Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Royal or Not, The Nepal Army Needs our Understanding

I read this thought provoking article about the Nepal Army from Nischal M.S. Basnyat on Nepalnews today. Me being me, I couldn’t help but write a response. Here’s how it goes.

Is the Nepal Army a devout royalist institution? Yes. Is it corrupt? Sure, in a society where corruption is a prevalent as diarrhea and other water-borne diseases, nobody can expect the army to be a clean institution. However, you can’t discount the hundreds of years of history of the army—as a social/humanitarian force—with just a few strokes of your pen (or your keyboard). From building roads and bridges to conducting rescue operations during natural calamities, the army has helped Nepal tremendously.

As for its inability to counter the Maoist threat, there were two things in play. First, as you point out, the army was not well-trained/experienced or well-equipped to fight a guerrilla war that the Maoists waged. Second, and more important, you can’t really blame the "Nepal" Army for the ambivalence stemming from the fact that the “other side” was also Nepali.

If anything it is the Monarchy’s fault that the army was not transformed with time. In Thailand you see the army generals kneeling (seemingly helplessly) before the king when he intervenes, on rare occasions, in Thai politics. That “down to the knee” gesture is purely out of respect, and not due to any sycophancy, fear or any other illegitimate relationship between the king and the army.

Nepal could have been the same had our monarchy been a little more smart and nimble. King Birendra (may his soul rest in peace) had a tremendous opportunity to democratize Nepal and the institutions he controlled (i.e. the monarchy, army etc.) way before 1990. Not only would he then have maintained the dignity of monarchy but he would have won tremendous respect and love of the Nepali people. Instead he chose to surround himself with a bunch of nincompoops and engage in sloppy pseudo-dictatorial regime.

The army has many smart and capable people who love Nepal. Like it or not, the Nepal Army is still one of the best-trained truly people oriented institutions in Nepal. Just because monarchy missed the boat, doesn’t mean that we take the army to the crossroads and do a public flogging. At the same time, like you told the Harvard Crimson in April, 2006, “The king is the only one who can unite the army in the time of civil war and keep the country from becoming a failed state. If the king leaves, the army will be shattered.”

So let us drop this rhetoric about “bury the army and the monarchy together” and think seriously about what it means. Are these two institutions, which incidentally were the only two people respected not to long ago, like electric switches that can simply be turned off ? And if they are have we thought about what happens and who or which group is capable or competent to keep Nepal from plunging into chaos.

Nischal also mention that “the royal army played a key role in ending Nepal’s monarchy. From a young age all Princes were exposed to a militant lifestyle.” Do you really believe this? Just today a man opened fire at a mall in Nebraska killing nine bystanders. I would doubt if that would have anything to do with a “militant lifestyle.” People flip. People have multiple personalities. People have anger towards their family. People can be really, really stupid. Parents can be bad about understanding and handling their kids in a proper way. I don’t necessarily see any militant lifestyle playing a role. If anything, it’s another proof that the monarchy in Nepal was unable to transform with time.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Girija Prasad Koirala Interivew - Revisited

It's been seven years, but it still seems like yesterday. Carter's hero, the man that many hope will carry Nepal through these tough times spoke with CNN International about seven years ago. It's an interesting insight into how Girija Prasad Koirala's mind works (or doesn't). Forget the English or the grammar; focus on the ideas and the meaning. And the biggest question that emerges is what can we hope from this man?

Taken from the September, 2000 issue of Nepali Times...

During the interview, the Prime Minister fielded questions from a wide range of people from Nepal and abroad who sent in their questions either by phone or email. There was a simultaneous online live chat going on in Nepali Times transcribed the interview for readers who missed the show

Riz Khan: Let me start by asking you. There is so much already on the UN's plate. What can Nepal hope to get out of this summit? What do you hope to achieve for your country?
My dear friend, this summit, I feel that United Nations should have a new vision for the future and also because the scientific and technological advancement and economic liberalisation throughout the world...

RK: But, sir, I was going to ask you this is an opportunity for you to meet some of the key leaders that may be hard to get hold of sometimes. What sideline meetings can you have: What can you achieve on the side perhaps that the main meeting won't...
I will focus on poverty alleviation because there are the wide gapping between haves and have-nots. The gap between the haves and have-nots have widened very much. In future, that will create security concerns to United Nations. That gap should be narrowed down by United Nations.

Sushil Bhattarai, Vietnam (email questions: It seems you are guided by "kitchen" members of your cabinet, it seems you want to run politics as a family business. Can you clarify?
My dear friend, I'm not that kind of man who is influenced by the family members. I might hold opinion about Nepal, how to develop it. So, it is all nonsense to say that I am being surrounded by courtiers and my family members. It is wrong to see like that.

