Nepali Times

Advice from the grassroots

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
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From the Nepali Press

Milijuli Nepali Episode 64, BBC Media Action,  July 16

All pics: BBC Nepali

All pics: BBC Nepali

People in the earthquake zone are busy these days with rice planting, household work and rebuilding homes. That doesn’t mean one should careless about their health though. The people who suffered injuries during the earthquake are now gradually healing and getting back to their lives. Presenter Sabita Biswokarma  and psychologist  Jivan Kumari Bhattarai talk with Hari Maya Maharjan of Harisiddhi, Lalitpur. Maharjan was buried along with her other family members in the ruins of her house for more than four hours before being rescued. She stayed in hospital for a few days for treatment and is now living in a temporary tent set up near her maternal home. Maharjan’s sprained hand still hasn’t healed, but she hopes to start working as it recovers.

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BBC Nepali: You were buried for four hours in the rubble after the earthquake and then rescued. Your son and a grandson were also rescued. How are you now?

Maharjan: My hand hurt a lot, bit is a lot better now. I want to get back to work, but what to do, I can’t. I have to work to feed myself. These days I don’t have any appetite, I can’t sleep either. I keep worrying about how to take care of my family, how we will survive this, raise children and where to get money to pay their school fees at the end of the month. I keep fretting about such things. I want to work. Otherwise how will we manage at home? We have to look after the household, we have to work.

What have you decided to do?

After harvesting the paddy if there is enough straw, I’ll make straw slippers to sell.  I can make 5-6 pairs per day and sometimes even as many as 10 pairs. If my hands heal, I will find other work and if there isn’t enough straw to make slippers. If you stay and do nothing your mind will be only focus on pain.

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We now turn to psychologist Jivan Kumari Bhattarai for advice in the case of Hari Maya’s Maharjan. She has tried to change and adjusted quickly. Some people need a little more time to adjust.

What kind of a role should family members, neighbours and specialists like you play so that it will be easier to the survivors?

Jivan Kumari Bhattarai: We should see what can be done, what specific things are necessary in a particular locality, or the kind of skills that they would need. It could even be skills they had learnt in the past, and engage them in farm work. It doesn’t have to be paddy planting only, we could teach them to farm in different ways. We have to communicate, talk to them about their economic conditions what is required to be done and how to do it. If we talk with them and engage them to come up with solutions, they’ll adjust sooner.


Honour people’s verdict

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015
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Residents of Madanpokhara, Palpa brave rains to register their views on the draft constitution on 20 July. Photo: Dev Pachbhaiya

From the Nepali Press

Editorial in Kantipur, 23 July

Initially, the Constituent Assembly (CA) and political parties did not seem serious about collecting public feedback on the draft constitution. They probably saw it just as a formality. That was why only two days were allotted for this enormous task. But the enthusiasm with which people turned out to register their views on the draft was beyond expectation of the political parties. Now, the onus lies on the CA and the political parties to honour views expressed by the majority of the people by including them in the new constitution.

Due to obstacles created by some parties dissatisfied with the constitution writing process, collecting public feedback was not satisfactory in some parts of the Madhes. But where there were no obstacles people turned out in huge numbers, giving credence to the process and raising hope for the new constitution. People also expressed views against some of the points of the 16-point deal, which is the blueprint of the draft constitution. For example, the signatories to the 16-point deal rejected the idea of directly-elected President or Prime Minister. But a majority of people supported it.

The people defied threats of violence to exercise their franchise and elect a new CA two years ago. The political alertness which they showed this week by expressing their views on the draft is a message: they are not tired of the process and are desperate to see the new constitution.

Each and everyone’s view cannot be incorporated in the new constitution. But the CA must try to include the most persistent ones so that people will own the constitution. Suggestions collected by the previous CA were abandoned. The current CA should not repeat that mistake. Ignoring or undervaluing public feedback will be a blunder. The CA’s Public Consultation Committee should incorporate all suggestions in its report to be submitted to the CA’s Constitutional, Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) which should include all valid suggestions. Incorporating public feedback in the draft will also be an opportunity to win the trust of disgruntled parties and involving them in this historic process. The more political parties endorse the constitution, the longer it will last.

 

 


Stealing from the ruins

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
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The earthquake has raised fresh fears of a surge in theft of Kathmandu’s religious objects  

Sarthak Mani Sharma

Looters prowl as Nepal’s treasures spill into view’ reads the headline of a recent wire service dispatch from Kathmandu. Photographs accompanying other stories in the international press show stone sculptures and carved wooden beams scattered amidst the ruins of temples.

