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How Kathmandu Elites Capture Nepal’s Progressive and Political Agenda

By Ashesh
UWB Guest Blog

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.

Read: Madhesi Groups Have the Highest Representation in Government Jobs

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.

Continue reading How Kathmandu Elites Capture Nepal’s Progressive and Political Agenda

Nepal China Agreement in Beijing

Nepal China talks in Beijing 25 December

Nepal Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa and China Foreign Minister Wang Yin
Nepal Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa and China Foreign Minister Wang Yin

Today Nepal and China agreed to expand and consolidate bilateral cooperation focusing mainly on trade, transit, investment, energy, tourism and infrastructure development, according to a statement issued by Nepal’s Foreign Ministry.  The agreement was reached during a meeting between Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Minister Kamal Thapa and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing.  “China has expressed its willingness to seriously examine Nepal’s proposals for importation of petroleum products from China and has advised the respective companies of the two countries to jointly examine the matters relating to price, transportation and other logistics,” the statement says. Soon after this ministerial agreement, Deputy Chief of Nepal Oil Corporation Sushil Bhattarai and Under Secretary Navaraj Dhakal of Ministry of Commerce and Supplies were called (by Foreign Minister Thapa) to Beijing to sign an agreement on importing petro-products from China. Both Bhattarai and Dhakal have reached Beijing on Friday.

The Chinese side informed that travel advisories issued in the context of earthquake in Nepal has been lifted with immediate effect and hoped the number of Chinese visitors would increase significantly in future. Nepal reciprocated by announcing that visa fees for Chinese tourists visiting Nepal will be waived.

Key points (via NT):

  1. Prime Minster KP Oli is invited to visit China next year.
  2. Post-earthquake reconstruction will be accelerated, and both Araniko Highway and Syafru-Rasuwagadhi Highway will be repaired.
  3. Trade and investment cooperation will be strengthened.
  4. Long-term oil and gas trade between the two countries will be explored.
  5. Existing ports will be repaired and rehabilitated.
  6. The process to sign a Transit Transportation Agreement will be accelerated.
  7. A feasibility study will be conducted on Free Trade Agreement.
  8. Cultural exchanges will be furthered.
Nepal China talks in Beijing 25 December
Nepal-China bilateral meeting in Beijing today. Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa led the Nepali side while the Chinese side was led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Invited by Wang, Thapa is on an official China visit from Dec. 24-29.

Most relevant parts of the press statement issued by the Foreign Ministry:

The Chinese Foreign Minister… expressed China’s strong desire to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Nepal. He further said China would continue assisting Nepal in her development endeavours.

The two sides discussed the importance of exchanging high level visits between the two countries. The Chinese side has conveyed the invitation to the Prime Minister of Nepal to visit China at an early date. There will be a high-level visit from China to Nepal as well next year.

Expressing happiness over the development of bilateral relations and cooperation over the last 60 years, the two sides agreed to expand and consolidate bilateral cooperation focusing mainly on trade, transit, investment, energy, tourism and infrastructure development. They agreed to upgrade and operationalize the existing border points and develop the other border points to promote connectivity between the two countries. The Chinese side has agreed to give priority to the reopening of the Tatopani-Zhangmu border point, which has been disrupted after the April 25 earthquake.

The intergovernmental mechanisms have been tasked to advance negotiations on the proposals on free trade area, transit and Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) which were discussed during the meeting today.

China has expressed its willingness to seriously examine Nepal’s proposals for importation of petroleum products from China and has advised the respective companies of the two countries to jointly examine the matters relating to price, transportation and other logistics. As a friendly gesture, China will make available additional fuel to northern areas of Nepal bordering Tibet Autonomous Region.

The Chinese side informed that it would soon take up agreed projects for post-disaster reconstruction as per its pledged assistance during the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction. China has announced its willingness to support Nepal’s industrialization process through reconstruction. Hon. Mr. Thapa thanked the Government of China for extending generous support to Nepal’s socioeconomic development over the years. He also appreciated the spontaneous and prompt support received from China in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake of Nepal.

The two leaders discussed the ways for promoting people to people contact. In this context, the Chinese side informed that travel advisories issued in the context of earthquake in Nepal has been lifted with immediate effect and hoped the number of Chinese visitors would increase significantly in future. The Hon. Deputy Prime Minister reciprocated the friendly gesture of his Chinese counterpart by announcing that the Government of Nepal would waive visa fees for Chinese tourists.