RK: What about issues of... I mean, you are accused of things like nepotism, corruption and so on. What are you doing to combat corruption in Nepal?
Well, when I took over power, three priorities I had made. Law and order situation was maintained, second to eradicate corruption and third good governance. I m working on that line. And the corruption is an invisible enemy. It's very difficult to root out corruption. But I'm still trying my beast to root out corruption. That's my first priority is to root out corruption. Then alone political stability will be maintained in Nepal.

Caller from India: Mr Prime Minister, I'd like to ask you... your government has been claiming that it is strictly against ISI and having any bases of ISI in Nepal But evidences which have been claimed by the Indian authority that ISI has a strong base in Nepal and IC 814 hijacking to Kandahar was also performed from Kathmandu. So, what do you think ISI will be having its effect on India and Nepal relations?
Well, my dear friend, India government should pinpoint where ISI is. And another thing, I cannot throw stones in the darkness. So I've told India's Prime Minister Mr Vajpayee about it. Pinpoint where ISI is then we will be able to control this. Otherwise, it is just like throwing stone in the darkness.

Priya Pande, Kathmandu (email question}: What have you done to alleviate the Maoist insurgency, as thousands have died in clashes. You created a task force. But what else?
To contain terrorist activities is multi-pronged strategy, one (unclear) through political consensus and second package program, we are introducing economic program to those areas through all party meeting and third, administrative labor. Fourthly I have been calling them for talks to come to the table for talks and for negotiations also. So. these (unclear) against terrorist activities.

John Fox (email question): You face a Maoist insurgency, troubles with Bhutan refugees, and boundary disputes with India. How are you able to tackle these issues all at once and get global action on them?
Well, as regards Bhutanese refugees, I have talked to the Bhutanese Prime Minister right now and I want to sort this matter bilaterally. But I think that without the good offices of India the problem will not be solved. During my visit to India I talked to the Prime Minister of India Mr Atal Behari Vajipayeeji about this. This time Mr Vajpayee is positive to resolve this problem.

RK: Prime Minister, let me ask you. Of course, Nepal doesn't make it to headlines all the time but news of attacks on tourists and the tourist industry may be affected... Let me ask you, how you might [unclear) confidence (unclear) of tourists in Nepal. In also bringing outside investment, especially when you have news of these Maoist rebels rising up spreading throughout the kingdom?
Well, we are very much concerned about Maoist terrorist activity. As regards the security and order for the tourists (unclear) we are proceeding towards that direction. We want that tourists should come to Nepal and see (unclear)

Ramesh (caller from India): I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether the government in Nepal would survive?
Whether the government will survive? What do you mean by deaf friend?

Ramesh: It means that there is a lot of friction between the earlier prime minister and the prime minister...
My dear friend, Ramesh, you don't know anything about the functions of the party. In democratic party, this kind of things happen, but it will not, the party will not break, it will not, this government will not fall...

RK: If there was some sort of political stability, what sort of support do you have, how much stability do you feel your country has politically?
Political stability, well, as regards Maoist terrorist activities, it has destabilized the country. But we are also taking very hard decisions about that. There will be political stability. Now as regards democracy, there is consensus between ail the parties that democracy should be stable in Nepal. So, I'm getting all support from all parties to bring stability in the country. And I think in future there will be clear political stability in the country very soon.

RK (referring to web chat): The economy is in trouble, population growth is still a problem, and agriculture production is dwindling. Please comment.
Well, economic, because our economy is not that sound. But recently we are managing; to make our economy sound. And also as regards to agriculture we have focused (unclear). I feel that there is a proverb in English 'Empty mind is devil's workshop'. But in Nepal empty stomach is devil's workshop. Empty stomach does not listen to reason, so first of all the priority should go to the stomach. That's why we are giving first priority to improve our agriculture. And this year we are progressing very fast. In two or three years we will be self-sustained in agriculture.

RK: Now as you concentrate on agriculture Prime Minister, this limits the progress you could make in areas like the information technology and the IT sector...
...this time I visited Andhra Pradesh just to see the Information Technology and India has agreed to give support to Information Technology in Nepal. I don't know about technical subjects but I want that this technology should be introduced in Nepal. So India is prepared to do that. I am very glad that India has given support for the information technology.

Surendra P Pradhanang, Nepal (email question): Do you think Nepal should be allowed to trade with Bangladesh via Indian land, without any restrictions (given that Nepal is landlocked)?
The tragedy is that Nepal is a land locked country. But Nepal is also peace-loving country as well. It has fauna, high-mountains, Himalayas and there are lots of fauna and flora why tourists are attracted to come to Nepal. But because the landlocked country, that is the tragedy. With all the facilities that is the tragedy of landlocked country. But as regards Bangladesh, India has recently given us some points for entry to Bangladesh. That has also given some support to Nepal's economy.

