sentiments of ethnic minorities, the Maoists on the other hand had (till recently), masterfully exploited the niche as a catalyst to storm into power.

The nucleus of the political crisis in Nepal is the continued neglect of minority rights, primarily of the socio-cultural variety. If Nepal’s politicians continue to ignore the rights of minority groups, the ethnic issue has the potential to lead to the disintegration of the nation-state. Up to now the challenges of ethnic equality have only received moral acknowledgement. The government’s procedures to tackle these challenges are short on substantive ideology, concrete policy and as always, big on rhetoric.

The tear in Nepal’s fraternal fabric is primarily a result of Maoist policies. To begin with, the Maoists espoused the policy of ’self determination’ that proposed autonomy for minority groups (based on ethnic dimensions). As a result, the overwhelming majority of Maoist combatants hail from ethnic minorities.

But herein lies the paradox – the ethnic combatants have fought for the Maoists for equality along social, cultural, political and economic lines. This they expect to achieve through the medium of democratic dispensation which eventually will prove contradictory to the Maoist school of thought – radical communism. A classic mismanagement of expectations versus delivery capacity – the Maoists radicalization of the Nepali population has finally caught up with them.

Even after the conclusion of the April revolution, the Maoists have failed to retract from the path of violence and the Maoists remain wed to their cause of establishing one party communist republic, thereby defying the norms of multi-party democracy.

In hindsight, the political parties’ commitment to ensuring and institutionalizing an inclusive political structure remains questionable. This is mainly due to the construct of the existing internal social structure of the major political parties.
First, the ethnic representatives in the major political parties are on average, old enough to be grand parents for the newest additions to the voting population. These leaders have been completely absorbed into the Kathmandu bourgeoisie. The passion and determination to impact changes is dormant.

It is also worth noting that the majority of the ethnic leaders that belong to major political parties have for long stayed away from their home constituencies and are thus, out of touch with rural and ethnic issues. But the crux of the problem is that the leadership remains overwhelmingly caste conscious with Hindu male domination and with Brahminisation as the most distinctive feature of the entire political sphere. These leaders fear that revamping the social structure within their parties (and within the larger political context), could eventually lead to the waning of their influence, power and their future in politics.

What is also foreboding is the fact that the prelude to Constituent Assembly elections will be marred with violence. It is also predictable that elections will be fought along ethnic, geographical and religious lines, contradicting principles of secularism, ethnic integration and national harmony. Determined tongue lashers of various ideological backgrounds will stress on theocratic values that will eventually dominate the election manifestos of major political parties. But if the problem of ethnic minorities remains unaddressed (prior to the elections), the eventual outcome will be a discontented mass, no matter which party wins.

It is a foregone conclusion that the Maoists’ will keep their true intentions closely to their chest prior to attaining an electoral victory. It is by design that the Maoists will fight the elections promoting equality for minorities and promising autonomies. But the election promises contravene the principles of Maoist communism. In their bid to promote equality, Maoists like Pol-Pot in Cambodia, Chairman Mao in China and CCCP in Russia and finally, the Maoists in Nepal will also cut a swathe through social and cultural structures in effort to usher egalitarianism among the masses.

However, Maoist aspirations for equality could get compounded if the minorities fear that they are losing their cultural and social identity. The minorities will revolt to protect their religious rights, right to private property and human rights. These issues could form the basis for a new revolution. The gravity of the problem could mean that the country would have to witness a cycle of anarchy and face the threat of possible disintegration, prior to an eventual mass-based revolution against the Maoists. If the Maoists are true to their cause and are able achieve an electoral victory; it is doubtful that the radicals within their rank and file, will resist pursuing their radical ideology.

On the other hand if the political parties win, namely the Nepali Congress, the domination of the high caste Hindu male elite will continue. All state tools that can invariably affect the election results are disproportionately Chetri, Brahmin and Newar dominated – more so Brahmans. But Brahmanisation in itself is only a part of the problem. The fulcrum of the problem is the reluctance of political leaders to diversify; the fear of being displaced.

Therefore, the move towards inclusiveness will progress sluggishly causing concern to many. This lethargy heralds a scenario of further unrest. Ethnic minorities will battle hard to be heard and to preserve their social and cultural identity. And increasingly, the political direction will move towards an inclusive Nepal. However the social, cultural and more importantly the human cost of impacting changes, in an inclusive democratic Nepal will be dear.