Nepal’s religious objects started disappearing decades ago, with the peak of thefts happening in the 1980s. However, the April earthquake which brought down many temples in the historical towns of Kathmandu Valley has raised fresh fears of theft.

Some experts have estimated that up to 90 per cent of the antiquities from Kathmandu Valley may have been stolen over the past 50 years. The only reason there were fewer reports of thefts, they said, was that there was very little left to steal.

Yet, just weeks before the earthquake a New York art dealer sold three ancient sculptures stolen from temples in India and Nepal to a dealer in Beijing. One of the sculptures was a 13th century gilt bronze sculpture of a Buddhist deity Samvara stolen from a temple in Itumbaha in 1983. The image was sold for $370,000.

“Although there hasn’t been any major theft or disappearance of our artifacts, the situation is serious,” said Shriju Pradhan who is Chief of Heritage Conservation of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC). “We are facing difficulties in salvaging and storing artifacts from the ruins of temples.”

RESCUED FROM THE RUINS: Idols salvaged from the ruins of temples are now stored at Patan Museum. Pics: Kunda Dixit

RESCUED FROM THE RUINS: Idols salvaged from the ruins of temples are now stored at Patan Museum. Pics: Kunda Dixit

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, local volunteers, guthis and youth groups salvaged what they could of the fallen carved beams, bronze figures of kings that had toppled off pedestals, and stone deities and stored them for safe-keeping. However, some of the objects were either stolen or destroyed during salvage operations.

“The best way to ensure that our sacred idols are safe is to instill a sense of awareness and belonging in local people,” said Pradhan who hopes that as people recover from the aftermath of the earthquake, their attention will turn to heritage conservation.

Donna Yates of the University of Glasgow who was in Kathmandu to discuss the smuggling of antiquities offers examples of how the media tends to distort the plunder of historical objects. From the coverage of the destruction of ancient sites in Iraq and Syria by ISIS, Yates said, it would seem that the loot of antiquities occurs only in times of upheaval.

“But it is a long-standing problem everywhere, and it is crucial that everybody understands that sacred art needs to be seen as ‘sacred’ or ‘ancient’ rather than just ‘art’,” she said at a recent talk co-organised by KMC.

Countries from which antiquities are trafficked, or ‘source countries’ as they are known, are often developing nations like Nepal. Heavy paperwork is needed for rare antiquities to pass legally through international borders, and this is possible because of corrupt officials as well as collusion of international art dealers and museums abroad.  Bishnu Raj Karki, former Director General of the Department of Archaeology, said even members of the diplomatic community have been known to be involved.

Unique to Nepal probably is the problem of documentation. The Department of Archaeology does not have a reliable inventory of religious artifacts which means repatriation of stolen idols is difficult because there is often no proof of where the objects used to be.

Except for books by Jurgen Schick, a researcher of stolen Nepali idols and Lain Singh Bangdel, an art historian, there is very little documentation of our artifacts. Photography is banned inside many temples in Nepal, which  makes documentation even more difficult.

“One click of a smartphone’s camera can go a long way in ensuring that an idol is repatriated should it be stolen,” said Alok Tuladhar, a heritage documentarian. “Smartphones also come with a geo-location system which can tell where the photograph was taken.”

Saving our cultural and religious treasures will be most challenging in the historical towns on the city’s outskirts like Sankhu and Bungamati that were heavily damaged. But it doesn’t have to be an impossible task, as the salvage work at Patan Durbar Square showed.

IN RUINS: Carved wooden columns from the destroyed temples of Patan Darbar Square after they were salvaged and stored for safekeeping at Patan Museum two weeks after the earthquake.

IN RUINS: Carved wooden columns from the destroyed temples of Patan Darbar Square after they were salvaged and stored for safekeeping at Patan Museum two weeks after the earthquake.

Rohit Ranjitkar of the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust along with local volunteers helped rescue many of the fallen items from the ruins after the earthquake. He said: “Because all of us in the community sprang to action we’ve been able to salvage and store all the important artifacts.”

Read also:

Monumental Loss by Stéphane Huët

Documenting Loss by Stéphane Huët

Carving out a niche by Sonia Awale

In the land of gods, thieves have a field day by Ramayata Limbu

 

 


Unrest in Madhes

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
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Madhesi front cadres burnt copies of the draft constitution in Birgunj on Tuesday. Photo: Suresh Bidari

Suresh Bidari

The Madhesi front has imposed a Madhes banda on Tuesday in an attempt to prevent the Constituent Assembly (CA) members from collecting public feedback on the draft constitution.