Khawer Tabbani, Karachi (email question): Do you see Nepal playing any role in easing tensions between Pakistan and India?
Well, Nepal is a very small country, and there is a proverb in Hindi that: choti muh badi baat. If Nepal can speak and try to do something the big country may.. will not appreciate it. But as for me, because I want that Pakistan and India should come to an understanding so that the whole South Asia should remain in peace. And mostly Nepal wants, being a peace-loving country, we want that there should be understanding between India and Pakistan.

Now this time I'm talking to Mr Prime Minister of India here in the United Nations. I will talk to him as regards the SAARC summit. And what I want that the SAARC summit, the process should be started through the technical meetings and also ministerial meetings. That will pave the way for SAARC summit in Kathmandu.

RK: How much of an impact, Prime Minister, is the issue of refugees having in Nepal. You have a large number of Bhutanese refugees that you have to attend to...
One hundred million Bhutanese refugees... one hundred thousand Bhutanese refugees. And they are very restive. I've talked to the Bhutanese Prime Minister this time also. Once they join hands with the terrorists, it will be a great headache to India, and Nepal and Bhutan as well. So, this problem should be settled by all the three parties together.

RK: Sir, just to end, there is the upcoming event. Your opposition and the Maoist insurgents are looking to host a nationwide strike. What do you expect to happen at the end of September, I think the 21st, when they're calling for basically a nationwide stoppage?
You know this kind of a hartal and strike goes on in Nepal. When the opposition becomes unreasonable, then this type of a strike and other things goes on. But, this doesn't matter to me. And the government will go ahead with its programme, economic and other programs.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Linophobia Rules in Nepal !

I have a simple theory on the chaos Nepal is facing today. Linophobia! That's right, it is the inherent hatred, or even phobia, of the Nepali people to wait in line. This phenomena is compounded by a brazen display of "jasko shakti, usko bhakti."

You see it everyday – in bus stops, supermarket cash counters, shops, temples, offices. People, by default, are prone to break out and go to the head of the line without a trace of remorse for the chaos their actions caused. Instead of waiting calmly, there are always people who bolt to the head of the line without a second of thought. However, a shaktishali (physically, verbally or via arms) person is hardly ever bypassed and if it does happen, a mayhem ensues.

Politics is no different. Linophobia can explain a majority of political chaos in Nepal in the past or present. Take the Maoists decision to drop out of government as an example. The general understanding was that the CA elections would resolve some outstanding issues. That meant "waiting in line" to reach a conclusion. But it was Linophobia, that led the Maoists to decide to launch protests through the streets. Forget the fact that they were playing a dual role of the government and the opposition even when they were in government.

In the past, you've seen Linophobia play big roles in parliamentarians' decisions, political leaders' actions and many party decisions. King Gyanendra's downfall was a direct result of Linophobia. Instead of systematically strengthening institutions, he had to go to the head of the line and bypass everyone. The result was greater chaos.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Who Wants Election in Nepal?

As everyone seems to be busy talking about what is good for Nepal and what is not. No one leaves any stone unturned when it comes to blaming someone for this and somebody else for that. And, in the midst of all this, the one thing that most significantly defines democracy—elections—is sidelined. So the obvious question becomes who wants election in Nepal?

The King?
No way! Given the notion that the first sitting of the CA will be empowered to decide on the fate of monarchy, there's absolutely no way the king would want to see elections being held now. He must be drooling at the way the politicians are busy blaming each other and proving once again that they have no ability to make any decisions, let alone write a new chapter in Nepal's history. Public memory is short and it wont be long before we start hearing "yo bhanda ta raja nai ramro."

The Maoists?
After talking for decades about how they are all for people power the Maoists literally got their rear ends thrashed by the Madhesis. "Support" stemming from fear and intimidation is never sustainable. The people are not stupid and will voice their disdain in the form of electoral choices the minute they get a chance. So it is virtually unimaginable that the Maoists want elections anytime soon, at least not until they have a stronger control over the state machinery.

The Mainstream Political Parties?
Their claim to fame have been hollow talks and they have never had to prove their worth. But no matter how confident they sound in the outside, they feel extremely vulnerable. What if the people finally see our flaws? What if the Maoists capture booths? What if the royalists somehow get a chunk of the pie? In such a chaotic scenario, isn't it better to simply stay put, talk – talk and talk, and avoid elections?

Foreign Powers?
Let's be honest. Foreign powers are not really interested in what happens in Nepal. They are more interested in how the situation in Nepal affects them. And let's face it. That is usually the real face of international relations any way. The powerful dictates to the weak and big guys marvel at the chaos facing the small guys. Any form of stability can only diminish the opportunity to meddle into Nepal's internal affairs like a bunch of hyenas digging into a dead deer. Why would they want the deer to suddenly come to life and escape?

