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Classquake: What the global media missed in Nepal earthquake coverage May 8, 2015

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Andrew Nelson

As the world comes to terms with Nepal’s earthquake and media outlets start shifting their gaze elsewhere, it is worth analyzing how the global English media covered the disaster – and what they missed. This was a “classquake” as much as a natural disaster, a point missed amid the dramatic descriptions and heart-rending videos.

Initially, attention was focused on Nepal’s recognizable symbols,Kathmandu’s world heritage sites, and victims at the Mt. Everest base camp leaving several commentators on Twitter to criticize the media for its “orientalist gaze” and “disaster porn” while under-reporting where the devastation was more extensive: rural Nepal.

A man walks past collapsed buildings after an earthquake last week in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1BAO5

A man walks past collapsed buildings after an earthquake last week in Kathmandu, Nepal, May 3, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The media’s attention to Kathmandu valley and Everest was as much a product of orientalism, that is, the West’s patronizing or romanticized perceptions of “the East,” as it was a reflection of disconnect between the capital and the (non-mountaineering) hinterland. (more…)

Fatalism, or, where are women in South Asia? October 17, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Adhikari, Mohanraj, India, Nepal , comments closed

Mohanraj Adhikari

The last few months have been really fantastic for me as a wedding enthusiast. On 10 March The Mirror published news about a British divorcee woman aged 46, who wedded her own pet dog in a ‘romantic’ wedding ceremony after her marriage to a man 20 years ago did not work out. This story was followed by a news item in Metro UK, 3 September, about an 18-year-old girl, around 7000 kms away from Britain in Jharkhand state of India, who married a stray dog to please her family, who think that it will pass a curse from her to the animal so that that when she marries her future prince, a real man, the marriage will be blessed with longevity. Though both these stories talk about a woman marrying a dog, the context is quite different. The wedding in the first story shows a woman’s love and connection towards an animal after spending a considerable part of her life with it, whereas the second wedding is done to pass a ‘curse’ to the animal. According to the news, both weddings were fabulously organized. The stories provide evidence of the divide between women in developing countries and industrialized countries: in one place, a woman is free to choose her husband even from a different species; in the other place, a woman believes that a dog husband will free her from a curse and give her a better human husband in later life. This kind of fatalism is very much widespread in South Asia especially in the rural areas of India and its neighbouring country Nepal.


Can Nepal unlock its potential? May 25, 2014

Posted by ruthgamble in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Sujeev Shakya

In April 2006, when the second people’s movement, popularly known as ‘Jana Andolan II’, brought an end to 240 years of the Shah monarchy, there was little planning to ensure the country’s rapid political transformation.

The 10-year insurgency that had claimed over 13,000 lives came to an end with the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN) joining mainstream democratic parties. Nepal was declared a federal democratic republic in May 2008 after elections to the Constituent Assembly, and the Shah dynasty came to an end in June when the last ruler, King Gyanendra, vacated the palace and his position without resistance.

The process of writing a constitution began after the election for the Constituent Assembly (CA). The drafting process was extended on three occasions, adding two years to the deadline to finalise the document, but the 601-member CA engaged mostly in intra- and inter-party fighting and failed to write a constitution. As a result, the assembly was dissolved on 28 May 2012. An interim government of retired bureaucrats led by the chief justice was formed in March 2013 to hold yet another election for the CA. (more…)

Constituent Assembly Election II in Nepal: Will it end the prolonged political transition? December 16, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

After 10 years of Maoist insurgency, Nepal faced two elections for the Constituent Assembly (CA) – one in 2008 (CA I) and the other in 2013 (CA II) to craft a new constitution by peoples’ representatives. Since the CA I was dissolved in 2012 for failing to deliver a new constitution, a CA II election was conducted to get the fresh mandate of the people on 19 November 2013. However, the recent election has produced landslide gains for some political parties and massive setbacks for some other parties, leading to a dramatic change in key players in national politics.  In particular, the Communist Party (Maoist), which had become the largest party in CA I, along with other Madhesi regional parties, has suffered a great loss in the recent election. The party has been advocating for a transformative agenda for Nepalese polity and society. Now, a critical question arises: have the people rejected the agenda for change? In this paper, we look at reasons behind the rise and fall of political parties in the contexts of CA I and CA II, and examine the implications for the political future of the country.


The rise of Maoists in Nepali politics: from ‘people’s war’ to democratic politics March 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Ramesh Sunam and Keshab Goutam

Since its formation in 1994, the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) has gone through a number of radical transformations, shifting from a guerrilla warfare unit to a key democratising force within Nepali politics.

The party’s early history is defined by its role in launching the ‘people’s war’ of 1996, a decade-long civil war that resulted in the loss of some 16,000 lives and halted the country’s economic development. The Maoists’ original aim was to benefit the poor and marginalised sectors of Nepali society by uprooting the monarchy and feudalism.

Today, many people question the necessity of the war. But the conflict did succeed in providing marginalised populations – particularly dalits (the so-called untouchables), women, the landless and ethnic and indigenous people – with a wider political space to articulate their grievances. The result was a series of protests and rights movements across the country by the Madhesi (people from the Tarai lowland) and ethnic populations. Such incidents have in turn facilitated the democratisation of Nepali politics. In the first Constituent Assembly election of April 2008, minorities gained substantial representation for the first time in Nepali history, with dalits receiving over 8.17 per cent of seats, women 33.22 per cent, ethnic and indigenous people 33.39 per cent, and Madhesis 34.09 per cent.


