Nepali Times

My silence angered them

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
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Devaki Bista

Devaki Bista

Devaki Bista

I woke up on 20 January to news about an attack on a vehicle carrying newspapers in Siraha. As I left home to cover the strike called by the UCPN (Maoist)-led alliance, I mulled over whether the strike enforcers would keep their words and allow press vehicles to move freely.

I put on the green jacket worn by photojournalists and hung my press card around my neck so I could easily be identified as press. With my gears intact, I left on my scooter to begin the day.

The roads were fairly empty early morning. Nepal Police personnel stood guard around the restricted area near the CA building. A group of protestors led by UCPN (Maoist) leaders Agni Sapkota and Renu Dahal were checking tourist buses and vehicles of diplomatic missions at Bijuli Bajar.

As I made my way through central Kathmandu, the roads started to fill up with more protestors. When I reached Koteshwor someone shouted: “Attack that scooter.” Fortunately, no one did and I moved on.

Around 11AM, I was on my way back to the Himalmedia office when I was stopped at Bijuli Bajar. The peaceful crowd that I had seen earlier had now turned wild. Led by UCPN (Maoist) leader Hisila Yami, the group was trying to force their way towards New Baneshwor.

Clad in a t-shirt with Nepal’s flag on it, Yami was shouting slogans with the crowd. Seeing a political leader of her stature there gave me a sense of security. After all her husband Baburam Bhattarai has repeatedly advocated for press freedom, condemning the recent attack on French journalists last week. I took some photographs and tried to move forward when all of a sudden the crowd began to attack me. Someone kicked my scooter and the assault began. Another person snatched my id and tore it to pieces.”Can’t you walk? Your scooter should be burned,” shouted another angry protestor who continued to vandalise my scooter.

I was shocked and kept quiet. My silence however seemed to anger them more as they began verbally abusing me. Cameraperson Shrijana Kuikel and Reporter Sharmila Thapa of Mountain TV also were also misbehaved in front of Yami. I later learnt that two other journalists had been assaulted and two motorcycles had been torched in the same place. Sub-inspector Khagendra Bhatta of the Armed Police Force also sustained some injuries while trying to protect a journalist.

I managed to slip away from the crowd, but the look and the words of the attacker didn’t leave me. So, after I reported at the office, I went back in search of him. I found him chanting slogans at Bijuli Bazar. He seemed to have no recollection me because when I pointed my camera at him, he posed for a photo. I learned that his name was Rajan Gautam and he was a former central committee member of YCL and member of UCPN (Maoist) from Nuwakot. He had been arrested multiple times for kidnapping and homicide.

Dangers in situations like these are granted for journalists like us. But when I see people claiming to be revolutionary resort to such behavior, I question whether they really are capable of leading a country towards a brighter future.

(Bista is a photo journalist with Himalmedia) 

Click here for original article.


International concern

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
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The international community has expressed concern over ‘tensions in relations’ between the ruling and opposition parties in recent days.

In a statement on behalf of international community, Jimmy Mcgoldric, UN resident coordinator in Nepal, has called upon political parties to continue with their talks.

“We call upon them (political parties) to provide forward-looking leadership in the larger national interest and to continue constitutional negotiations in a spirit of flexibility and urgency,” reads the statement.

The statement comes just a day after the UCPN (M)-led alliance of 30 opposition parties imposed a nationwide general strike and disrupted the Constituent Assembly (CA) meeting by continuously shouting slogans for more than one hour.

Earlier, opposition lawmakers had smashed chairs, thrown microphones and left at least three marshals injured in a CA meeting that started only past Monday midnight.

After vandalism in the CA and nationwide general strike, leaders of the ruling NC and the CPN (UML) have said that they will not hold talks with the opposition.

While condemning violence or threats of violence, the international community has also urged the two sides to return to the negotiation table.

The international community has also asked the parties to redouble their efforts to secure an inclusive constitution so that it will be ‘implemented peacefully’ and will get ‘the widest support from the Nepali people’.

India has also expressed its concern over Nepal’s political impasse. Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for India’s external affairs ministry, told a briefing in New Delhi on Tuesday: “It is our expectation that all Nepalese leaders will work together in the final stage of the peace process, in drawing up a constitution that honours past agreements and understandings as well as the mandate of the Constituent Assembly elections.”

