Talking About Revolution #Nepal

Talking about revolution Kahtmandu Post 23 May 2010
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On the Maoist, French restaurateur of Kathmandu and Nepali leaders in Delhi

By Dinesh Wagle

News reports from Meghalaya are disheartening. Nepali migrant workers and Nepali-speaking Indians are being chased away from their homes and workplaces (coal mines) by the Khasis who are in a majority in the North-Eastern Indian state. Some Nepalis have been killed; one of them was burnt alive during the ruthless eviction that began early last week. Some Khasis of the state have issued an ultimatum to the Nepalis to leave Meghalaya that, some say, is against the 1950 Indo-Nepal peace and friendship treaty. The Indian state, so far, has done nothing to stop the ethnic conflict. May be they will act, but part of the problem is with us. Nepal hasn’t been able to provide jobs to its own citizens. Unemployed folks, therefore, are forced to go to the hills of Meghalaya (and other parts of India, not to mention the Gulf countries) to look for jobs Continue reading Talking About Revolution #Nepal

Politics of Religion and Conversion

By Dinesh Wagle

A conference of Nepali and Indian ultra-Hindu rightists in Mumbai last week has decided to launch “a coordinated campaign to re-establish Nepal as a Hindu state”. Kamal Thapa, who sees his future in religion-based politics, participated. Thapa said the conference expressed concern over sinister plans being carried out in Nepal to wipe out the identity of a Hindu state.

On a sweltering April afternoon in New Delhi, I met a former Nepali Congress lawmaker who is best known these days for pulling strings at the highest levels of the Indian establishment to get his wife deported to Nepal a few months ago. But Amresh Kumar Singh is not a man to be taken lightly when he talks about political happenings in Nepal.

“Do you think Ramdev went to teach yoga?” he asked referring to the Indian yoga guru’s highly publicised trip to Nepal a week earlier. “No. He was there to explore possibilities of establishing a new political party. That is why he met and talked to a variety of people during his stay.”

“You mean Ramdev will open a party in Nepal?”

“No, he and other people [from India] will help Nepalis to form a political force,” Singh said.

“Mark my words; we will soon see a rightist party in action in Nepal that will advocate restoration of Hindu Rashtra Nepal.”

The chronic disease of Hindu fundamentalism that has been spreading the viruses of hatred in India has slowly been asserting itself in Nepal in recent months. Under the more appealing banner of Hindutva, Nepali agents of the Indian Hindu right are gradually pushing the agenda of restoration of the monarchy. As the popularly elected political leadership is struggling to draft a constitution and take the peace process to a logical conclusion, these religious zealots are equating the issue of Hindu Rashtra with the dead monarchy.

What I know for sure is that people like me, liberal Hindus with a secular mindset, are in an overwhelming majority in Nepal. We want the country to be a forum equally accessible for people of all faiths. My own view — expressed first on my Facebook profile — is that religion is certainly not opium but a cigarette that should be smoked in private without disturbing other people. It’s a very personal thing. Politicising religion is dangerous as it inevitably invites conflict and violence in society. I even feel that people shouldn’t be classified according to their religious standing. They shouldn’t be asked about their religion in the national census. People should be given complete freedom to have or not to have faith in religion. That is precisely what our Interim Constitution does. More importantly, it bars forced conversion. While the constitution, for example, lets me dump my current religion and go for another if I wish to do so (because this act involves no one but me) it bars me from luring a person of a different faith to my religion (because this act involves a person apart from me).

But some people with vested interests are not happy with this constitutional provision. Take, for example, our cash rich European brothers who believe that they can buy Nepali dignity with some scratched euro or pound notes as if it were a stale pizza on sale in a rural Italian bakery. I was shocked to read a report in the Post few weeks ago that said, “The European Union… urged the [Nepal] government to allow ‘full freedom’ to proselytise while drafting the new constitution.” A letter forwarded by the French Embassy, in its capacity as the EU local presidency in Kathmandu, to the government said the current constitutional provisions on religious rights were “limited”. The sinister motive of the letter is clear: Buying poor Nepalis to Christianity should be legalised.

Who are the Europeans kidding here? This letter is a textbook example of unsavory forces trying to fish in the troubled waters of Nepal that is going through a difficult transitional crisis. Instead of doing so, the Europeans should look at themselves in the mirror where they will see countries like Malta, Monaco, Greece, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and England that, with their official religion, have a long way to go to become a secular nation like Nepal. The EU should write such letters to Germany and Finland, apart from the aforementioned countries, where the Evangelical and Roman Catholic Church and Finnish Orthodox Church enjoy de facto privileged status. Okay, for once, forget all this. Go and tell the Vatican City to become secular before lecturing us on religious freedom. Ask the BBC to give equal coverage to Benedict XVI and Ramdev, will you? This type of brazen intervention undermines our, secularists’, fight against Hindu fundamentalists in Nepal. This intervention also strengthens people like Kamal Thapa.