Either way, in hindsight, it becomes abundantly clear that the April uprising was only the beginning to a long, drawn out process, intended to bring about a “new” Nepal. The uprising was just the beginning to a series of mini-revolutions and counter-revolutions that have no discernable end in sight.

Another Nepal Banda Tomorrow: Depressing Scenario

Protest, protest everywhere, how can we get out of this mess?

Janajatis or indigenous people have called for a general strike in Nepal tomorrow. Economically that would be yet another blow to already depressing situation. That will be yet another day of walking for hours to reach offices, yet another day people wasting their time in walking instead of doing things in office, yet another day of confining buses in garages and loosing income. Yet another Nepal Banda! “This banda sucks man,” I was talking to Ang Tshiring Sherpa, a reporter friend of mine at Kantipur who reached at the top of Everest four years ago, as we were getting out of office tonight. “This is totally unnecessary and come at a really bad time.” I knew how he would respond.

“What?” he said. “No, it’s absolutely necessary.”
“No, it’s not.” I protested. “What’s the demand of janajatis? They want amendment in constitution and the government has already announced and decided that they are going to amend.”
“No, they are not,” he said. “We want things done at once.” Then suddenly he added: “The government is doing things in kistabandi (installment).”

Oh…boy, you have started speaking the language of Pasang (Sherpa of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities),” I said as we departed from the office.

Yes, in this transition everyone wants to have their say. Everyone wants to be empowered. Even the Chepangs have joined in the fray. The Chepang community, eKantipur reports, has announced a transport strike in four different districts in central and western development regions, demanding a Chepang autonomous region. Of course, I there is a Madhesi autonomous region, if there is Limbuwan, Khumbuan, Magarat, why not Chepang? Why not Raute? Why not Poudels? Why not Pokharels? And how many autonomous region we will have to create? As I was typing these lines, I saw a comment from our own “Kirat” in UWB. He says:

“An intelligent person would think…why are these janjatis and madeshis protesting? Perhaps they have genuine grievances perhaps they don’t. But it would be the duty of every educated Nepali…let alone so called political leaders of the Congress, UML and Maoists to look into their demands properly and address it in the best way possible.”

Right. But the solution, it seems, will not satisfy all. There will be another person or faction that would say, well, what about us, we don’t agree. As Kirat rightly points out in another comment that we are going through very depressing situation:

“It’s a pretty depressing scenario right now in Nepal. Strikes and protests by all sorts of groups asking for a say in the new Nepal… Creating mayhem, hammering the economy and giving endless misery to the ordinary people. What does the [Seven Party Alliance government] do? Nothing. They are like a disinterested bystander acting as if this is none of their problem/business. That is so wrong. ….The fact that the govt. has failed in this simple exercise demonstrates the vastness of the problems that this country is yet to encounter.”

It is indeed so depressing that everyone is capable enough to create mayhem in Nepal these days. If you have a family dispute, go and stop the traffic. I don’t want to blame the government because they are in a difficult situation. It seems almost certain that we will be missing the deadline for the election of Constituent Assembly. No doubt some people are hell bent on making this government a failure there by giving the impression the people that democracy can never sustain in Nepal. Knowing this very well, some people are taking their responsibility lightly and this really makes me wonder. Even an utterly optimistic people like me become disappointed sometime thinking about the state of affair. Economy is going down, inflation is soaring, everything is at standstill (except the Nepal Telecom that is introducing on new service after another. Just today it launched GPRS service.) Feels like where the hell I am living? What the hell I am doing? Where is my future heading? What I will be doing, if anything, ten years down the line? “I read news about fascinating economic growth in China and India,” a friend of mine recently confided. “And suddenly this feeling comes into mind: ‘Damn I am a Nepali, why I am not in Ghanjau or Beijing.”

There must be a solution, of course, but what is that?-by Wagle

Disappointing Headlines:

MPRF strike continues in eastern Nepal; now Chepangs join the fray (Life continued to be affected in the eastern regions due to the transport strike and customs check post strike announced the agitating Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (JTMM) which has steadfastly refusing parley offers until Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula resigns. Due to the strike, vehicular movement on the roads on the highway remains nil while the check post completely shut.)

