Thursday, October 06, 2005

Making Inroads

While waiting for the download, I'm gazing at a Nepalese road map posted on the cybercafe wall over my screen. Actually, it's one part road map, with topographic map inset in the upper right hand corner. The topo map looks like an angry schoolkid took an oblong strip of paper, crushed and crumpled it into a tiny ball, then unfolded it and ripped it ragged along the edges. Except for a tiny "blank" space of flatness along the bottom of the strip, it's nothing but hills and mountains.

The road map shows the extent to which geography really determines Nepali destiny. Outside of the Kathmandu Valley and lower Terai (the aforementioned narrow strip running along the southern border with India), there are literally no major roads. The thick red highway lines (using that term loosely; most are 2-laners) cover only this tiny portion of the map - probably less than one quarter of the country has anything like real roads. My lane in Boudha - and this is inside the city - resembles a washed-out riverbed, for good reason. It is a washed-out riverbed, as is abundantly evident when the rains start. The gravelly dirt "road" becomes a literal creek, shin-deep, in minutes.

There will never be roads in most of Nepal. Only the pinnacle of American highway engineering, employing extensive blasting and so on, could possibly make roadways through the terrain. Of course this is a blessing for us tourists; guaranteed to keep the valleys and mountains more pristine for us. Some areas of the country are so inaccessible, I wouldn't be surprised if heretofore unknown places were discovered. The beautiful, increasingly cool fal days are beckoning and I can't wait to hit a trail. Just hope my knee holds up; I feel positively antiquated whining about my trick knee. Lame, indeed.

Soldiers guilty, but free
Nepali Times, 30 Sept. 2005
On Tuesday, a court martial ruled that Col. Bobby Khatri, Capt. Sunil Adhikari and Capt. Amit Pun were direclty responsible for killing Maina Sunuwar after severely torturing her (Nepali Times #217). The girl was abducted on 17 Feb. 2004 by state security forces, which initially did not provide any information on her whereabouts or even admit they were holding her. The three officers received sentences of six months in jail and temproary suspension, but they are unlikely to serve any actual time, as they were found to have served their sentences by being consigned inthe barracks. The three were also ordered to pay some compensation to the family from their own pockets. According to Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, "This ruling allows officers convicted for torturing and murdering a 15-year-old girl to avoid serving even a single day in jail. This tells soldiers in the Nepali Army that they won't risk punishment if they continue to abuse civilians." Over the past two years, Nepal's security forces have been responsible for the largest number of reported disappearances in the world.

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