The front has been staging protest rallies in all districts of the Tarai since early Tuesday morning, disrupting programs being attended by the CA members to collect people’s suggestions on the draft.

The front has not only blocked the East-West highway but also all major roads in the Tarai. Only ambulances, fire engines and vehicles of diplomatic missions have been allowed to ply. Protestors have burnt copies of major daily newspapers like Kantipur, Nagarik and Annapurna Post for not covering their protests previously.

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Madhesi Front cadres burn newspapers for not ‘covering their previous day’s protests with priority’ in Birgunj. Photo: Suresh Bidari

Pradip Yadav, the Parsa district committee chair of Federal Socialist Party Nepal, a key member of the Madhesi front, said the banda was called to protest ‘police’s brutality against them’ on Monday. On the first of the two days allocated for the CA members to collect public feedback on the draft, cadres of the Madhesi front had clashed with police as they tried to attack top political leaders like the UCPN (M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the CPN (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.

“Police used force to disrupt our peaceful protests,” he said.

In major towns of the Tarai, protestors have burnt copies of the draft constitution vowing to not let it be passed unless their demands are addressed.

The Madhesi front is against the draft constitution mainly because it has deferred the task of naming and demarcating federal provinces. The front has demanded that names and boundaries of federal provinces be determined before the new constitution is promulgated. They think the constitution sans names and boundaries of federal provinces is a ploy to sabotage federalism.

The Hindu Royalist RPP-N has also burnt copies of the draft constitution for a different reason. The RPP-N is against secularism and has been demanding a Hindu nation. In Hetauda where the RPP-N has been staging protesting rallies since Monday, All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) President Ganesh Thapa has sustained an injury to his head during a clash with police. He is the RPP-N Chair Kamal Thapa’s brother, and he was chosen by the party as a CA member under a Proportional Representation (PR) quota.

 

 


Who will be a Nepali

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
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Bhim Rawal

Bhim Rawal in Kantipur, 11 July

The draft constitution does not prevent children of Nepali citizens from acquiring Nepali citizenship. The question is only about whether they are entitled to citizenship by descent or naturalised citizenship. If the father or mother is a foreigner, children can acquire citizenship by descent but a foreigner father/mother has to have naturalised citizenship.

Despite such liberal provisions in the draft, there are misleading arguments that Nepalis have been denied the right to acquire citizenship through mothers’ names. If you argue that the children of a Nepali married to a foreigner and living in the country of their spouse should also be entitled to citizenship by descent, your logic cannot be valid.

If you argue that foreigners married to a Nepali man or a woman should be treated equally, will you accept a provision that requires female foreigners married to Nepali men to wait for a certain period (seven years for example) to be able to apply for naturalised citizenship?  To those who invoke international laws and practices to demand Nepali citizenship to foreigners, are you also ready to follow same rules to manage our border and migration? Can an international law practiced in one area is not applicable to another area? Even countries like India and the US consider barring those born elsewhere from reaching the top executive posts, is it logical for Nepal to accept foreigners as heads of constitutional bodies and security forces?  It is unfortunate to see some people demanding shortest possible way to grant citizenship to foreigners, that too by descent.

It would be wiser for Nepalis to discuss the citizenship issue as true nationalist. Vested interests and emotion do not bode well for Nepal’s sovereign existence. We need a constitution to protect our sovereignty, independence, unity, prosperity and welfare. We cannot allow a constitutional provision that risks our national interests.

Many countries do not easily grant citizenships to foreigners. They just give Permanent Resident (PR) cards to immigrants. When immigrants apply for citizenship, they are required to take an oath and attend an orientation about importance of citizenship. But Nepal does not have any of these provisions despite having to deal with some sensitive issues of population management. We share a long porous border with India, allowing the unbridled inflow of migrants not only from India but the whole South Asia region. Bhutanese refugees entered Nepal. We still have Tibetan refugees, even refugees from Africa. The citizenship debate should keep the rights and welfare of genuine Nepalis at centre-stage.

 

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Sapana Pradhan Malla

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Aruna Uprety

Sapana Pradhan Malla and Aruna Uprety in Kantipur, 17 July

Thank you, Bhim Rawalji. You article on citizenship has prompted us to engage in this debate.

Nepali male citizens, even if their wives are foreigners, can easily give their children citizenship by descent. But the new constitution requires both father ‘and’ mother to be Nepali citizens for their children to acquire citizenship by descent. However, the article 13 (2) of the draft constitution slyly enables foreigner wives of Nepali men to get naturalised citizenship immediately after their marriage.