…Mr. Lok Darshan Regmi, Finance Secretary of Nepal and Mr. Zhang Xiangchen, Vice Minister of Commerce of China signed the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation under which China would make available 900 million RMB as grant assistance for the implementation of the projects of repair and maintenance of Araniko Highway and other projects of interconnection and interworking. It may be recalled that this assistance was announced by the Chinese President during his meeting with his Nepalese counterpart in March 2015 in Boao, Hainan.

The Vijay Kumar Article: पद र पहिचानबीचको महान् अन्तर

Why the case against Vijay Kumar & Kantipur is not about the dress code & is about intimidation of media

Vijay Kumar Panday
Vijay Kumar

THTA contempt of court charge has been registered at the Supreme Court (SC) against columnist Bijaya Kumar Pandey, editor-in-chief Sudhir Sharma and Managing Director Kailash Sirohiya of Kantipur Daily on Monday alleging that an article written by Pandey that was published in the daily made mockery of the SC.

Advocate Anjan Kumar Pokhrel registered the petition at the SC claiming that the recent article of Pandey tried to scandalise the independent judiciary. Advocate Pokhrel, in his writ has accused Pandey of contempt of court for his comments on the judiciary and judges regarding the recent disputes on dress code at the SC. Earlier, a week ago a Kantipur correspondent was barred to visit the courtrooms citing his informal dress. The advocate has demanded one year imprisonment and Rs 10,000 fines from the defendants in his writ.

Vijay Kumar’s article titled “pad ra pahichan bichko antar” was published on the Saturday issue of Kantipur where he writes a fortnightly column called “aadi/ityadi”. In the article Vijay Kumar states: Known and unknown judges including Biswonathji [former Chief Justice], once seated in their chairs of justices, would see nothing but justice. These days, I hear, some judges see nothing but t-shirts with prints and t-shirts without prints.

We believe this write against the journalist is absolutely unnecessary. The Supreme Court shouldn’t have accepted the writ in the first place. This we think is a ploy to intimidate the media world, especially those who are critical of the recent acts of the Supreme Court and some of its justices after the Chief Justice was made to head the government blatantly crushing the concept of separation of power. Continue reading The Vijay Kumar Article: पद र पहिचानबीचको महान् अन्तर

साझा बस र त्यसका कन्डक्टर*

The revival of Sajha bus service is truly an encouraging step towards solving problems of mismanagement in the chaotic public transportation system in Kathmandu. Hope KMD succeeds in his mission.

Wagle Street Journal

उनन्सत्तरीमा सबैभन्दा जनपयोगी काम काठमान्डूमा बर्षको अन्तिम दिनमा भए जस्तो लाग्यो । शहरमा सार्वजनिक बस सेवा साझा यातायातको पुन थालियो । अहिलेलाइ १६ वटा बसले दुइवटा रूटमा सेवा दिने भनिएको छ । तर आशा गर्न सकिन्छ सेवाको विस्तार हुन्छ- शहरभरी, देशैभरी र विदेशसम्म पनि । सञ्चालकहरूले पनि त्यो सबै प्रतिज्ञा गरेका छन् । साझा यातायातको सेवा विस्तारबाट भन्दा ठूलो आशा मैले यो प्रयासले नेपालमा रही आएको नीजि यातायात सेवालाई ‘राम्रो हुन’ प्रेरणा र दवाव दिने छ भन्ने हो । एनसेलको आगमनले एनटीसीलाई कसरी प्रेरणा र सकारात्मक दवाव मिलेको छ भन्नेकुरा शहरमा हालै खुलेका एनटीसीका सेवा केन्द्रहरूले प्रष्ट्रयाउछन् ।

काठमान्डूमा सार्वजनिक यातायातको दुर्दशाको चित्रण/बर्णन गरी के साध्ये । निकै अगाडीको एउटा लेख र केही अगिको एउटा ब्लग इन्ट्रीमा मैले त्यो प्रयास गरिसकेकोले अहिले दोहोर्याउदिन । त्यो दुर्दशाबाट अलिकति भएपनि मुक्ति पाइएला भन्ने आशा भएकैले अहिले यति लेख्न जागर चलेको हो ।

हाम्रो देशमा अहिले सबैभन्दा ठूलो समस्या भनेको प्रबन्धनको हो । स्रोत, साधन, जनशक्ति र ज्ञान नभएको…

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To Hold Democratic Elections, Supreme Court Chief Justice Becomes Prime Minister in Nepal

WHAT- Nepal got a new Prime Minister today. President Ram Baran Yadav appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi as the Chairman of the Interim Electoral Council of Ministers (basically the Prime Minister) of Nepal. Dr. Yadav also administered the oath of office and secrecy to Regmi this morning. Regmi became the PM because Nepal’s top political parties, at war with each other and unwilling to accept leadership of the party other than their own, finally agreed on CJ Regmi’s name for the leader of the electoral government to hold elections of the Constituent Assembly. It is believed that Nepali leaders, generally considered corrupt and incompetent, did so at the behest of foreign forces especially our southern neighbor.