Traffic in Lalitpur obstructed over torn 10 Rs note

Martin calls into question CA polls unless political consensus reached soon

Posing as JTMM cadres group abducts teacher from Kalaiya

Nepal’s constitutional process must be more inclusive: ICG report (“Nepal’s constitution-making process has two tough targets to meet. It must conclusively end the conflict and also shape more representative and responsive state structures. Balancing these concerns is far from straight-forward, but broader public participation can only help.”)

Surya Bahadur Thapa Interview: Hidden Messages?

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle’s Web Log

Surya Bahadur Thapa has appeared in TV today in a very suspicious manner to defend the king. Former Prime Minister Thapa, who formed his Rastriya Janashakti Party after the royal takeover of Feb 2005, today told Kantipur TV’s Fire Side program (hosted by Bhusan Dahal) that the Interim Parliament has no right to take any action against the monarchy. “This parliament is not sovereign,” Thapa, a lifelong royalist who was instrumental in repressing democratic movement in the dark autocratic days of pre-1990 Panchayat system, said. “Only the Constituent Assembly can decide on big national issues. We shouldn’t give importance to who says what. The king can’t have any impact.” Thapa, who was nominated the Prime Minister by Gyanendra after the king with autocratic ambition, dismissed a democratically elected Prime Minster in 2002, also categorically said: “The time hasn’t come for republic.”

Thapa said: “When you talk about taking action [against king], you are taking about an individual. A person has given [the statement], how can you strike against the other [monarchy]?” Thapa said, “Let’s wait for a few days and see how the government acts [on the parliaments directive to take action against king].

Meanwhile the government today formally condemned the king for giving out the Democracy day statement without its approval or knowledge. “This is unconstitutional, undemocratic, unauthorized, condemnable and contentious,” government spokesperson and information minister Dilendra Prasad Badu told reporters. “The cabinet has decided to take appropriate action against king based on political understanding [with ruling parties.]

These views from government and Thapa come at a time when rumors are doing rounds in Kathmandu that yet another coup, from military, is being mulled in foreign land. Even Prachanda mentioned about such rumors the other day. This must be noted that Surya Bahadur Thapa visited India for about three weeks recently. He came back to Nepal two weeks ago. We have no information what Thapa was doing in India and whom he met. There are many such forces who will not hesitate to exploit and sabotage the current fluid situation in Nepal? Is there any coincidence between Thapa coming to the press and the dubious Upendra Yadav of Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (MJF or MPRF) re-starting the agitation in Terai for no reason? Will any sensible person believe that MJF is restarting the agitation that clearly threatens the social and communal harmony in Nepal just because they didn’t get Home Minister’s resignation? In addition to this, there is no surety that Yadav will not launch another round of agitation after the Home Minister resigns. He might come with another excuse as he as done in the recent past. That is because he is not deciding for himself; he is working for someone else who wants to create havoc in Nepal.

Thapa was asked if he was leading an alliance of pro-king groups. He didn’t categorically deny but said: “Kathmandu is a country that is engulfed by gossips and rumors etc.” He said a broad democratic alliance was necessary to save the sarbamanya prajantra (democracy of wide acceptance) and [to act] against the dictator.” He didn’t elaborate about sarbamanya democracy but it could be easily understood that he was dismissing the democratic republic (or loktantrik ganatantra) and using the “sarbamanya prajantra” term instead.

“Who is that dictator?” Thapa was asked.

“That will show up itself in a few days,” Thapa said.

“Who do you think monarchy is closer to: democratic forces or dictatorship?” Thapa was asked.

“You can’t see him closer to either force if you see the statement,” Thapa said. “Monarchy is not the topic for debate. [This whole debate on monarchy] is just a diversion from the main issue.”

In the interview with KTV Surya Bahadur Thapa cleverly avoided answering the question on the possibility of CA election by mid-July though he repeatedly stressed on the argument that only CA can do whatever is needed to be done. “Do you think CA election could be held by Jestha?” Bhusan asked. Thapa replied: “No one can end this uncertainty. Only CA can. The sooner the CA comes, the uncertainty will go. But whatever activities are happening….sovereign people are now hostage of Maoists.”