The Nepali People?
It's been more than 10 years since the last elections. Lots of changes have taken place since then, mostly for the worse. How do we voice how we feel? Aren't elections the best way of getting the message across? So yes, the people are yearning to go out and vote. It's about time that they get the opportunity.

But, then again, who has ever given a damn about what the Nepali people want?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Champions of Nepal - On Paper!

Look at any successful runner – Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, or our own Baikuntha Manandhar. In their primes, they were virtually unbeatable. Carl and Michael were international powerhouses; while Baikuntha was a regional champion (doesn't he still hold the South Asian record?). However, all three (and many other champions) had one characteristic in common; they came to their races prepared. If they won, it was to their credit, and if they lost they took responsibility.

Never once did I hear Carl, Michael or Baikuntha complain about their opponents or blame their losses on their competitors. If they lost once, they prepared harder for the next race and excelled. The result was magnificent—every time they ran, it was usually them who made the headlines, not their opponents.

Why am I singing praises of these runners? For one, I always admired their courage, work ethic and hunger for success. And, more importantly, they provide tremendous learning opportunities.

In Nepal, we saw SPAM score a big win last April. Good! They had something great to build on and win the hearts and minds of the Nepali people. But no, they had their own agendas. They seem to believe that winning is about one of two things—ban their opponents from participating in the contest or not holding the contest at all. If the IAAF had stopped organizing 100 meter competitions after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, guess who would be today's 100-meter champion? Yes, Carl Lewis!

In democracy, the biggest contest is elections. It is the root of all legitimate democratic practices. Any major issues are decided either by the people (through a referendum) or by a body of elected representatives. When was the last time our "parliamentarians" were elected? Well, some of them about 10 years ago and others, NEVER!

And these pseudo parliamentarians are roaring about "declaring republic" as if it is their birth right. But no one can clearly explain what gives them the right to decide on a 238-year-old institution. Now, if they were true champions (or even wanna-be champions), they would focus all their attention towards holding the CA elections—on time and on a free and fair setting. After all, isn't it prudent to run with your eyes focused on the destination rather than looking back at the starting line? As someone wisely put it "you don't run life by looking at the rearview mirror, you run it through the windshield."

These guardians of democracy have run Nepal for a year now. And their successes so far have been limited to words only, not deeds. The partnership between the seven party alliance and the Maoists, that was supposed to liberate Nepal from autocracy, is now mired in infighting and power tussle. To them, it is not about Nepal any more; it's all about sharing power, it's all about bombarding the airwaves with stale rhetoric.

Accountability is a word that is laughed upon. Preparation is an unnecessary chore. Focus is counterproductive. What matters to the builders of a new Nepal are hollow talk, threats and accusations.

When was the last time anyone won a race with this kind of attitude?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Where is Nepal Headed?

From what I understand one of the main arguments for including the the Maoists in the government was to instill in them a sense of accountability. After all, the argument goes, when the Maoists are IN government, it is very difficult for them to go around practicing hooliganism and resorting to violence.

A sound argument, at least on the surface of it. I personally have a stronger (and much shorter) argument than that – they are Nepalis!

That’s when logic ends and reality starts kicking in. Certain actions of the Maoists put the whole peace process in doubt. Add to that the history of the seven parties, and the combination, really, begins to look suspect. For the current arrangements to work there needs be a change in thinking, strong trust within the governing alliance and committed leadership. All three, unfortunately, are in short supply.

There hardly seems to be a shift in thinking going on. The very government that was bent on “investigating” the killing of 21 people during last year’s April uprising, is allowing the continuation of a home minister, whose tenure has seen twice as many people killed.

Trust seems to be severely lacking between the SPA and the M as well as between SPA themselves. Not a day goes by without us hearing about someone expressing displeasure about the other.

As for strong and committed leadership, I argue that there is none given that there is no unified voice coming out about anything. These are trying times for Nepal and even now we don’t see two leaders of different parties talking about a unified message. If not now, when? And I ask again, who is in charge in Nepal?

As for my own change in thinking, as much as I hated to see the Maoists join the government without any material shift in their modus operandi, I am now willing to hope that this marriage will turn out to be happy and amicable. However my questions remain unanswered.
  • Will the Maoists now focus on ruling and establishing credibility instead of yapping about everything?
  • Will Madhav Kumar Nepal, please, take a strong position on anything?
  • Will Girija prove that he is thinking beyond the one or two years that he has left to live?
  • And, will we, in the near future, see any signs of material positive impact from the alliance of SPA and M.?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Krishna Prasad Sitaula Must Go!