Just a day before the January 22 deadline, political parties are still struggling to hammer out their differences over basis and number of new federal units. They say they are close to agreement on other three contentious issues of the new constitution – model of judiciary, electoral system and form of governance.

At a press meet on Wednesday, UCPN (M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Vice Chair Baburam Bhattarai admitted to their lapses during Monday midnight’s brawl in the CA and Tuesday’s general strike.

UCPN (M) Chair Dahal also said that it was Prime Minister Sushil Koirala who stood against their previous understanding on the disputed issues.


More polarisation

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
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Om Astha Rai

After an ugly display of anger by opposition lawmakers followed by their nationwide general strike that led to clashes in several places, a new constitution by January 22 looks more uncertain than ever before.

Post Monday midnight, lawmakers of the UCPN (M)-led alliance of 30 opposition parties broke chairs and hurled micro phones to bar the Constituent Assembly (CA) Chair Subash Nembang from allowing formation of a questionnaire committee – the first step towards holding a vote on the new constitution.

The scuffle left three marshals injured and damaged properties worth about Rs three million.

CA members of UCPN(M) destroy chairs protesting against CA’s decision to initiate the process for vote

CA members of UCPN(M) destroy chairs protesting against CA’s decision to initiate the process for vote on Tuesday. Pic: Bikram Rai

A few hours later, early Tuesday morning, a group of vandals supposed to be UCPN (M) cadres launched their nationwide general strike by torching a taxi in Dhobighat, Lalitpur. The strike enforcers also torched two motorcycles in Babarmahal, Kathmandu. Even outside Kathmandu Valley, they vandalized a press vehicle, a ruling party’s office and clashed with policemen.

As soon as the CA meeting that was postponed to Tuesday afternoon after Monday midnight’s brawl began, opposition lawmakers started shouting slogans yet again, this time without resorting to vandalism. They walked out only after the CA Chair postponed the meeting to Wednesday.

Opposition lawmakers, led by the UCPN (M) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Vice Chair Baburam Bhattarai, marched towards Babarmahal, where Dahal was scheduled to address his cadres and announce the end of general strike.

UCPN (M) cadres went berserk as they attempted to go near their leaders, breaking a barricade by police. In an ensuing clash, three UCPN (M) leaders, including Janardan Sharma ‘Prabhakar’, were injured. Even Dahal had to be escorted to safety by police.

After Dahal was whisked away, Bhattarai addressed UCPN (M) cadres and said what transpired on Monday midnight in the CA was the start of a revolt against political forces ‘hell-bent on reviving 1990’s constitution’.

After vandalism and general strike just two days ahead of the constitution deadline, major political parties appear even more polarised. Some leaders of ruling parties have ruled out talks, at least for the time being, with the opposition.

CPN (UML) leader Jhal Nath Khanal, emerging out of the CA building, told journalists: “Let them (opposition lawmakers) shout slogans; it’s their rights. There will be no talks (with them).”

Madhav Kumar Nepal, another CPN (UML) leader, accused the UCPN (M) Chair Dahal of shying away from negotiations on the disputed issues.

However, NC leader Narhari Acharya used a softer tone. He said, “Even now, the Maoists will have no options but to sit for talks.”

As top leaders are unlikely to hold more closed-door talks at least for now, a consensus-based constitution looks nowhere in sight. Even passing the new constitution through a vote looks impossible, with opposition lawmakers determined to disrupt the house every time the CA meeting is convened to form a questionnaire committee.

 

 

 


Maoists disrupt house yet again

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
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Kathmandu — Lawmakers of the opposition parties, mainly the UCPN (Maoist), have obstructed the Constituent Assembly (CA) meeting yet again. After the opposition lawmakers resorted to vandalism in the previous CA meeting, which was scheduled to begin at 1 pm Sunday but began only after midnight on Monday, the CA Chair Subhas Nembang put an end to it abruptly. He had called another CA meeting for Tuesday afternoon.

Opposition lawmakers shout slogans to disrupt the CA meeting

Opposition lawmakers shout slogans to disrupt the CA meeting on Tuesday. Pic: Bikram Rai

As soon as the CA meeting began on Tuesday, the opposition lawmakers, including the UCPN (Maoist) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Vice Chair Baburam Bhattarai, got up from their seats and started shouting slogans.

