Sunday, March 30, 2008
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Rato Matsyendranath:: Whie I admit to never having visited the actual temple of Rato Matsyendranath in Bungamati, I did witness the Most Insane Pulling Of His Five-Storey Chariot through the streets of Patan last year, like a mammoth Christmas tree on wheels scraping the rooftops and occasionally the power wires.
Monday, March 24, 2008
If you're stuck in a torch-less locale, you can at least phone, write, fax or email the International Olympics Committee (who keep insisting the Olympics are not political). Below are letter-writing guidelines courtesy Students for a Free Tibet.
Use the following talking points as a guideline when calling your NOC or drafting your own letter:
> Say you would like to leave a message with the President of the NOC. > If the Torch goes through Tibet it will likely cause further unrest, which would result in another heavy-handed crackdown and consequently more arrests, torture, and loss of life. > On humanitarian grounds alone, it is inconceivable that the Torch relay pass through Tibet at this time. > Please urge the IOC to immediately remove all Tibetan area from the Olympic torch relay route.
Here is a sample email/letter: To the President of the NOC of [insert country], As a citizen concerned about fundamental respect for human rights and dignity, I am deeply concerned that the International Olympic Committee and the organizers of the Beijing games are continuing with plans to carry the Olympic torch through Tibet. Right now in Tibet, there is no freedom of speech or movement and the entire nation is under martial law. International sources report that over a hundred Tibetans have been killed and hundreds more arrested or detained. As reports spread of arbitrary arrests, house-to-house raids, killings, and even beatings of schoolchildren, it is unthinkable that the IOC would continue to move forward with 'business as usual.' Allowing the torch to be carried through Tibet will greatly escalate tensions, giving the Chinese government an excuse to continue its violent crackdown, which will undoubtedly lead to more detentions and deaths.Allowing the torch through Tibet would indelibly tarnish not only the 2008 Olympics but the Olympic movement. The Olympic torch relay should be a celebration that unites people, not a propaganda exercise in which one people seeks to assert its dominance over another.
Tibetan people everywhere have made it clear that they do not want the Olympic torch to pass through their borders. The Chinese government's fervent desire to see the torch pass through Tibet is politically motivated, aimed at saving face despite the widespread protests, and asserting its sovereignty over Tibet. I urge you to place the needs of the Tibetan people and the values of the Olympic movement ahead of the Chinese authorities' desire to project an image of power and invincibility.
Please immediately appeal to the the IOC to withdraw the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the Tibetan provinces of Amdo and Kham - now annexed into China's Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Gansu - from the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay route.
People, athletes and governments of conscience worldwide have responded with an outpouring of support for Tibetans inside Tibet. Please join us in saying "no torch through Tibet."
Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this. Tell-a-friend!
Friday, March 21, 2008
Kathmandu & Patan, Nepal
The much-lamented water shortage doesn't seem to apply during Holi time. Supposedly a Hindu festival celebrating spring and the change of seasons, it's been commandeered by testosterone-poisoned young men who use it as an opportunity to harass women. Believe me, the transition of winter to summer is nothing to celebrate in this part of the world anyway.
After getting soaked on the way to the breakfast place (about 50 feet from my guest house), I decided to stay in today. Here are some scenes from the past week around town.
::At the foot of one of the four "Ashoka Stupas," Patan. It's believed that the Indian Buddhist emperor Ashoka had these four stupas, one at each corner of the Buddhist kingdom Patan, built during his visit. Patan remains a stronghold of Newar and now Tibetan Buddhists.
::Cricket game in a field near Pulchowk, Patan.
::Dorje or stylized "thunderbolt", representing the male creative principle, and a guy dressed like Cab Calloway at the Ashoka Stupa, Patan.
::Vintage Morris Minor car on Jyatha marg, Thamel.
::This boy displayed the customary sweet, shy Nepali manners while installing a Communist Party Of Nepal (Maoist) poster at the public fountain in Thamel.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
This morning, there was another attempted demonstration by pro-Tibetan protestors at the UN House in Patan. I didn't make it to the site in time (around 10.30 am).
An eyewitness who did make it, but asked not to be named, says it was very brief. The police acted so quickly in arresting the protestors this time that there was no violence. Basically, they just showed up (again in an attempt to deliver the memorandum, as below) and were immediately taken into custody.