Nepal Government Will Give Additional Rs. 50m to Maoists

The government today (25 Feb) decided to provided Rs 50 million per month to the Maoists for the management of Maoist cantonments that are set up at different regions across the country. In a meeting of the Maoist Cantonment Management Committee today, it was also decided that each Maoist combatant would be provided with a daily allowance of Rs 60.

The CPN-M today also submitted the expenditure details of Rs 35 million that has already been provided to the party by the government for the purpose of camp management. Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula said that whatever problems being faced by the Maoist combatants would be solved by the government after holding discussions with the Maoist leadership.

The government earlier had stopped allocating additional funds to the CPN-M after the latter did not provide the government with expenditure details. Today’s meeting also concentrated on the other problems that have been noticed in the Maoist cantonments.

Criticizing the government for not providing enough food, shelter and other essential amenities and stating that the living conditions in the cantonments were extremely poor, thousands of Maoist combatants had deserted their cantonments a few days ago. But, following criticism from all quarters including the government and the UN, the combatants returned to their respective cantonments.

Upendra Yadav on Maoists

Chairman of the agitating Madheshi People’s Rights Forum Upendra Yadav has said that the Maoist intervention in the forum’s program in Nepalgunj was the height of “terrorism and militant philosophy”.

Condemning the Maoist disruption and vandalism during the forum’s mass meeting in Nepalgunj Saturday, Yadav today (25 Jan) said, “This exemplifies that the Maoists are still following the philosophy of terrorism.” Yadav also accused the Maoists of harboring a tyrannical manner.

Labeling yesterday’s disruption of the MPRF mass gathering at Tribhuvan Chowk in Nepalgunj as an attack on democracy, the forum chairman said, “The attempt by the Maoists to crush freedom of expression is reminiscent to Pol Pot’s tyranny.”– by J Pandey (continue reading here)

Maoists in Bullying Spree: What is the Problem Comrades?

Apparently it’s a season of clashes for the Maoists. They are in the bullying spree as soon as it became clear to the world that they are not reporting all the weapons they have to the UN. They have clashed with members of an indigenous organization in Chitwan and bullied over the cadres associated with parties like Nepali Congress and CPN UML. But the most disturbing event was seen in Rupandehi today where Maoists and Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) activists fought. The leader of MPRF, Upendra Yadav, is not a person with his own decision. He is a puppet of some unseen forces and is doing a lot of harm to Nepali nationalism by staging one agitation after another and disregarding the offer made by the Prime Minister.

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Cartoon by Dovan Rai. Uploaded in 27 Feb

Who is encouraging Updenra to go back to the streets of Terai is the one who will benefit the most if the problem in Terai turns into worst. Generals like Dilip Shumser Rana are still there in Nepali Army who will take no time to act for the interests such force. India didn’t want to revise the Trade treaty and their brat soldiers entering our territory and beating up our policemen. Sad but true, the Indian bureaucracy has never been a true friend of Nepal.

By now there is no doubt the Maoists want to push the CA election date because they were badly wounded, politically, in Terai during the recent unrest in the region. Irony is that reactionaries want exactly the same: pushing the election further to uncertainty. Maoists must realize that their actions will have long lasting repercussions for the stability of Nepal as a state. They shouldn’t give any excuses for puppets like Updenra Yadav to work for his masters. Nationality is at stake and it high time everyone behaved responsibly.

Maoists, MPRF cadres clash in Rupandehi

By Madhav Dhungana
Rupandehi- Over a dozen people were injured, one critically, after Maoist cadres and activists of the Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) clashed at Majhgawa area of Marchwar in Rupandehi today. Four police personnel were also injured in an attempt to break up the fight between the Maoists and the forum members. Condition of Police Sub Inspector Gunj Bahadur Gurung, who was seriously injured when a gun went off accidentally in the ensuing chaos, is critical. Gurung was immediately flown to Kathmandu from Bhairahawa for treatment. Meanwhile, police said that Gurung received injuries after one of their own guns went off by mistake.