Twenty-eight people were massacred in Gaur last week. A similar number of people have died since the Madhesi agitation began. That puts the total number of dead people at over 50. Extortions are widespread. Beatings, lootings, and abductions are as common as daal, bhaat, tarkari. Yet no one from the government's side has had the guts to take moral responsibility and step down.

What have we come to in this country? Weren't there street protests demanding punishment to the culprits of the April Movement, where 21 people died? Now there are over 50 people dead in little more than a month and everyone is busy deciding which party gets what ministerial portfolio!

I've asked this before and I will ask it again – who is in charge in Nepal? Why hasn't the home minister resigned yet? Now, I understand that if we start asking for resignations every time someone dies or get injured, it will be a mega-chaotic situation. At the same time, however, if those responsible are not held accountable, who knows how many more lives will be lost in the future?

Sitaula must go! There's no two ways about it. This person has failed to maintain law and order, made the government look like an idiotic bunch of Maoist goons, and hasn't accomplished anything. If the government is indeed working on behalf of the "wishes of the Nepali people" as they so loudly claim, the continued presence of the inept Home Minister does nothing to enhance the cabinet's credibility.

It is sad that so many people have lost their lives. It is also unacceptable and unpardonable that so many people have died and so many others have been injured, abducted and coerced during the rule of a government whose sole responsibility, supposedly, is to work as per the wishes of the Nepali people. And if one person cannot take responsibility for his failures, then the intentions of the whole government and its allies can (and should) be strongly questioned.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Questions? The Maobadis Have all the Answers

Describing democracy in a few words is easy: people power, strong institutions, fair.

Describing Nepali politicians in a few words is even easier: irresponsible behavior, loathe to accountability, clueless.

Before I go any further, let me be clear. I am not (yes, I am not) an expert in Democracy and Nepali politics. However, as a firm believer in the power of people and democratic institutions, I can't resist commenting on the ongoing circus in Nepal.

Capable people own up and learn from their mistakes, take appropriate corrective actions and move on. Losers, on the other hand, make excuses for everything, blame others for their failures and are incapable of looking into the future, because the past holds promise for them, not the future.

Take Prachanda's recent tirade against "palace elements" as an example. First he confidently barks that the palace "hatching conspiracies" by assassinating an American official and blaming it on the Maoists. Then, two days later, amidst rebukes from all sides, he proudly asserts that the Maoists are “collecting evidence” to prove his point.

Of course, when the King spoke – irresponsibly, according to SPAM – his statement was made into such a big issue. And now Prachanda comes in and blurts out something that, to me, is no less ridiculous and irresponsible than the king defending his coup-de-tat.

The next day Mr. Mahara made another astonishing statement about the palace spending Rs 600 million to assassinate SPA leaders. The story also talked about a CD being filed at the parliament. Upon closer look, it seems that the only things the CD contains are a bunch of anti-Maoist articles.

We should expect a DVD (perhaps a Bond movie) that proves the alleged palace conspiracies against American officials.

Going a step further on Monday (March 12), Prachanda proudly claimed that the Maoists have technical human resources and weapons outside cantonments with the ability to launch massive simultaneous attacks on many places. Of course, the excuse this time was that the UN did not register them.

A few questions arise from these episodes:

  1. If all the evidence had not been collected, why did Prachanda make such a serious allegation? Or, was he simply blurting out random thoughts?
  2. Do we have a clear double standard in Nepal about who can say what?
  3. If arms are swept by rivers, parliament will bypass the CA election to declare Nepal a republic, and the Maoists can renege on most of the tenets of the peace accord, what kind of democracy are we supposed to expect in Nepal?

And as for democracy in Nepal, regardless of what system we have, will it suffice if the Maoists say that we have democracy?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Democracy in Nepal? Three Questions

The last time I checked, democracy was defined in the dictionary as follows:

government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

Now let's look at the democracy in Nepal. We have a government by the eight parties, on which the supreme power is vested (according to the interim constitution). Half of our parliamentarians are not elected agents and we haven't had free elections in over eight years.

Now one might argue that this is a special case. The people have just wrested power back form an autocratic king and it takes time to build democracy. I agree 100%. But, how long are we going to operate with excuses? When will results exceed excuses. After all, isn't that what we are always left with -- lots of excuses and very little results.

So, on that note, I am just looking for answers to three questions:

  1. What is being done to hold free and fair elections so that we finally get to have elected agents making decisions?

Currently, we have an ad-hoc parliament deciding everything in the name of "the wish of the Nepali people." How do they know what the wish of the Nepali people is? Have they been out talking to their constituents (god knows who has what constituency)? Or have extensive polls been conducted? If people power is supreme and that is all we care about, shouldn't the top priority be to hold elections and see what the people really have to say?