When I arrived at Pulchowk, the street was still lined with dozens of Nepal's Men in Blue (police in riot gear). There will likely be no more actions for a day or so till their release of the Tibetan demonstrators - most of the leaders are incarcerated right now.
As I mentioned previously, Monday saw Nepal's most violent police intervention in a protest since the People's Uprising in 2006.
The latest I've heard about the Monday demonstrators is that nine were injured, including one monk named Tseten Dorjee who sustained serious head injuries. The wounded are dispersed between TU Teaching Hospital, Patan Hospital and Birendra Police Hospital. Above is a photo of an injured monk that appeared only in local paper the Nepali Times (not the "MSM"), so I will reproduce it here )(above). The photographer asked to remain anonymous.
The Tibetan protestors had been attempting to deliver a memorandum to the UN, requesting intervention in Tibet, when the Nepal police descended on them with not only bamboo canes but tear gas. Most of the serious injuries were from hurled tear gas cannisters.
Meanwhile, the UN themselves have issued a statement saying they did not request police "protection" from peaceful demonstrators and have or had no objection to receiving the petition. From what I've read, the Nepal police deny acting at the behest of Chinese Embassy, but I have yet to confirm that source.
On a lighter note, while on my way to the UN in Pulchowk, Patan today, I got splattered with a water balloon by a young Holi-gan who announced, "Happy Holi!" and ran away. What a coward, to throw it at my back. I actually felt a bit cheated that it was just a water balloon. Seems like a degraded version of Holi, just water instead of bright colours. I guess I should be glad it wasn't a teargas cannister.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Didn't make it to any of the pro-Tibet actions today - I spent most of the day arguing with Nepali immigration. (Do you sense a theme here?)
While I was in Maitighar at the new Immigration office (it's been moved from the previous convenient Bhrikutimandap location), there was a major action at the UN offices just across the bridge in Pulchowk, Patan. I'm passing on these news reports.
Police in Nepal clash with Tibet protestors; 44 held
The protesters were demonstrating peacefully near the main U.N. office in Kathmandu, holding banners reading "Free Tibet" and demanding the United Nations investigate a Chinese crackdown on protests inside Tibet.
But police quickly moved in to break up the gathering, dragging protesters away and throwing them into the back of trucks that then took them to a nearby detention center.
Photo by my friend Prakash Mathema who works for Agence France Presse.
These kids in Beijing are brave souls:
Ethnic Tibetan students staged a candle-lit vigil in Beijing on Monday, saying it was to pray for the dead, hours before a midnight deadline warning anti-Chinese rioters in the Tibetan capital to surrender.
Police kept reporters well away from the peaceful protest by dozens of apparently ethnic Tibetan students gathered inside the Central University for Nationalities.
It was a small, rare show of defiance in the host city of this year's Olympic Games, where Communist Party authorities are especially eager to prevent public shows of dissent.
"It was only to pray for the souls of the dead," said an ethnic Tibetan student ....
And courtesy of my Tibetan-speaking friend Amalia Rubin, who just returned from Lhasa a mere month ago, here is a photo e-smuggled out of Tibet, of the dead bodies in Ngawa. She writes:
This photo was recently sent to me by someone in Tibet. These are bodies in Ngawa. People shot by the police. These are REAL TIBETANS. REAL people being murdered.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Seen in a Baluwatar garden in Kathmandu.
(now some smart-ass is going to write in with some suggestion about white balance.)
Scenes from the 'hood: Here's one of characteristic Nepali "hitis" or public water fountains. These inverted-pyramid-like structures were built long ago by the Malla kings and still provide water for a great many urban Nepalis. People do laundry, fetch drinking water and bathe publicly in the hiti. Receding water tables and increased population mean many of them are reduced to a trickle. This hiti is down a side street in Thamel. I walked by it again today; The opposite wall (not visible) is now covered in Maoist election posters.
Monday, March 10, 2008
Dervla Murphy wrote a great book about her travels in Nepal, called The Waiting Land. Some twenty-five years later, Nepal still has that feeling....of waiting.
palace. It's protocol as usual at the western gate of Narayanhiti Palace, aka scene of the 2000 Royal Massacre. As far as the loyal retinue are concerned, the king's still an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu. These dapper fellows in traditional dhauri-suruwal and topi are the Pravesham Patra (entrance protectors), along with the world-famous Gurkhas, of course - one of whom cracked a shy smile for me.