Marshals had to form a human chain to stop the agitated lawmakers from marching towards the CA Chair Nembang. In the previously-halted CA meeting, at least three marshals were injured when the agitated lawmakers threw their micro-phones.

The opposition lawmakers are up in arms against the proposed formation of a questionnaire committee in the CA.

Formation of questionnaire committee is the beginning of a process for putting the opposing proposals for a vote.

After the ruling NC and UML failed to reach a consensus, with the UCPN (Maoist) led alliance of 30 opposition parties, they want to pass the new constitution through a voting process now. The UCPN (Maoist) has objected to the voting process by calling nationwide shutdown on Tuesday and obstructing the house.

The opposing proposals by the ruling and the opposition parties differ mainly on the issues of basis of creating federal units, model of judiciary, electoral system and form of governance.

The UCPN (Maoist) Chair Dahal has said that they have narrowed down differences on model of judiciary and electoral system, and are even ready to compromise on form of governance. But, they are yet to agree on the basis and number of new federal units.

The opposition parties say ethnic identity should be the basis of creating federal units. On the other hand, the ruling parties say using ethnic identity to carve out federal units will create partition and affect social harmony

 


Strike turns violent

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
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The general strike, called by UCPN(M) led 30 party alliance along with Padma Ratna Tuladhar-led Indigenous Nationalities National Movement, turned violent early morning with protestors vandalizing and setting vehicles on fire throughout the country. Protestors also manhandled various media persons throughout the capital.

Strike enforcers, gathered at various points, howled slogans and stopped vehicles from early morning.

In New Baneshwor, Kathmandu the strike enforcers torched a UN motorcycle along with two others. They also vandalized a vehicle belonging to a diplomatic mission. The protestors also attacked NC CA member Mohan Baral’s vehicle near New Baneshwor. Baral was coming back after an interview with Mountain TV. Similarly, a taxi in Thadodhunga, Lalitpur and Banasthali were set on fire by the protestors. The protestors also set fire to a motorcycle in front of Bir Hospital in the capital.

In Kohalpur, Banke the strike enforcers vandalized a bus en route to Nepalgunj from Kathmandu.  Likewise a truck belonging to Sai Baba Gas Industry was burned by the strike enforcers in Chitwan. Two other trucks, one travelling east from Bharatpur and another travelling to Narayangadh from Muglin were also torched at Ramnagar, Bharatpur.

Strike-enforcers in Nepalgunj, disrupted an on-going exam at Westzone School. According to the Principal Ramakant Gautam, students of class 10 were taking their Send-Up exams when the protestors interrupted the test.

The strike enforcers attacked journalists from various media in the capital. Devaki Bista, a photojournalist with Himal Media, was assaulted early morning at Bijuli Bazaar, Kathmandu. The protesters damaged her scooter and used foul language while charging at her.

Similarly, Upendra Man Singh a photojournalist from Associated Press , Amul Thapa, photojournalist of Nepalpati.com and Bhisma Raj Ojha from RSS were also harassed. The strike enforcers damaged Singh’s camera and seized Ojha’s recorder. Journalists Gyanendra Karki of Naya Patrika and Angadh Dhakal of Pahilopost also faced discourteous behavior.

At Maitighar Mandala, a scuffle ensued between the strike enforcers and anti-strike supporters. The strike enforcers charged at the anti-strike supporters with bricks and stones. Six people were injured in the clash. The police intervention was able to put an end to the brawl.

 


Opposition vandalize CA

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
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CA members of the opposition parties, including UCPN(Maoist) and the Madhes front, vandalized the CA following CA chairman Subash Nembang’s decision to allow a proposal for the formation of a questionnaire committee to sort out the contentious issues of the new constitution.

The meeting scheduled for 1pm on 19 January, was postponed to 5pm the same day after top leaders asked for more time to forge consensus. But a full CA convened only late night Monday after a meeting of CA’s Business Advisory Committee couldn’t draw an agreement and decided to initiate the process for voting.

The opposition CA members started chanting slogans and some resorted to vandalism, breaking chairs and throwing microphones, as soon as CA chair Nembang called on NC chief whip Chin Kaji Shrestha to table the proposal for the formation of a questionnaire committee. The marshals present were called into action when the opposing CA members rushed violently towards the podium and wouldn’t let Shrestha pass through the chaos.