  1. Is the Maoist's threat to unilaterally "declare republic" a sign of their own autocratic attitude, fear of facing the electorate, or simply a ploy to intimidate voters?

If people are the ultimate deciders in a democratic system, why are the Maoists always saying things that utterly disregard the intelligence of the Nepali people? One has to understand that "Nepali people" include far more citizens than the vocal, aggressive and destructive kinds you see on the streets everyday. And, if who you see on the streets are indeed representatives of the Nepali people and their general mood, what is the objection in simply going to the polls?

  1. Who is in charge?

A time of crisis can pass peacefully and productively if it is clear that someone is in charge of the situation. Who is in charge in Nepal? The Prime Minister seems to be saying one thing and his own ministers (apparently representing the wishes of the Nepali people) contradict him without even thinking about how foolish it makes all of them look. By Prachanda's bold statements, it looks as if he is desperately trying to show that he is in charge, but his blabber hardly fits someone who understands what it means to be in charge. The press is always crying foul and the civil society is too busy singing the Maoist song. Half the people are busy protesting and the other half is quietly sitting at home. Who is in charge?

So when will the kids stop fighting so they can come home and do their homeworks?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Full of Contradictions

I saw this really interesting piece by journalist Keshav Poudel on Spotlight on Confused Leadership, Derailed Polity and Bewildered People. His premise is the confused state that political leaders are in, specifically in terms of the current Terai crisis.

It is not very common to see Nepali journalists researching on contradictory statements made by politicians. And I don’t fault them, because there is so much contradiction going on that your average journo would just get swamped by the load.

In any case, text in red is my own two-paisa worth of thoughts about each person and their quote. This posting's a little long, but worth reading (at least the text in black) to understand the mindset of the people who we call our leaders.

As a prime minister, I am also morally responsible on painful incident in Lahan. The incident is also the result of Maoists’ arrogance of gun
Girija Prasad Koirala
quoted by Annapurna Post January 23.

You are responsible for a lot of things Girija Babu. There was a time, when you wouldn’t even negotiate with your own party members (remember the 36 and 24 group?). Had you done your job right when you were leading Nepal all these years, we wouldn’t be in this mess today. It's almost ironic that you have now emerged as our savior.

Palace is in a coma as its fate will be decided by the Constituent Assembly.
Vice President of Nepali Congress Sushil Koirala
quoted in Gorkhapatra, January 24.

Yeah, but did you consult with your party general secretary about this?

The palace is actively backing the agitation in Terai.
Ram Chandra Poudel, Nepali Congress General Secretary.

Sure, Ramchandra ji! And how about the time when you so confidently proclaimed that the Maoists were operated by Nirmal Niwas? God has given you a mouth and tongue. To stop or not to stop diarrhea is your own responsibility, isn't it?

We discussed about the evidences that revealed the involvement of palace in fuelling riots there.
Agriculture Minister and NC CWC Member Mahanta Thakur
quoted in The Statesman, January 24.

Sure, finger pointing is so easy, isn’t it? Now how about actually doing something to solve real problems?

I don’t see any significance in holding dialogue with an organization that has no capacity and strength of their own.
Maoist leader Prachanda
quoted in The Himalayan Times, January 24.

Yes, kill a few thousand more people first before we are willing to call you an organization with capacity and strength of its own.

Dr. Upendra Yadav was with us. He was arrested by Indian police in New Delhi along with leaders of Madhesi Mukti Morcha Matrika Prasad Yadav and Suresh Ale Magar. Indian police handed over Matrika Yadav and Suresh Ale Magar to Nepal Army whereas Dr. Upendra Yadav was released. Dr. Yadav stayed more than six months in New Delhi . You must understand the situation - Dr. Yadav, who was released when two of our comrades were handed over to face most harsh situation.
Maoist leader Prachanda
in Kantipur Television Bahas Program on 27 January.

So what’s the point comrade? Upendra Yadav is an Indian Operative? But wait, didn’t you say just a few days ago that his movement was orchestrated by the palace and Hindu fundamentalists. Or, are you, too, suffering from the say anything syndrome?

We should hold talks with Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Terai Jantantrick Mukti Morcha. But we cannot deny addressing the problems of Madhesi on the ground that they are backed by palace and regressive elements.
Nepali Congress leader Dr. Rambaran Yadav

But wait, Ram Baran ji, is it or is it not a legitimate movement? If the palace is indeed instigating some of the violence, wouldn’t it be simply prudent for you guys to address the problem as soon as possible? And I can only guess that if you are willing to hold talks with them, you are conceding that it is a legitimate movement?