Tensions have soared high in the region after the Maoists sent more cadres in the region. The scuffle had started after the forum activists torched a passenger bus (Lu 1 Kha 4162) ferrying Maoist cadres to Butwal where a mass meeting of the CPN-M was schedule to take place in addition to blocking traffic in the Majhgawa area where the incident occurred. Forum members had brought all traffic to a halt by felling trees near the site of the arson. Meanwhile, some 10 Maoists who were injured in the scuffle are undergoing treatment at a Medical College in Bhairahawa. (more here)

Other Disappointing Headlines:

Narayanghat goes tense as NFIN activists clash with Maoists
Maoists disrupt MPRF programme
Maoists assault NC, UML-affiliate workers
Maoists release 94 MPRF cadres from custody
NA detains eight armed Maoists at Bardiya reserve
Indian SSB personnel arrest two Nepali youths from Janakpur
No revision on Trade Treaty
Govt calls MPRF for talks again; only if Sitaula resigns, says MPRF
Indian Army claim on Maoist-Lashkar nexus fictitious: Indian media

Maoist in Nepal: 30,852 Guerillas, 3,428 Weapons. Really???

Now the questions are: Only that much? How could that be? Are you honest Maoist comrades?

For the record: The United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) yesterday revealed that a total of 30,852 People’s Liberation Army [of Communist Party of Maoist] militants were registered at the seven main and 21 sub cantonments across the nation while 3,428 weapons were registered in the first phase of verification process monitored by the UNMIN.

The List:

91 mortars (55 of which were locally-made);
61 machine guns;
2,403 rifles;
61 automatic weapons (sub-machine guns);
114 side-arms;
212 shotguns;
253 various/miscellaneous; and
233 home-made weapons

These weapons were registered during the first phase of arms and armies registration. But the Nepal Army claims Maoists had looted 3,430 weapons where as according to UNMIN Maoists registered a total of 3,428 weapons.

The UNMIL figure also includes “524 weapons retained for perimeter security by designated guards, in accordance with the Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies (4.1.2), and 49 of the weapons are so far retained away from the cantonments, pending an understanding with the Government on arrangements for personal security of leaders,” the release stated. Meanwhile, the UNMIN also said that the number of weapons registered falls short of the number purported by the Maoists to have been commandeered from the security forces.

“The Nepal Army had made available to UNMIN a breakdown by types of 3,430 weapons which it states were taken from the Nepal Army, the Nepal Police and the Armed Police Force,” the UNMIN release said adding that the UNMIN is in the process of registering members of the Maoist army currently engaged in leadership security arrangements or undergoing medical treatment outside the cantonment sites.

The second phase of the arms registration process would begin by mid-March, UNMIN said. “Brief details of each combatant have been recorded at the first stage of registration, but have not been verified; each has been photographed and issued with an identity card with a UN bar code. Detailed information will be collected through individual interviews at the second stage of registration. The full modalities of the second stage process are under discussion in the JMCC, and it is expected to begin by mid-March,” the release stated.

Nepal Declaration of Girls of Even Worse Character

UWB Note: Tired of reading declarations of political parties and agitating organizations? Here is yet another declaration, which is not really boring, from our own Girls of Even Worse Character! [नेपालीमा यहाँ छ: चरित्रहीन चेलीहरूको नयाँ अवतार]

FEBRUARY 2007 DECLARATION of Jhan Charatraheen Cheli [Saturday Blog]

[Inside: A CharitrawanChela responds The text has some adult content. Reader discretion advised.]

We, a hardline faction of the underground group, Charitraheen Chelis (Girls of Bad Character), have broken off and declared Nepali women autonomous.

Our breakaway faction, Jhan Charitraheen Cheli (Girls of Even Worse Character), roundly denounces the members of the original Charitraheen Cheli.

“The chelis of our mau-samuha (mother-group) did not behave badly enough,” says one member of the Jhan Charitraheen Cheli. “Most of them are happily married, with well brought-up children. Two chelis have a steady boyfriend– meaning, one each, not one in common! And the others don’t like men, or even women,” she complains. “For example, after the 2005 coup they called for a sex boycott till the reinstatement of democracy – but they forgot to call off the boycott after April 2006! We take this as a grave conspiracy,” she adds, explaining, “That is why we had to break away and start our own underground group.”

The first meeting of the Jhan Charitraheen Cheli took place in mid February
in a seedy bar in Kathmandu.

Our first agenda was to revisit the 40 points’ declaration made by our mau-samuha on March 4, 2005, through their official mouthpieces, Nepali Times and Kantipur, both edited by dishy men. We discovered that the 40 points are pretty damn good, especially Point No. 1, which asserts our right to take up agendas solely on the basis of our wishes and needs.