GOOD? BAD? Both.

First, why it is good:

1) Regmi replaced Dr. Baburam Bhattarai as the PM. This is good. I had big hopes from Bhattarai when he became pm 18 months ago. But he turned out to be a utter disappointment. Just another corrupt man who promoted nepotism and favoritism and, through his wife, misused resources of state in a naked manner. So Bhattarai’s exit is a relief. The Maoists were milking the state resource. I am not sure if that will be stopped entirely because the militant party in Nepal has the capability to extort and intimidate general public, business and government machinery even when they are not in power. Moreover, they have put in place many of their men and women in many plum and crucial positions in Nepali government machinery and administration that it will childish to say that their illegal flow of income from the state coffer will stop.

BAD

Now, why it’s bad?

1) If you believe in democracy, its principles, constitutionalism and fairness in politics, you will be very sad with the way Regmi’s name was proposed and appointed to lead the government. When he was appointed the prime minister, he was the serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Stunningly, he still is the CJ. He hasn’t resigned. Now, where has that basic principle of a constitutional democracy called separation of power gone? And look at what happend at the Supreme Court today? It was supposed to hear on the writ filed against the appointment of the CJ as PM. But the hearing was differed because CJ was appointed PM merely an hour before the hearing  was scheduled to begin. The whole concept of independent judiciary has received a big blow.

NOW WHAT?

Those who are support the CJ’s appointment as the PM argue that it was done to hold elections and provide an outlet to nearly 10-month long political deadlock. Okay, I get the point. But will an election which itself is an outcome of undemocratic exercise be able to provide solutions? It will be a step towards right direction if Regmi resigned from his post of the CJ.

Also, there really wasn’t any constitutional way to appoint a new pm because political parties who were to work in conensious were not willing to accept each other’s leadership. The only other option would have been to continue with BRB, whose legality was already in question, at the helm. Nepal’s current flawed interim constitution provides only ways for a prime ministerial appointment: one, the person has to win a majority of votes in the CA which is no more. Two, the person has to garner the support of major political parties, namely the NC, UML and UCPN Maoist (called national consensus).

I am all for elections. My hands are etching to caste a vote (two votes actually). Yes it will be very hard for me to choose the candidate (or a party) because all of the partie that are likely to contest in the elections have been tried and tested and they have all disappointed us. I just hope that some good candidates show up in the elections and some really good leaders emerge out of the democratic process.

Some say they doubt elections can happen under this government. Some say, there are high chances for elections to happen (in November, not in July though) because parties do want to rule and the only way for them to go back to power is to content elections and win the votes of the people.

Now the danger is that we can fully trust this government either. It is because these bureaucrats (two former secretaries were appointed ministers today and eight more will be included in the cabinet) are accountable to none today. And people can not punish (or award) them in elections either. They may turn out to be even more corrupt. Bigger danger is that they may get unduly influenced to sign anti-national treaties and other provisions.

Nepal and Impunity: The Lies of the Prime minister and the fear of Maoists

murder suspects: the man in the middle has admitted of burying journalist dekendra thapa alive during police interrogation
murder suspects: the man in the middle has admitted of burying journalist dekendra thapa alive during police interrogation

Since judicial proceedings of the criminal acts committed during the insurgency will not be stopped/halted by courts and these acts can not also be condoned by Truth and Reconciliation Commission (‘TRC’), the prestige of peace process will be saved by the uninterrupted investigation of Dailekh incident.

By Narayan Wagle in Himal Magazine via  NNLP  (see at the end for more. Pic Prakash Adhikari via Kantipur)
Tuesday, 2nd Magh, 2069 Bikram Sambat
15 Jan 2013

When the cadres of Maoist party accused in the killing of Dekendra Thapa – Dailekh based Journalist – confessed before investigating authorities that the killing of the journalist was as per the decision taken by the District Committee of the Maoist Party, Prime minister of Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai was badly hurt (worried).