If we just term the agitation in Terai as instigated by palace or other regressive elements, we are just trying to escape from the reality of Terai’s problems. The agitation in Terai is the expression of suppression of voice of Terai by our rulers. Do not try to get rid of the issues of penetration by ignoring the genuine issue of Terai. Darbar will utilize the opportunity if it gets it. That is not the issue now but the issue now is to address the question raised by people. We have not seen any communal hatred in Terai.
Dr. Devendra Raj Pandey, Civil Society Leader
in Kantipur Television, January 26

Makes sense to me. But I haven't heard you say a word against Prachanda's rigid stance against negotiating with the MJF. But wait, criticizing the Chairman would derail the peace process, right? I can see that!

We have solid information that the royalists had provoked the violence with the support of Hindu fundamentalists.
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai

We too have solid information, Doctor saab, that you guys provoked violence in Nepal over the last decade with the support of Indian fundamentalists.

We had not imagined that there would be such huge participation in our agitation. This is spontaneous reactions against the oppression of Madhesi.
MJF chairman Upendra Yadav
in Kantipur Television, 25 January.

This is our problem, Upendra ji. We cannot imagine anything, especially when it comes to our future. We are just too busy fighting, killing and making nice slogans. That’s enough for the unemployed and frustrated youths to get charged.

They are carrying many truck loads of people from Bihar, India to create violence in Terai. There is no question of negotiation with any of these forces backed by Palace and Hindu fundamentalists from India . We have to now declare Nepal as a Republic state so that the possibility of conspiracy dies forever.
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai
in Radio Sagarmatha, January 27

Well, Bhattarai ji, even if you get rid of the king, how do you propose to get rid of Hindu fundamentalists from India? Are you proposing another fight against the BJP? Actually, it is not a bad idea. But, no, you wouldn't do that after all that India has done for you and your comrades.

Dr. Upendra Yadav flared up this agitation following his meeting in Gorakhpur with Hindu fundamentalists. The faces taking part in the violent agitations are unknown figures.
in KTV Bahas, January 27

Gosh, what a bright idea! How about Upendra Yadav being too ambitious, now that he has seen perpetrators of violence skipping the electoral process to become parliamentarians? Perhaps he too would like to be a saansad someday, comrade, no? And unknown faces? Who knew your face a year ago? Relax comrade, relax!

I was not alone to participate in Gorakhpur meeting. Leaders of all political parties including a leader of Nepali Congress were there too. Some issued a doctored photograph published in local newspaper to destroy my image.
Dr. Upendra Yadav
in Kantipur Television.

Yeah, we have watched a few too cheesy movies, haven’t we? Doctored photograph, by definition, has already destroyed one of your images. What is next? Someone wearing your nakaab will start killing people now?

The demand of Terai is genuine as we have been pressing for the government to fulfill their demands. But the faces involved in the agitation show that regressive and reactionary forces are backing it.
Madhav Kumar Nepal
South Asia Free Media Association, January 26.

Who better to recognize a reactionary than you, comrade? Please, for once, can you take a definitive stance on ONE issue? Why do you always have to cover your ass? By the way, did the palace get back to you with a reply to your binti patra?

Siraha, Lahan, Janakpur, Birgunj and Biratnagar are burning. By labeling the people of Janakpur and Madhesi community as monarchists and communal, some leaders are fuelling the fire.
Brishesh Chandra Lal, former mayor of Janakpur
quoted in Kantipur, January 26

Who needs fuel when we have the firebrand MJF leaders?And who will admit the real problem, when everyone can so conveniently bring the palace into the discussion? I tell you, if the King were to die today and 500 people joined the funeral procession, the politicians would accuse Paras of instigating violence. Shows a lot of self-confidence, doesn’t it?

When leaders of seven parties ignore genuine agitation of Terai’s people using force to suppress their voice, it is my moral obligation to resign from the cabinet.
Minister Hridayesh Tripathi
quoted in Gorkhapatra, January 31

Yes Gandhi ji. You are so good at morality. So good that you went on to investigate the misuse of saansad-subidha vehicles when you yourself were renting out your own subidha vehicle. Do you really have jaundice, or are you simply buying time to come back to being a minister. It’s good being a minister, no?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why should we Trust the Maoists?

Amidst the sad incidents in the Terai, Nepalis once again got to see the inconsistent and untrustworthy side of the Maoists. In case we have forgotten, I am talking about the same CPN(M) that is primarily responsible for over 13,000 deaths in Nepal.

Yes, the same Maoists, that now are preaching good governance, democracy and peace. Yes, the same ruthless beings, who, after screaming about "Indian imperialism," for over a decade, now are relentless about singing praises of India.