“That mau-samuha wasn’t all bad,” one member was heard admitting.

After re-passing our mau-samuha’s 40 points’ declaration, we progressed on to other, more timely matters. Our twelve-point declarations are as follows:

1. Make love, not regression! We declare that the sex boycott called by our mau-samuha in 2005 is comprehensively over, retroactive to April 2006, but only for those of the loktantrik persuasion.

2. Vision 50/50: No penises in Parliament! We demand that until 50 percent of seats in Parliament are reserved for women of diverse backgrounds, women of diverse backgrounds should occupy all 100 percent of Parliamentary seats. The same goes for all government bodies! 50 percent or bust!

3. Naturalize foreign jwais! One of our brave chelis has volunteered to sacrifice her independence (temporarily) to marry a foreign man, only to seek full naturalization and citizenship rights for bideshi jwais (foreign sons-in-law). Qualified candidates, please apply with CV, photo and statistics.

4. 40 is better than 33! We applaud the CPN(M) for filling 40 percent of their Parliamentary seats with women. But why not 50 percent?

5. And what’s with the grey coats? We’ve noticed Maoist women open their mouths only to repeat the same carefully rehearsed party-approved lines. Ladies, we invite you to release your individuality from the party’s command. Speak your minds freely. Unleash yourself from all uniformity. Start by getting rid of those awful coats.

6. Whipping is for brutes! Women of all political parties, Defy all whips placed by your party denying women’s rights. Do not sacrifice our rights for ‘more important’ agendas set by your party’s men. You know they will only betray us, yet again.

7. New leadership for the New Nepal! We nominate Ram Kumari Jhankri as the first President of Nepal.

8. Turn the National Women’s Commission into a constitutional body! But first, fill 50 percent of the positions in the Constitutional Council (which forms all constitutional bodies) with women. If not, fill all 100 percent of the positions with women. It’s 50 percent or bust!

9. Hello? OHCHR? How many years before a single case comes to trial? We demand that the case over Maina Sunwar’s torture and murder in military custody be seen through properly. The case was filed with the Police, and they have tried to contact the Army; but 16 letters later, there has been no reply. Perhaps Ambassador Moriarty has insights from his tour of army barracks? Maybe he could try getting the Army to respond?

10. Don’t forget what makes the world go around! We unanimously declare the sexiest man in Nepal to be Sunil Babu Pant of the Blue Diamond Society.

11. Donors, back off! All your projects and networks and alliances and seminars are keeping our best women too busy to lead the women’s movement. Back off! Their country needs them more than your country reports do.

12. Give it up, give it up, give it up! We demand that all our demands be met by March 8, International Women’s Day, or else we will declare a nationwide chulo-ra-cholo bandh (stove-and-blouse closure). That’s right, boys: No food, and no sex for you. Nada. Zip. Nothing. No joy till you capitulate.

In conclusion, we would like to declare that – following the example of other successful rebel groups before us – we are fully prepared to come above-ground to take part in negotiations, should the government invite us for talks.

Jaya Nari!
*The Jhan Charitraheen Chelis*

UWB: Though we are not “official mouthpieces” of Jhan Charatraheen Cheli, we are pro- Jhan Charatraheen Cheli and thought of sharing the declaration here. Here is the text in Nepali that appeared in today’s Kantipur.

U.S. in Nepal: Moriarty Would Welcome Maoists to Democratic Mainstream

If the Maoists adhere to their commitments and finally renounce violence, Ambassador James F. Moriarty would enjoy welcoming their leader to the democratic mainstream, the U.S. envoy said in Kathmandu today. The comment came in response to a question after the Ambassador delivered a speech at a conference of five Rotary Clubs, where he said the Maoists must renounce violence, meet their commitments, and return to cantonments they abandoned this week. The Ambassador said: “Actually I would welcome Mr. Prachanda coming into the political mainstream. He hasn’t done it yet. He has made some moves that are encouraging; his movement as a whole has done lots of moves that made me worry. “But the single capping achievement of my tour here would be for me to be able to leave this country shaking Mr. Prachanda’s hand and say, ‘Welcome to the democratic mainstream.’ That would be the best possible future for Nepal that I could see.” The audience of approximately 200 applauded the envoy’s response.