The confession of Maoist cadres shook Baburam in such a way that he got involved in false interpretation of peace process with a motive of sticking to the chair of Prime ministership. He attributed the legal proceedings of initiating a criminal case against the accused as a trap against the peace process. The barking/roaring at Kathmandu by Bhattarai was meant to be a warning to Dailekh Police and Public Prosecutors to back out from the legal proceedings. When a team consisting of representatives from Nepal Press Council (Nepal Patrakar Mahasang) went to have a dialogue with the Prime minister, the team of journalists were subjected to a rather one-sided Baburam-monologue on interpretation of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (‘CPA’) and Interim Constitution. In this process, PM Bhattarai even managed to provide intentionally falsified details and malicious interpretation to the national and international civil communities. Continue reading Nepal and Impunity: The Lies of the Prime minister and the fear of Maoists

The Pain of Losing a Nation. Story of Lhendup Dorji and Sikkim

In his Op-Ed article published in today’s Kantipur (See below or here, former minister and RPP leader Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani compares Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai with Kazi Lhendup Dorji. For those who don’t know who Lhendup Dorji is, here is his obit written (title: The Pain of Losing a Nation) in 2007. [सिक्किम विलयबारे नेपालीमा यहाँ पढ्न पाइन्छ। अनि यो कान्तिपुर  लेख- माओवादी-भारत सम्बन्ध: पहिले विस्तारवाद, अहिले अवसरवाद]

By Sudheer Sharma

(September 2007) The last Prime Minister of the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim, Kazi Lhendup Dorji, met an ignominious Death.

On the northern corner of West Bengal state of India, there is a hill station – Kalimpong, which once hosted celebrities from all over the world. The hill town, where most of the settlers are of Nepali origin, no longer retains its old charm. But until a few weeks ago the last prime minister of a country – that has lost its independence – used to live here. Kazi Lhendup Dorji, who died on 28 July this year [2007] at the ripe old age of 103, had played a pivotal role in the merger of Sikkim into India.

Dorji is seen as a ‘traitor’ in the contemporary history. He lived, and died, with the same ignominy. “Everybody accuses me of selling the country. Even if it is true, should I alone be blamed?” he asked me, when I met him in Kalimpong in November 1996. But the allegation of ‘betrayal’ towards one’s own motherland was so powerful that Dorji could no more lead an active political life. He spent his solitary life at the ‘Chakung House’ in Kalimpong for several decades. Few people chose to remember Kazi when he passed away nor took pain to recall his life and times.

So much so that the Kazi was ignored even by Delhi. “I went out of my way to ensure the merger of Sikkim into India but after the work was done, the Indians just ignored me”, Kazi told me during an interview for Jana Astha weekly, nearly 11 years ago. “Earlier, I used to be given a ‘Red Carpet’ welcome. Now I have to wait for weeks even to meet second grade leaders.” Continue reading The Pain of Losing a Nation. Story of Lhendup Dorji and Sikkim

To All Privileged Bahun-Chhetri Elites of Nepal [and Zamindars of South]

By a nonelite, unprivileged Bahun

I am totally amused, almost to death, by the hypocrisy of REAL Bahun Chhetri elites whose parents (bureaucrats, judges, ministers etc) were lucky (or corrupt or influential or combination of all) enough to make money to send their kids to top schools of Kathmandu (xaviers, ‘kanthas etc), D’ling and D’doons and to the collages and universities of amrika and belayet (Columbia, Brown, SOAS for example).

Is it a coincidence or just that I am selectively getting to read views of such ‘educated and rich’ Bahuns/Chhetris whose parents and grandparents had access to resource? A minister’s daughter or a judge’s son or a sachib’s grandson. Of course these elite Bahuns/Chhetris can rightly think that since they are privileged, well off and can live in between Kathmandu and (London, NY or Toronto) they don’t need any more facilities from the state.

These elite and privileged Bahuns/Chhetris- not sure if they are sympathizing with the Janajati/southern movement or patronizing it- with their rosy glasses see all Bahuns and Chhetris of Nepal as rich and privileged as they are. But these elite Bahuns/Chhetris CAN NOT speak for the millions of poor and rural Bahuns and Chhetris in rural areas of Nepal or those in Kathmandu who had to come here as a compulsion during the difficult times of conflict or those who somehow have built homes in Kathmandu by selling whatever they had in the villages and still live in incomplete/unfurnished or rented buildings in Kathmandu.

In this context comes the declaration of Khas Arya as indigenous people. The privileged and rich Bahuns/Chhetris and Thakuris AND politically indoctrinated ones can ridicule this decision. But to portray ALL Bahuns, Chhetris as rich and privileged is simply wrong. When Khas Arya were promised to be counted as indigenous yesterday that included Dalits too- one of the most underprivileged class in Nepal.