Yes, the same Maoists, who, just a week ago, were claiming that the Madhesi agitators were "non existing groups" and "criminal elements" are now discrediting the very government that they are a part of and are expressing solidarity with the Madhesis. And, after touting their apparently non existing democratic credentials, they are now talking big about not having abandoned any of their core beliefs.

The funny part is it was the killing of a Madhesi youth by Maoist cadre that fueled this whole mess in the first place. But the Maoists promptly declared that “regressive, royalist forces” were behind spreading chaos. How convenient! Obviously, what the Maoists say is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The CPN(M) is supposedly one of the cornerstones of our bumpy road to peace and prosperity ahead. With them on board, who needs bums and bruises? To make a point, it seems, they are capable of doing and saying anything. They have done it in the past and will do it again. And when things don't go their way, they will not hesitate to renege on their commitments. Threats and violence, after all, are what brought them to prominence in the first place.

Way to go comrades!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Wishful Thinking or Pitiful Excuse?

There we go again! Instead of sitting down and focusing on solving the problem, our politicians with “exceptional democratic principles” are once again blaming others and trying to shrug off responsibility.

I’m talking about the Terai unrest. From what I understand, the issue at the table was the interim constitution not adequately addressing the problems of the Madhesi community. The way the interim constitution was hastily pushed through probably lends credibility to the Madhesi people’s complaints.

Instead of analyzing the problem and trying to solve it, the politicians in Nepal are once again blaming the whole issue on phantom “regressive forces.” However, if we look at the motive, the group that benefits the most from this chaos is the current leaders in power.

On one hand we have a very rigid—almost autocratic—interim constitution. On the other hand, we have activities going on that threatens the holding of the elections which will pave way for a new and, hopefully, more sane constitution. So one could argue that the current leadership is behind the chaos because they want to cling to the tremendous power that they are currently enjoying. How’s that for an argument?

If the regressive forces—assuming that they are the “royalists”—are instigating the Terai violence, then they are far more stupid than I thought. To reestablish credibility through chaos is nothing more than wishful thinking. However, if blaming the regressive forces is simply a ploy of the politicians to deflect blame (and oh yes, they have done it in the past and will do it again), then it’s pitiful.

Monday, January 15, 2007

What's Next For Nepal?

We are hearing good things about the historical promulgation of Nepal's new constitution. If things improve as well as the events in the last few days, then we have good reason to be optimistic about Nepal's immediate and long-term future. However, Nepal is very good at disappointing its people. As I have said before, constitution is just a piece of paper. It is up to the political leadership to make it work for the people.

Here I have tried to come up with three scenarios for Nepal as a result of today's developments. While I sincerely hope that the best case scenario plays out, I pray that we never have to see the worst case. My likely scenario is not very appealing, but making it better requires the vigilance, understanding and unity of the Nepali people.

Best Case Scenario
Everybody gets back to their senses. They not only talk the talk but do the work and in a relatively short period of time, we are able to see signs of Nepal climb upward from the deep abyss that it is now in. The Maoists prove that they are astute leaders not only with bullets but also when facing the ballots. The NC and UML people go through comprehensive introspections and find ways to govern with dignity and poise.

In a few years, monarchy—regardless of its status then—will be rendered irrelevant, and reinvigorated Nepal and Nepalis will have learned to find ways to enjoy lasting peace and prosperity. With prosperity, the common Nepali will find it easier to fight poverty and the root cause of our problems will be addressed effectively.

Worst Case Scenario
It is hard to teach old dogs new tricks. Our 50+ year old yuba netas will never learn from their mistakes. Once the chaos and commotions are over, they will once again go back to their old ways of looting the national coffers. The army will be heavily politicized, demoralized and turned into a cash cow for the ruling party just the way RNAC was milked. Dissenting voices will be quelled.

The concept of democracy will be blurred and confused with "anybody-can-do-and-demand-anything" and small splinter groups will try to usurp and exert power in every possible situation. The country will be badly divided and we'll see demands for autonomous/independent states along communal lines. The Maoists, used to ruling by fear and terror, will be unable to perform any magic tricks and will go back to their old ways of violence and killing. With no one in apparent control, Nepal will head into a rapid downward spiral allowing our "friendly neighbors" to heavily intervene politically or militarily.

Likely Scenario
After a few months and years of blaming all the ills of Nepal on the king and the shah dynasty, reality finally takes control. Without anyone with the kind of leadership and integrity to lead Nepal, it will be business as usual with ministers and political leaders talking big and doing very little. Corruption may not be as blatant as before, but will continue.

The major parties will squabble on petty things and national consensus will be a thing of the past. Before we know it, a couple of decades will have passed without Nepal making any major progress. Religious and communal tensions will be more common than anytime in Nepal's history.

Once again, I hope things turn for the better for all of us. Jaya Nepal.