Tuesday, June 12, 2007

News From Nepal: (No) Business As Usual

The Waiting Land
Kathmandu, Nepal

Whew....after a nauseating taxi ride down the Himalayan foothills into sweltering Delhi, then a 2-hour delay at the airport, I'm back in Nepal, and it's business as usual.

Or perhaps, no business as usual. It's all an ordinary Nepali can do to get any work at all done, as various factions keep things churned up and out of working order.

And, did I mention the nation is broke, and out of petrol (gasoline)? They owe Indian Oil about 1 Billion (with a B) rupees. The joke is that all the strikes are an attempt to reduce gas consumption, since, in fact, we don't have any.

Popular support for the monarchy is at an all-time low (according to news polls). However, the current interim govt. isn't faring much better in the eye of the general public. The same polls showed abuot 59% of the public felt the new government was "same old, same old."

Improvements since I left in December: The Maobadis are no longer extorting donations from trekkers. They are having their own internal problems, what with the rebels rebelling against the rebel leaders. Now that the leaders are officially an enfranchised part of the Establishment, the field cadres don't feel so much solidarity with them - sweating in jungle tents while the Great Helmsmen ride in AC jeeps in the capital. As predicted here a year ago, they've begun to breakaway and form their own general hell-raising groups in the hinterlands.

Another plus: within the valley proper and from here to Pokhara, there are no more government roadblocks. That's because the conflict has shifted to the Terai.

....The Terai (southern Nepal plains bordering India) is becoming the Terror-ai. Literally every few days, there's some bundh (strike), curfew, demonstration, revenge killing or some damned thing holding up life and normal functionality there (and I don't just mean my ability, as a tourist, to travel freely- that's not so important). Ordinary people can't get to work and get stuff done. Stuff doesn't get delivered. Commercial transport from and to all-important commercial neighbor India doesn't go through. People,including the very large number of daily-wage labourers (who live for their next meals, get paid cash daily and get nothing for enforced strike days) go hungry.

The Northern border with China, ironically, is tranquil. Maybe all this agitation on the border is with the intent to rupture relations with India and force Nepal to be reliant on Communist China for damned near everything. What sort of person or party would want such a thing? A Communist party maybe? or even Maoist....?

....Tomorrow, Jimmy Carter is coming. He's been here before, on vacation to climb up to Everest Base Camp with Roslyn. This time, he's coming as an ambassador of peace, due process and proper electoral procedures. Nepalis seem to have an almost mystical faith in outsiders' ability to cut through the haze and bring some clarity to the situation. Interestingly, Carter will meet with both the Prime Minister Koirala and the Maoist supremo Prachanda - but not with the monarch, King Gyanendra.

Major peacenik groupie that I am, I will be camping out at Baluwatar to hopefully catch a glimpse of the man who's unquestionably our finest living President. ....
--Here's a link to a news story about the 2-day All Nepal Strike (during which, a bicycle cannot even move about freely) that was thankfully called off at the last minute.

Kathmandu, June 10 (IANS) After they went on the warpath in south Nepal's Kapilavastu district, calling an indefinite closure and attacking nearly a dozen vehicles, a Maoist group Sunday withdrew its protest following talks between their top leaders and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

The controversial youth wing of the Maoists had enforced the indefinite shutdown in Kapilavastu, revered by Buddhists as part of the ancient kingdom where the Buddha was born and spent 29 years before leaving home in search of enlightenment, to pressure the Nepal Army into pulling out of the area.

Early on Sunday, the Young Communist League torched five buses and attacked seven more vehicles for trying to move out of the paralysed district under the cover of darkness.
...full story at


Alessandro said...

Congratulations for Your very interesting blog. Im an Italian Journalist, I just have been in Nepal for a month and I'm writing a book about it. Best,

Madhukar said...

Welcome back sirensongs,
bit disappointed that you moved to Nepal.


Sirensongs said...

Hi Madhukar!
Not to worry, I will be back in India in a few weeks!