By the way, some of these elite Bahuns/Chhetris/Thakuris may rightly claim that they went to those elite schools because they deserved that and were capable to getting partial or full scholarship (from the university or the likes of Fulbright for example). However, they shouldn’t conveniently forget that there could be equally talented and deserving people out there in some remote areas of Nepal. But those in remote areas- yes, poor Bahuns and Chhetris (and of course poor Janajatis and Dalits too but now my point is about poor Bahuns and Chhetris) didn’t have neither ACCESS nor resources to learn, to begin with, about the scholarships or the schools.

They were not in Kathmandu, where everything was/is, because their parents (or grandparents or great grandparents) were not the bureaucrats, judges, ministers (or other influential people like royal priests) based in Kathmandu. Their parents were the farmers of the villages who had to toil day and night in the fields and look after cattle.

Just as there are two classes- poor/destitute and rich/elite- of Khas Arya, the Janajatis and Madhesis too have distinct classes in terms of wealth, access and education. There are elite Janajatis and elite Madhesis as there are poor, underprivileged Janajatis and poor, underprivileged Madhesis. There are zamindar and feudal Madhesis and there are super rich Janajatis. There are Dalit Madheiss and there are destitute Janajatis.

Therefore the clear demarcation of rich and poor, privileged and unprivileged CAN NOT be done on ethnic or regional lines. It has to be done on the basis of the poverty index. If one person gets more benefit form the State than other, that has to happen on the basis of how poor (financially, culturally and politically) the person is. It CAN NOT be done in a wholesome manner, along ethnic lines, with false claims that all Bahun Chhetris are rich, privileged and oppressors and all Madheis and Janajatis are poor, unprivileged and oppressed.

Federalization of Nepal can not be done on such flawed argument. That is why there can not be ONE Madhes ONE Pradesh or Provinces carved along the ethnic lines. It has to be done on the basis of need- who needs to get priority over whom. That prioritization should be done on the basis of, as stated earlier, poverty index (which is another way of saying resources, not identity) so that the same benefit can be offered to a Dalit of Dhanusha, a poor Panajati of Taplejung and a poor Khas Arya from Okhaldhunga or Kalikot.

Could This be Baburam’s Katwal Moment? Nepal Army Against Bulk Recruitment of Madhesis

The Nepal Army is dissatisfied with Tuesday’s (20 Dec) Cabinet decision (see below) to recruit 3,000 youths from the Madhesi and other minority communities. It plans to register its reservations with the government after receiving a formal order from the Ministry of Defence. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai invited Chief of Army Staff General Chhatra Man Singh Gurung at his residence on Wednesday (yesterday) morning. The PM, however, did not clearly instruct the CoAS on the Cabinet decision, an Army source said. Gurung is meeting President Dr Ram Baran Yadav on Thursday (today) to discuss the decision.

“If the government’s decision contradicts with the Interim Constitution and the Army Act, the Army will officially request the government to revise it,” the source said. The Army argues that recruitment is purely a ‘voluntary process’ and it cannot restrict ‘the right to equality’ guaranteed by the Interim Constitution by opening vacancies for any particular group. Under the existing recruitment process, 55 percent of the seats are filled through free competition, while 45 percent are recruited under the reservation quotas.

“If the government wants to make the Army more inclusive, it should amend the Army Act and offer more seats in the reservation quota,” the source said.

Army chief meets the Prez Continue reading Could This be Baburam’s Katwal Moment? Nepal Army Against Bulk Recruitment of Madhesis

Constituent Assembly Term Extended Yet Again. This Time For Six Months.

The Legislature-Parliament avatar of the Constituent Assembly today endorsed the bill seeking to extend the term of the CA by six more months. This is the fourth extension of the CA term. Like it was in August when the CA was extended for three months, this time too there was not much drama (inside the CA of haggling by the politicians and outside the CA hall of protesters shouting against the extension). But the atmosphere was entirely different back in May when  the CA was extended for three months amidst chaos.

Of the 508 lawmakers present at the House session, 505 voted in favour of the bill seeking amendment to the Interim Constitution that would pave way for extending the CA term, while three lawmakers voted against the bill. The government on Thursday tabled a bill on the 11th amendment to the Interim Constitution proposing a six-month extension beyond the November 30 deadline.

The CA, which was elected in April 2008 with a two-year term to write a constitution and take the peace process to a logical conclusion, has already been extended three times before this. None of the works have been finished till now. Continue reading Constituent Assembly Term Extended Yet Again. This Time For Six Months.