Children of Nepalis married to foreigners (male or female) should be born in Nepal to acquire Nepali citizenship by descent. And Nepali women will have rights to give their children citizenship by descent only if their husbands’ identity cannot be ascertained.

Foreigners married to Nepali men can apply for naturalised citizenship immediately after their marriage. But foreigners married to Nepali women should live in Nepal for 15 years to enjoy this right. If foreigners married to Nepalis do not want Nepal’s naturalised citizenship, their children will only get naturalised citizenship. But even for that matter, they should be born in Nepal.

Rawalji, please try to read those provisions in the draft constitution through the eyes of a Nepali woman. Why are we so paranoid about the inflow of illegal immigrants? People migrate to countries with lots of opportunities, don’t they? Do foreigners need Nepali citizenship to commit crimes here? If we allow Nepalis to choose their spouses from any country, why would we restrict their right to settle down in whichever country they want?

Yes, we have a long porous border with India. But Indians cannot get Nepali citizenship just by crossing the border. They have to follow certain Nepali laws to be entitled to Nepali citizenship. Our nationality and sovereignty will be at risk only if we promote politics of discrimination. We are afraid that you might be playing politics of division. If we want our nation’s independence, how could we let Nepali women be dependent on Nepali men? Is our national sovereignty really so fragile that it gets lost even if we safeguard human rights?

You presented the example of Bhutan to show that there are countries that require both fathers and mothers to be citizens for their children to get citizenship by descent. But Bhutan is an exception. Some 119 democratic constitutions of the world require just father or mother to be their citizens for their children to acquire citizenship by descent.

Why does the draft constitution want Nepali women married to foreigners to deliver children in Nepal? If this constitution gets promulgated, what happens if Nepali women get married to foreigners and become mothers abroad? What happens to those Nepali women who deliver children while working in the Gulf?

Did your UML party not promise to give citizenship through mothers’ names during the Constituent Assembly elections? Has the Interim Constitution-2007 not allowed Nepali women to give their children citizenship by descent through their names alone? We were expecting the new constitution to be more progressive than the interim one, but it has taken a step back.

You argue that the draft constitution allows Nepalis to get citizenship through their father or mother’s name. Yes, the article 12 (2) of the draft constitution allows Nepalis to acquire citizenship either through their father’s or mother’s name. But the article 12 (2) can be applicable only if a person’s father and mother are both Nepali citizens. This is cheating.

You asked if we are ready to accept a provision requiring foreigners married to Nepali men to wait at least seven years to get naturalised citizenship. What if we reject this provision? Will foreigners married to Nepali women be forced to wait 15 years for naturalised citizenship? What about granting them Permanent Resident (PR) cards to foreigners married to Nepal women until they get naturalised citizenship?

You blame us for demanding citizenship by descent to foreigners. We are demanding citizenship by descent to our children, not to foreigners. How can the children born out of the wombs of Nepali women be foreigners just because their fathers are foreigners? By this same logic, how can the children born out of the wombs of foreign women be Nepalis just because their fathers hold Nepali citizenship certificates?

We are concerned about Nepal’s sovereignty as much as you are. But we fear the decisions that you politicians make while reaching power-sharing deals in the constitution making process will lead to foreign intervention in our internal affairs.

 


Protests over draft statute

Monday, July 20th, 2015
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Policeman takes away a man who tried to disrupt public feedback collection program in Kalikasthan, Kathmandu on Monday. Photo: Bikram Rai

Protests erupted in several parts of the country as the Constituent Assembly (CA) members reached their constituencies to collect public feedback on the draft constitution on Monday.

Some unidentified youth hurled a petrol bomb at a vehicle by which Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat was heading towards his constituency in Nuwakot district. Mahat escaped unhurt.

Cadre of Sadbhavna Party hurled a chair at CPN (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, vandalised his vehicle and disrupted a program at which he was collecting public feedback on the draft in Gaur, Rautahat. Police had to use tear gas shells to disperse the agitating cadre.

Nepal later denounced the incident and dubbed those who tried to attack him as ‘people without positive mindset’. The CPN (UML) also condemned the attack and said the constitution writing process would not be halted by such unlawful activities.

Other Madhes-based parties also tried to prevent the CA members from collecting public feedback, clashing with police personnel in several Tarai districts like Saptari, Bara, Parsa and Dhanusha. Parts of the East West highway remained blocked due to protests by Madhesi cadre.

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RPP-N cadre stage a sit in demanding a Hindu nation in Kathmandu on Monday. Photo: Bikram Rai

In some other parts, the Hindu Royalist RPP-N tried to disrupt collection of public feedback on the draft constitution.