CPN-UML chief K.P. Oli and vice-chair Bidya Bhandari sustained minor injuries along with at least three marshals.

The CA was adjourned till 1pm Tuesday following the disruption.

Marshals intervene

Marshals intervene as the opposition alliance prevent NC chief whip from tabling the proposal for the formation of the questionnaire committee.

Marshals intervene

Marshals intervene as the the opposition alliance prevent NC chief whip from tabling the proposal for the formation of the questionnaire committee.

Marshals intervene

Marshals intervene as the the opposition alliance prevent NC chief whip from tabling the proposal for the formation of the questionnaire committee.

Marshals intervene as the the opposition alliance prevent NC chief whip from tabling the proposal for the formation of the questionnaire committee.

Marshals intervene as the the opposition alliance prevent NC chief whip from tabling the proposal for the formation of the questionnaire committee.

Marshals intervene as the the opposition alliance prevent NC chief whip from tabling the proposal for the formation of the questionnaire committee.

Marshals intervene as the the opposition alliance prevent NC chief whip from tabling the proposal for the formation of the questionnaire committee.

Marshals intervene

Marshals intervene as the the opposition alliance prevent NC chief whip from tabling the proposal for the formation of the questionnaire committee.

Leaders watch on

Sushil Koirala, Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam, Deputy PM Prakash Man Singh and Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat watch on as the opposing alliance vandalise the CA.

Leaders watch on

PM Sushil Koirala and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam watch on as the opposing alliance vandalise the CA.

Marshals stop an agitating CA member from entering the podium.

Marshals stop an agitating CA member from entering the podium.

CA wreckage

CA members walk past the wreckage caused by the opposition alliance.

UCPN(M) vandalise

CA members of UCPN(M) destroy chairs protesting against CA’s decision to initiate the process for vote.

UCPN(M) vandalise

CA members of UCPN(M) destroy chairs protesting against CA’s decision to initiate the process for vote.

Human chain to protect CA podium

Marshals form a human-chain around the podium following the scuffle.

Human chain to protect podium

Marshals form a human-chain around the podium following the scuffle.

Agitating CA members chant slogans as they come out of the CA.

Agitating CA members chant slogans as they come out of the CA.

UCPN(M) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal exits the CA.

UCPN(M) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal exits the CA.

 

 


Constitution rollercoaster

Monday, January 19th, 2015
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OM ASTHA RAI

After hope rose on Sunday that the four main political forces were close to an agreement, it turned out to be another false alarm as the parties appeared as far apart as ever in Monday’slast-minute negotiations.

Top leaders of major political parties failed to agree on the basis and number of federal units in closed-door meetings, and with three days to go for the 22 January deadline, the country is now headed for a showdown.

The ruling NC-UML coalition and the opposition UCPN (Maoist)-Madhesi parties say they have narrowed down their differences on the model of judiciary and electoral system. The Maoist-led alliance of 30 opposition parties said it is even ready to give up their stance on form of governance.

However, the dispute over basis and number of federal units is yet to be sorted out.

“We are ready to give up our stance on form of governance only if the NC and the UML agree to our demand of identity-based federalism,” said the Maoist Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal at a hastily-called press conference on Monday evening.

In their joint political agenda, the 30-party alliance has demanded an executive President directly elected by the people. But, the Maoists said it was ready to barter that for identity-based federalism. The NC and the UML are in favor of continuity of the existing Westminster parliamentary system.

Amidst dispute over basis and number of federal units, the NC and UML lawmakers are pressing the Constituent Assembly (CA) Chair Subash Nembang to initiate the process for passing the new constitution through the majority voting system.

That process began late Monday, and members were asked to stay on.

As the CA geared up for its meeting, where the opposing proposals will be put up for a vote, Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai tweeted in Nepali that ‘the country is again headed towards conflict’.

The Maoist-led alliance has called for a nationwide general strike on Tuesday. Although the alliance has said that their strike will be ‘peaceful’, there are fears that there will be confrontation on the streets between cadres of the opposing forces.

“We have learnt from our information sources that the NC-UML cadres are going to defy our strike,” said Ashok Rai, Chair of Federal Socialist Party, which is a member of the alliance. “But, we are ready to confront them.”

 


 

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