Here is the text of Moriarty’s address, delivered at the “Rotary Conference on Peace and Development– Post Conflict: Challenges and Opportunities.”

It is a pleasure to be here, especially because you mark today as both World Understanding and Peace Day and as the 102nd birthday of the Rotary organization. My father-in-law, an active Rotarian in Hawaii, will be pleased to hear that I helped celebrate this special day.

The conference organizers have assigned me a broad theme – Peace and Development – as the focus for my remarks. In tackling this challenging task, I will start by outlining some of the ways that the American people, through their USAID assistance agency, are seeking to help the Nepali people help themselves.

The United States wrestled with the link between peace and development in the immediate post-World War II period in Europe. After the defeat of Nazi Germany and its Axis allies, it seemed the West was destined to lose the peace. In those gloomy days, war-ravaged economies stalled, millions faced hunger, and a totalitarian ideology seemed to some the only path out of Europe’s crisis. In response, the United States, working with partner European states, developed the European Recovery Program, better known as the Marshall Plan. From 1947-51, some $12 billion in economic and technical assistance supported the recovery of participating European countries. The Marshall Plan, named after then-Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who first proposed it, has long been viewed as vital to reviving Europe’s economies and promoting peaceful European integration.

Since that era, my country has sought the most effective ways to help nations in need. In 1961, for instance, we created the U.S. Agency for International Development, better known as USAID. This was the first U.S. foreign assistance organization whose primary emphasis was on long-range economic and social development assistance. More recently, the U.S. launched the Millennium Challenge Account and the President’s Emergency Relief Plan for AIDS, both large assistance initiatives. In fact, as Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has noted: “Under President Bush’s leadership, the United States has embarked on the most ambitious development agenda since the Marshall Plan.”

The Secretary herself has focused on the peace and development nexus. “To better align our foreign assistance programs with our foreign policy goals,” as she put it, Secretary Rice last year created the job of Director of Foreign Assistance, a new leadership position in the State Department. The Administrator of USAID occupies this post, ensuring closer assistance and policy coordination between State and USAID.

Nepal, where USAID/Nepal and its forerunners have been active for some 56 years, has already benefited from this improved coordination. Just recently, as you may have seen in the news, the State Department and USAID successfully petitioned the U.S. Treasury Department for permission to continue our development assistance to the Government of Nepal, even after Maoists – designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. – join an interim government. I was most pleased when we received the required license, which enables us to continue both long-term development assistance and more immediate initiatives to support the ongoing peace process and democracy in Nepal.

In a visit last week to Chitwan, I was reminded of the effectiveness of our long-term assistance by several Nepalis. They recalled how U.S. efforts to check malaria in their district and elsewhere helped open the Terai. In the 1950s, malaria was the country’s most serious health problem, affecting almost one quarter of the population. With U.S. support, the Insect-Borne Disease Control Bureau began working to control the disease, and by 1968 annual malaria cases had plunged from more than two million to under 2,500. This was one of our most successful health programs in Nepal. The now-populous Terai, of course, produces more than 65 percent of Nepal’s foodgrains. Similar long-term assistance continues, particularly in Nepal’s health sector, where USAID/Nepal is the largest donor.

After the King relinquished power last Spring and reinstated Parliament, the United States moved quickly to support the unfolding peace process and strengthen the transition to democracy. USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) set up shop here last July and expects to spend $4 million this year in this effort. Some funded projects include:

· Purchasing critically-needed equipment for Nepal’s Election Commission to register voters;

· Translating, publishing, and widely distributing in local languages key documents, such as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the Arms Management Agreement, and the Interim Constitution;

· Mounting a live, national, toll-free, call-in radio show, linking Nepali listeners to their elected representatives and other influential leaders who are helping determine Nepal’s future.

By the way, if any of you drove past Ratna Park last Saturday, you could not have missed hearing a loud and vibrant rock concert. It featured a Grammy-award winning U.S. group, Ozomatli, which entertained some 12,000-15,000 enthusiastic young Nepalis. Ozomatli is a multi-ethnic, Latin hip-hop group with a socially-conscious focus. The group performed under the slogan, “Different instruments but one rhythm, together we can make a prosperous Nepal.” USAID/OTI and our American Center teamed to make this performance possible. Whether you enjoy rock music or not, the band’s message seemed especially relevant for Nepal.