And France, by the way, should be the last country to advise us on religious affairs. The country, where religious minorities are treated very badly, has a terrible record on religious freedom. I am not saying this. In its 2009 edition of the annual International Religious Freedom report, the US State Department says the French government’s “discriminatory treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists remained a concern”. The report says, “Some religious groups voiced opposition to legislation passed in 2001 and 2004, which provides for the dissolution of groups under certain circumstances and bans wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by public school employees and students.”

France not only violated its own 1905 law on the separation of religion and the state that prohibits discrimination on the basis of faith by banning Muslim symbols and allowing Christian symbols to be worn. No one has left Nepal because of an unfriendly religious environment; but according to several reports, many people belonging to the Muslim faith have been forced to leave France because of tightening control over religious freedom. No student has been expelled from a Nepali school for their faith, but two female junior high school students, Dounia and Khouloudewere, aged 12 and 13 respectively, were the first to be expelled under a draconian French law for refusing to take off their headscarves on Oct. 20, 2004 from a school in Mulhouse, Alsace.

The Europeans, instead of unnecessarily poking their nose into Nepali affairs, should rather go for trekking in the Himalaya and enjoy their Nepal assignment which anyway is nothing but a long holiday for them. If trekking is not enough and you miss your home, here is a suggestion: The Roadhouse Café in Thamel serves mouthwatering pizza; Délices de France, a restaurant run by a wonderful French woman and attacked by Maoist thugs during the recent strike, serves excellent chicken liver terrine; and nearby Dohori Saanjh restaurants serve unlimited glasses of beer. Chew, drink and cheer for your favourite football team. The World Cup is coming.

This article first appeared on the Op-Ed page of today’s Kathmandu Post.

Why the Maoist Strike Failed

Tilak Shrestha

Tilak Shrestha: We want to live peacefully

By Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal

When Maoists provided musical and celebratory feel to their protest gatherings, the former rebels were not innovating a protest tactic. Their innovation, so to speak, was to push thousands of villagers to Kathmandu valley with the party bearing the cost of travel and living. Interviews with a few such people revealed that not all of them were Maoist supporters or excited about the free jaunt. Some were forced to leave their homes for Kathmandu in the midst of agricultural activities. The Maoist-sponsored city tour of the villagers may not have immensely contributed to their agitation against the Madhav Nepal-led government but that surely brought our poverty on surface for the world to see. The rural folks came with their chafed hands that told the story of suffering and lowly life that they had been living in the hills. The arrival of these folks, without shoes and proper clothing, also revived the city versus village debate at tea-shops of Kathmandu. “Everything’s centered in the city,” I overheard a villager telling to city folks at a tea-shop in Tinkune. “It’s high time the city heard our story, understood our plight.” Continue reading Why the Maoist Strike Failed

Maoist Strike Day 2: Peaceful Till Now

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Texts by Deepak Adhikari
by Dinesh Wagle

On a balmy morning Monday, the Maoist protesters clogged the main intersection at Koteshwar, Kathmandu, singing and dancing in the ‘revolutionary songs’.

Helmeted battalions of policemen in riot gear were mere bystanders. Kirant Rajya Samiti of Maoists was responsible for overseeing the protests in Koteshwar area, one of 18 such points where Maoist staged protests. Hence, most of the protesters here were from eastern hills of Nepal. Maoist supporters came from districts such as Ramechhap, Khotang, Solukhumbu, Okhaldhunga. Most of the supporters are brought from far flung areas while a few arrived from surrounding districts (but mostly from rural areas). Some were even forced to participate.

Meet Suresh Rai, a 30-year-old member of Kirant State Secretariat. He along with one hundred fifty Maoist supporters arrived in the capital five days back. “We came in 2-3 groups,” he says. “We’ll continue to protest as long as people will support us.” Hailing from a family of farmers, Suresh says it’s tough for them in the hills to feed the hungry bellies of 7 members of his family.

As we speak, music blares from the huge sound boxes–there’s a makeshift stage built on a truck. Incessant singing and dancing is going on. In between, there are poetry recitations. Flags with hammer and sickle are waved, YCL, the notorious youth outfit of Maoists has a distinct air about them: bandana in their heads, some covering the entire body with the flags.

They’ve been sheltered in several places in Kathmandu Valley ranging from the party palaces and under construction buildings to Nepal Law Campus, Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus, Rastriya Sabha Grisha in the city center.

This has turned out like rural Nepal meeting urban Nepal as most of the village folks have arrived in capital Kathmandu for the first time.

But it’s only natural because Maoists have drawn support largely from marginalized communities such as Dalits (so-called untouchables), janajatis (the ethnic people), Madhesis (the people from plains), among others.

Dil Bahadur Bika, a Dalit from Phulbari village of Okhaldhunga, has come to Kathmandu for the first time. In the village, he runs a grocery store (that also sells cosmetics). But as a sole breadwinner of the family, he had to close it because there’s no one to look after. The 35-year-old, a YCL member, is living with other Maoists in a party palace in Kaushaltar, two kilometer north from Koteshwar.