International labour migration and the landless in Nepal January 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, Nepal , comments closed

Ramesh Sunam

Nepali youth are migrating for work to the Gulf countries and Malaysia at an unprecedented level. Over 1200 Nepali workers leave the country for foreign employment every day. For many, labour migration is not just a means to overcome economic hardship and accumulate wealth, it is increasingly being pursued rather as a way of life and livelihood. Some analysts argue that migration has contributed to saving the national economy and improving the material well being of many people. And indeed this is true in a broader sense since it has protected the national economy from collapse, accounting for the ratio of remittances to GDP some 25 per cent. Rural places are being gentrified with rural lives becoming more urbane than before despite some social tensions and contradictions. Many families have been able to send their children to private schools. All thanks to the migrants who risk their own lives and who endure being away from their families. Among the plethora of migration-triggered changes, a far-reaching change could be that the poor and landless migrants are now purchasing land.


Nepal’s polity continues to fracture July 5, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

On 19 June 2012 the ‘hardline’ faction of the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (UCPN-M) formally split to form a new party.  The new party, confusingly called the Communist Party of Nepal, Maoist (CPN-M), is led by former UCPN-M Vice-Chairman Mohan Baidya.  (Note the People’s Front of Judea-level subtlety of the move from a dash to a comma, to avoid replicating the title of yet another party).

Communist Party of Nepal, Maoist (Photo: CPN, Maoist)


Since 28 May 2012 Nepal has been ruled by a self-styled transitional government with no constitutional basis.  The government is led by the UPCN-M, which had the most seats in the now dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA), and its Vice-Chairman Baburam Bhattarai has continued in his role as Prime Minister.

The transitional government arose after the CA’s failure to promulgate a new constitution by the 28 May deadline, itself a product of parties’ failure to agree on a basis for forming states.  Bhattarai has said his transitional government will remain in place until elections are held in November.  Opposition parties have been calling for Bhattarai’s resignation and either the reinstatement of the CA, or formation of a consensus government to oversee the fresh elections.

The ideological rift between Baidya and the ‘establishment faction’ of Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) and Vice-Chairman Bhattarai dates from 2005 when the Maoists embraced parliamentarianism.  (The UPCN-M itself was formed in 1995 when then-considered radicals Prachanda and Bhattarai split from another Communist party in reaction to its participation in the parliamentary process.)  Baidya was strongly opposed to the move, made while he sat in a jail in West Bengal, India (some say he blames Bhattarai for setting him up).      (more…)

Future unclear for Nepal June 1, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

At about quarter to midnight last Sunday night, fifteen minutes before the mandate of the constituent assembly (CA) he  led was due, Cinderella-like, to expire, Nepal’s Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai appeared on television sets across the country to deliver a live address.  Nepali speakers can listen to the full address on YouTube.

Chipladonga Protest Photo: Amy Dowler

Bhattarai confirmed what was already clear: last ditch efforts by Nepal’s three major parties – the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN(M)), Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN(UML)) – and the Madheshi Morcha (a confederation of parties representing people from the southernmost part of the Terai region who entered into a coalition with the CPN(M) to form government last August) had failed to bring consensus.  What was not clear was what would happen next.  Earlier in the week the Supreme Court quashed an attempt by the government to extend the CA for a further three months.  The NC and CP(UML) had been arguing that the constitution could still be promulgated by the 28 May deadline with outstanding issues  referred to the new, post-constitution CA.  There was talk of a constitutional crisis, of emergency rule.  Some ethnic minority groups claimed they would secede from Nepal and proclaim their own states should a satisfactory solution not be found by 28 May.


Nepal: politicking without governing February 10, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

It was high farce on the streets of Kathmandu recently when Raj Lal Yadav attempted – unsuccessfully – to resign from his ministerial post in Nepal’s coalition government. Yadav is a member of the Madhesi Janaadhikari Forum-Republican Party, a junior partner in the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN(M))-led coalition. His dissatisfaction with his post was due ultimately to its meaninglessness. Despite frequent and well-publicised expressions of frustration, he remained minister without portfolio four months after his elevation to the ministry.

Two weeks ago Yadav finally decided his role was never going to grow substance and scheduled an appointment with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to tender his formal resignation. Unfortunately, the date of that appointment coincided with a bandh. Bandhs, city or nation-wide shutdowns called and enforced by various interest groups, are a much used political device in Nepal. During a properly enforced bandh motorised transport is prohibited (except in the case of emergencies, or tourists).

Not to be deterred, Yadav, along with his aides, took to the pavement to walk to the Prime Minister’s office at Singha Durba, the seat of Nepal’s government. Upon arrival he however discovered his efforts had been in vain: while it could not stop Yadav, the bandh had acted as a deterrent to the PM who decided against venturing to his office that day.


Inching closer to sustainable peace in Nepal November 4, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Dowler, Amy, Nepal , comments closed

Amy Dowler

On the evening of Tuesday 1 November 2011, leaders from each of Nepal’s major political parties reached agreement on the integration of former Maoist combatants into the country’s military. The agreement resolves the chief outstanding issue in the country’s protracted peace process, and should allow the Constituent Assembly to turn its full attention to the task of constitution drafting.

The seven-point agreement, designed to provide a “detailed blueprint for the completion of the peace process”, comes five years after the original peace agreement ending the decade-long People’s War, and three and a half years after Constituent Assembly elections, held in April 2008 (The Kathmandu Post). Since those elections – in which the Maoists received the highest share of votes but not an outright majority – Nepal has seen the back of four Prime Ministers, three of them arguably casualties of the former combatant integration issue.

Singha Durbar, Kathmandu