As we consider Nepal’s development potential after the insurgency, the hydropower sector looms large. It is really not a question of whether Nepal develops this resource, but rather, when? With a potential estimated at more than 83,000 Megawatts, Nepal could become the Kuwait of hydropower, fueling economic advances throughout the country and the region. To do this, Nepal will need to focus on the export market, which in turn should attract substantial investment for hydropower development. In short, with the right investment, technical assistance, and leadership, Nepal could tap this clean, renewable resource to the benefit of its 28 million people and millions more throughout South and Central Asia.

A big question in this potential development, at least for an outsider like me, is: How effectively will Nepal manage the vast sums when it chooses to develop its hydropower? If this undertaking is managed transparently so that Nepalis understand their government’s plans and decisions, then the money will benefit all Nepalis. On the other hand, care must be taken to avoid corruption or the launching of vast “prestige projects” that might look good in a brochure but fall far short of maximizing the hydropower potential. As many of you are businessmen, I know you appreciate this potential. If developed wisely, the promise of hydropower for Nepal is high as the Himalayas.

Such a hopeful prospect of large foreign investment, of course, will also depend on the peace process here, and the successful establishment of a solid – and peaceful – democracy. Nepal has the opportunity to lay the foundation for a peaceful and democratic future that will spare your children the miseries that you and your families suffered during the past 11 years. But large challenges remain. Recent disturbances in the Terai, for instance, suggest the need for greater transparency and inclusiveness to address ethnic groups with long-time grievances who feel excluded from Nepal’s democratic transition.

On another central issue, arms management, we are informed this process is about to conclude. I am hopeful this exercise will succeed, and the Maoists’ usable weapons will be locked up and registered by the UN. If this proves to be the case, it will go far to assure the people of Nepal that a peaceful future really does beckon. Such an effective process also would pave the way for the Maoists – unarmed at last – to enter an Interim Government of Nepal. Permitting them in otherwise, in my government’s view, would be the height of folly.

If Nepal is to carry out free and fair elections to the Constituent Assembly later this year, it is central – I repeat, absolutely central – that Nepalis go to the polls without fear of intimidation or reprisal from armed Maoists or, indeed, from any other group. Competing political parties also must be free to campaign for votes anywhere, in all districts and villages, without interference.

Nepalis have lived with fear for more than a decade. It is time to wipe away this fear, and the Maoists have the ability to play a big role in this. As I have said on many occasions, this means they must finally match actions with words. The Maoists say they support democracy, and that they are for the people. Fine. Now it is time they prove it. The formula is simple: Stop intimidation. Stop extortion. Stop violence. Once and for all.

I cannot help but notice that Maoist leaders have stepped up their criticism of me and of my government. They charge that the United States is doing everything from supporting the King to fomenting unrest in the Terai, all in an attempt to derail Nepal’s peace process. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I have noted above, the United States is doing everything possible to ensure the success of the peace process. And let me note here, as I have said on numerous occasions, the future of the monarchy is for the people of Nepal to decide. But let us be clear: for the peace process to succeed, the Maoists must abandon their weapons and genuinely come into the political mainstream. We will not be dissuaded or distracted from this goal by baseless allegations from the Maoists.

Instead, we will call upon the Maoists to undo their continuing, cynical violations of their peace commitments. Just three days ago, Nepali newspapers reported that thousands of Maoist combatants left their compound in Chitwan, and yesterday Maoist combatants left their camps and reportedly returned in Kailali. No matter what the excuse for these actions, they constitute a flagrant and intentional violation of the most solemn agreement made by the Maoists: to keep their combatants in cantonments in the run-up to the constitutional assembly election. The United Nations has rightly noted that this is a clear breach of Maoist commitments and has called upon the Maoist combatants to return to the cantonment immediately. If the Maoists do not respond by doing just as the UN has asked, they will be putting Nepal’s peace process at risk.

U.S. policy toward Nepal is straightforward. We support a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Nepal. We are working hard to help the people of Nepal reach these goals. In the end, of course, as this group knows well, Nepalis themselves must make the hard choices and decisions about their future. In these historic times, with the right leadership and commitment, and with the active involvement of all Nepalis, your country has the opportunity to secure a bright, democratic future for all of the Nepali people.