In the east, regional political outfits demanding an autonomous Limbuwan province burnt copies of the draft constitution, shouted slogans and clashed with police personnel.

In Dang, cadre of the Netra Bikram Chanda-led CPN Maoist stormed into a school compound where the CA members were interacting with people. Police arrested two of Chanda’s cadres for trying to disrupt the program.

In Kirtipur, it was the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist that burnt copies of the draft constitution.

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A woman writing her suggestions on the draft constitution in Kathmandu on Monday. Photo: Bikram Rai

Baidya, Chanda and Limbuwan parties had not contested the last CA elections and they are out of the constitution writing process. The RPP-N contested the elections and emerged as the fourth largest party with 25 lawmakers, but is against secularism and wants a Hindu nation.

Madhesi parties, except Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar’s Madhesi Jan-Adhikar Forum (Democratic), are against the draft constitution. They say they will accept the new constitution only if it is promulgated after naming and demarcating federal provinces.

The NC, the CPN (UML), the UCPN (Maoist) and the MJF (Democratic) have signed a 16-point deal to pass the new constitution deferring the task of naming and demarcating federal provinces to future provincial councils and a yet-to-be-formed commission respectively.

Despite violent protests in some parts, people showed enthusiasm to give their feedback on the draft constitution by interacting with their CA members across the country. Professional organizations have also held separate programs to come up with their collective feedback on the draft.

Monday was the first of the two days allocated for the CA members to collect public feedback on the draft constitution from their respective constituencies.

 

 


Caring in Kavre

Monday, July 20th, 2015
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Earthquake-related injuries have been replaced by pre-existing ailments

Peregrine Frissell in KAVRE

Just on the other side of the eastern edge of Kathmandu Valley lies the town of Kushadevi. It is a two-hour drive from the capital, yet this district is an example that proximity to a hospital is not all that is required for many Nepalis to receive adequate medical care in the aftermath of the earthquake.

While a lot of attention went to districts like Sindhupalchok and Gorkha, Kavre got left in the shadows even though the damage here was extensive. Of Kushadevi’s 1,900 home, 1,700 were damaged or destroyed.  Fortunately, because of the timing of the quake on 25 April, there were only five fatalities.

Sarmila Sapkota

Sarmila Sapkota

Sarmila Sapkota lives with her family in a house overlooking Kushadevi which was damaged in the quake. They live on the ground floor where the livestock used to be. The buffalos and goats have been moved to a temporary shed. Sapkota’s bedroom was on the second floor, and the walls have caved in.

Just down the road from Sarmila’s house are piles of bricks where family homes used to be. Next to them are temporary structures covered in tin or plastic sheets. Uma Sapkota’s home is in ruins and she is trying to rebuild it, but isn’t getting much help from anyone.

Uma Sapkota's home

Uma Sapkota’s home in ruins after the April 25 earthquake. 

Aside from shelter, one urgent need is medical care. And even though Kushadevi is only a 45 minute drive from Dhulikhel Hospital, villagers don’t want to leave family alone at home. Which is why the role of mobile clinics like the one provided by volunteer doctors from Kathmandu’s B&B Hospital and the Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for Disabled Children (HRDC) in Banepa are so important.

The group has set up over 60 clinics where people can be examined, have their tests done and receive free medications. They even get psychosocial counseling and transport to nearby hospitals to receive surgeries free of charge if they need them.

“We have seen a trend in the past two months acute earthquake related trauma to chronic ailments,” explained Bibek Banskota, a volunteer doctor. The earthquake related injuries are now giving way to preexisting ailments and those made worse by the quake. For example, there is a long line of women in the room where pregnant women are being examined. Many have not been able to see a doctor three times during their pregnancy as recommended.

Kushadevi maternity clinic

Kushadevi maternity clinic

On one recent Saturday, the volunteers examined over 1,500 patients. Most chronic injuries are treated with a prescription from the group’s traveling pharmacy. The doctors and nurses are all volunteers from B&B and HRDC, and each clinic costs Rs 500,000 for the medicine, food and a transport allowance to patients who have to walk a long way.

Nearby is another camp run by the Karnali Integrated Rural Development and Research Center (KIRDARC) which provides psychological counseling for children. A tent outside is full of children playing while waiting for parents to be treated. Trained counselors observe the children playing, and provide help if they notice abnormal behavior.

Kushadevi child centre

Kushadevi child centre

Says counselor Deepa Gurung: “There are fewer disturbed children now, and the reopening of schools was a big step in returning them to normal. Time is the best healer.”


 

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