::These two brothers were doing temple duty collecting used lamp wicks at Bhatbateni Devi mandir this morning.
::Election posters dot the city, explaining the process to Nepali voters. There hasn't been a proper election in Nepal for nearly 12 years. Despite the fact that it's a multiparty election, the only party logos and advertisements I see around town are CPN (Maoist).
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Indo-Nepal border to be sealed from March 10
Oh, great. Right in time for me as a I get my visa to return to India. How long is THIS sh*t going to go on?
They may end up having elections after all here in Nepal, but if they do, it will be a Maoist/YCL (Young Communist League)-controlled farce. Reports are already filtering in of YCL assuming "poll protection" duties in the rural areas.
The Election Commission (housed in the former building of the world-famous Hotel Royal) has printed up ballots. On the same page of the newspaper we read that electronic voting machines will be used. So which is it to be?
I THINK (reading local papers, one has to infer a great deal) the print ballots will be used for "practice" and dry-run trial elections - which of course, should have taken place 4 months or so ago.
Yes, Bhutan and Pakistan both recently had successful elections...but in neither case was it their first try. Bhutan went in baby steps... and Pakistan had several false starts for years.
Indo-Nepal border to be sealed from March 10 BAHRAICH, MAR 8 (PTI)--The Indo-Nepal border would be sealed from March 10 and additional barriers and pickets installed on all the passages linking the area with the Himalayan kingdom in view of constituent assembly elections in the neighbouring country.
DIG, Devi Patan, Manmohan Bashal told newspersons here yesterday that policemen in plain clothes would be deployed keeping in mind the sensitive nature of the border.
"A meeting of senior officials of both the countries would be held before the elections for better coordination," Bashal said adding that a close watch is being maintained on Maoists as well as Madheshiya activists.
V for Visa Victory
Yes, I finally got my long-awaited Indian visa for 6 months, double entry. It was a real uphill battle. Basically, they are changing all the rules and regs for second-time / repeat visitors to India from Nepal. I must blog about it soon in detail...just so burnt out right now.
How many times have I changed fonts within this post? At least twice. I tried changing them back and it's not working. Can't deal with it right now...where's tech support when you need them?
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
--The "historic" agreement signed last Thursday between the UMDF (United Madheshi Democratic Front), which had been spearheading the Tarai agitations, and the provisional government here in the 'du seems to have eased the petrol crisis. Now the trucks delivering gasoline from the Indian "mainland" should be able to get through without obstruction....unless, of course, one of the other several Tarai-based ethnic groups decides to launch an agitation. (The Madheshis aren't the only disenfranchised people living in the Tarai, just the noisiest.)
--My acquaintance Sajani Sakya, the Bhaktapur Kumari, has decided (or more likely it has been decided for her) to take early retirement from her post as Living Goddess. The 11- year-old girl's parents chose to have Sajani undergo a traditional Newar ritual of "ihi," or symbolic marriage to a fruit.
It's not as weird as it sounds (or maybe it is, and I have just been in this part of the world too long). Bollywood goddess Aishwarya Rai underwent a form of the same type ritual prior to her marriage to Abhishek Bacchan (in her case, she ritually "married" a tree).
Most Newar girls undergo this simple ritual around age 11, but Kumaris do not. Why this was so important for Sajani to do this now is a mystery. Anyway, the search is on for a new Bhaktapur Kumari, and Sajani is now attending public school like a regular girl.
--Maha Shivratri - a major Hindu holiday for the god Shiva - is coming up, which should mean the freaks, sadhus and Shiva Bhakts will be on display at Pashupatinath. That's March 6th, by the way.
--in a non-Nepal based story: many people write to me asking about where they can see HH the Dalai Lama. HH's schedule is always available at his official website. As this is the year of the Beijing Olympics, he will be abroad most of the year hoping to raise the profile of the Tibet issue as well as that of other human rights issues within China.
However, it's just been announced he will be teaching in Kaza, Himachal Pradesh (I think that's in Spiti valley) from June 22-24. There is little commercial accomodation in the area and the HP government is trying to figure out how to house all the pilgrims. Maybe I'll bring a tent.
More news as it happens!