The protesters’ routine goes thus: they leave for the strike at 6 pm. The lunch time will be from 9 am to 11 am. They observe strict discipline while attending the strike. They stay in the one of 18 points till 3 pm. At 3 pm, they participate in the rally. The evening is the time for torch rally. They finally return home after 6pm. Another cycle of strike and they repeat the routine.
Back to the Koteshwar: A song that is tinged with revolutionary fervor blares from the speakers and Dil Bahadur Bika pirouettes in its music. The song goes:

Arun Tarera Nana Tamar Tarera
Aayaun Hami Birata Ko Gatha Korera

(After Crossing Arun River and Tamor River
We Came Writing the Saga of Bravery)

Similarly, another song evokes the war time nostalgia. It talks about Tyamke village in Khatang, where according to the song; the hills are painted red and are crying (for justice).

The protests despite the initial apprehensions are peaceful. The May Day rally was a huge success but on Day 2, it seems like the protest is waning.

Maoist Shutdown in Nepal: Day I

Video Report

By Keshav P. Koirala

The normal life in the Kathmandu Valley [and across Nepal] has been hit hard on the first day of the indefinite general shutdown imposed by the Unified CPN (Maoist) on Sunday demanding resignation of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

Hundreds of Maoist cadres and supporters have gathered at the major thoroughfares and junctions in the Capital since early morning to enforce the shutdown, more popularly known as banda. Continue reading Maoist Shutdown in Nepal: Day I

Prime Minister Nepal Addresses the Nation

९. सरकार परिवर्तनलाई नै मुख्य विषय बनाउने हो भने पनि यसका लागि हामीले नै स्थापित गरेको राजनीतिक र संवैधानिक प्रक्रिया अपनाउनै पर्दछ।

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal urged the UCPN (Maoist) to withdraw the strike and come to the table to find an agreement. Addressing the nation on Saturday evening (today) just after a few minutes the Maoist concluded their mass assembly in which thousands of people participated, he said strike and violence will weaken the democracy, new constitution cannot be made and federal republic cannot be institutionalised. He stressed on agreement and cooperation for the conclusion of peace process and new constitution. For agreement, he said, language of tolerance and cooperation should be spoken, and not that of threat and intimidation Continue reading Prime Minister Nepal Addresses the Nation

Ruling Parties Want Govt to be Strong [Against Maoists]

Leaders of 22 political parties of the ruling alliance (some are in the govt while others have supported it from outside) met today at the official residence of the Prime Minister to discuss the planned general strike of the Maoist from tomorrow. According to the Chief advisor of the PM, the meeting passed a four-point resolution that asks Maoists to call back the general strike scheduled from tomorrow. The meeting also asked the former rebels have adhere to democratic principles while voicing their concerns and refrain from applying violent tactics to mobilize people. “Despite the constitutional and consensus-based options available to form or dissolve the government [the Maoists] have declared to bring down the government from the street which is against the democratic system and democratic norms,” says first point of the resolution adopted by the meeting.”…It would be inappropriate to bow in front of such haughtiness. It is our duty to protect the progressive agreements signed in the past, interim constitution, democracy and the achievements of people’s movement. We will not compromise with anyone against these issues.” The meeting also requested the government to ensure the safety of the public. The meeting requested the public to oppose the Maoist highhandedness.

The following is the full text of the decision of 22 political parties in Nepali.

बाइस दलको निर्णयको पूर्ण पाठ

प्रधानमन्त्री माधवकुमार नेपालको अध्यक्षतामा आज उहाकै निवास बालुवाटारमा सरकारमा सहभागी तथा सरकारलाई समर्थन गर्ने दलहरुको बैठक बस्यो। बैठकमा एकीकृत नेकपा (माओवादी) द्वारा घोषणा गरिएको आमहड्तालले उत्पन्न गरेको परिस्थितिलगायतका विषयमा व्यापक छलफल भएको थियो। बैठकले छलफलपछि निम्न चार बुँदे प्रस्ताव पारित गरेको छ : Continue reading Ruling Parties Want Govt to be Strong [Against Maoists]

Letter from Kathmandu: Maoist May Day Rally and Planned Strike

The Maoist May Day rallies are originating from different parts of Kathmandu..they are moving towards the city center (Khula Manch) where they will assemble to hear their leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda). Here’s an analysis by Akhilesh Upadhyay

If the ongoing efforts for an agreement between the Maoists and the ruling parties fail by Saturday (today), the UCPN (Maoist) will go on an “indefinite strike” the next day.

What will follow looks grim.

First, the May Day rallies. A large turnout is expected, though estimates vary. The number of Maoists on the streets in the Capital will not exceed 150,000, according to a senior Metropolitan police officer keeping tab of incoming Maoists. A senior Maoist leader put the number at 400,000, including 67,000 party members based in the valley’s three districts and the party’s broader Tamsaling and Newa Autonomous regions. Continue reading Letter from Kathmandu: Maoist May Day Rally and Planned Strike