Thursday, November 09, 2006

-Pratyoush Onta:

The residents of Kathmandu have gotten so used to a range of FM radio broadcasts
that they tend to forget that as late as October 1995, Radio Nepal was the only radio
station that broadcast programs from within Nepal. On 16 November of that year,
Radio Nepal started FM Kathmandu (100 MHz) with its own programs. After being on air for
some months, FM Kathmandu’s program slots were sold to various private operators and
this arrangement continues to date with Classic FM having recently bought all broadcast

With countries like India and Sri Lanka in the region who have enjoyed a much longer
tenure of democratic freedoms, one would have expected either of them to have hosted the
FM revolution in South Asia. But in all of the countries in the region, FM radio has gone the
furthest in Nepal because of the relatively more flexible legal regime for broadcast media. On
18 May 1997 Radio Sagarmatha FM 102.4 (owned by the NGO Nepal Forum of Environmental
Journalists or NEFEJ) became the first independent station to get a licence. It started its technical

testing phase four days later and its regular broadcast on 24 March 1998. Some months
later, on 14 October 1998, Kantipur FM 96.1 became the first independent commercial
station to go on air (now on 24 hours a day). This was followed by the launch of another
commercial station, K.A.T.H. FM 97.9 (owned by Image Channel FM) on 7 January 1999. Eight
months later, on 18 September 1999, Metro FM 106.7 (owned by Kathmandu Metropolitan)
started its operation. In September 2000, another commercial radio, Himalayan Broadcasting
Corporation FM 94, went on air. From January 2001, one of the former slot operators of FM
Kathmandu, Hits FM 91.2, has started its technical testing broadcast.

Three FM stations outside of Kathmandu started broadcasting regular programs in
the year 2000. Radio Lumbini FM 96.8 in Manigram near the central Tarai town of Butawal
is owned by Lumbini Information and Communication Cooperatives Limited. Radio
Madanpokhara FM 106.9 in the village of Madanpokhara in Palpa district in central Nepal is
owned by the locally elected village development committee, and the commercial
Manakamana FM 92.9 in Hetaunda in the central Tarai is owned by Creative Eyes Multimedia
and Entertainment Company. Apart from Radio Madanpokhara, all the other FM stations are
located in urban Nepal.

FM Radio and the Urbanscape : Seven Considerations

First: FM radio has certainly increased the amount of news available on radio to urban
listeners. Since these FM stations are not supposed to broadcast their own official news
bulletins (as per one of the conditions mentioned in their licence), none of the stations call
their news-oriented programs ‘news’. In terms of content, these programs vary a lot: they
include a reading of the headlines and some main news from major newspapers of the day,
economic reports, sports results, and reportage about literary activities, institutional
events, art exhibitions and other happenings in the Kathmandu society at large. By focus-
76 / Sarai Reader 2001: The Public Domain

FM Radio as Democratic Expression

It might be recalled here that the first licence to an independent FM radio station was issued only eight years ago in May 1997. That licence was given to Radio Sagarmatha. Since that moment of recognition that a radio station could be operated by a non-state owned entity in Nepal, there has been a phenomenal growth in the independent FM radio sector. By the end of 2004, 56 independent operators had been issued licenses, out of which more than 45 stations are already on air. The rest are in various stages of preparation and should go on air shortly barring unforeseen interferences by anti-democratic forces. When all 56 stations go on air, there will be independent radio stations in more than 20 of the 75 districts of the country. More than 40 of the stations will be located outside of the Kathmandu Valley. Apart from those who already have secured their licenses, there are dozens of other institutions who have shown an interest in operating independent radios in parts of the country that do not yet have a radio station. Some of them have already filed their applications for licenses with the concerned authority while others are in various stages of scoping out the possibilities. The spatial distribution of these stations is a clear evidence of democratization in Nepali society. From a Panchayat-era scenario of total media production concentration in Kathmandu, we now have a scene in which almost a third of the districts have a radio station of their own and that number is only going to grow provided we have a democratic environment that will facilitate that growth. This growth has been achieved primarily because of the recognition that people have the right to create broadcasting institutions that fulfill their right to information and their right to exercise their freedom of thought and expression. While the freedom of the print media had been explicitly recognized by Article 13 of the 1990 Constitution, the status of broadcast media on the same issue had been left unspecified in the Constitution. However a landmark decision made by the Supreme Court in July 2001 made up for this inadequacy (that decision is the subject of my article in this paper on 8 July 2004). In essence, broadcast media were assured the same freedoms as those available to print media by the Supreme Court. Apart from the growth in numbers, the ownership pattern of radio stations also reflects the post-Panchayat democratization in Nepali society. NGOs, cooperatives, locally elected bodies and private commercial companies own and manage FM radio stations with their own transmission sets. This possibility in ownership diversity was assured by the National Broadcast Act, 2049 BS. In passing the Act to assure such diversity in ownership, the then people's representatives recognized that the people's right to information and their right to freedom of expression and thought could only be assured by a pluralistic radio ownership model that could not be monopolized by the rich and the powerful elements of society. In addition to institutions who have been given licenses to operate radio stations, there are now several NGOs and private companies (such as Communication Corner) that produce good radio programs that are then broadcast from many FM radio stations located in different parts of the country. Radio stations have also exchanged programs and broadcast them in an effort to share both production resources and facilitate their listeners' knowledge of regions and cultures beyond their primary broadcast area. The spatial distribution of radio stations in different parts of the country, the variety in ownership pattern and the many sources of program production for broadcast over independent FM radio stations are all indisputable facts that suggest how in a democratic environment people will get together to create broadcasting institutions and programs that cater to their information and expression needs. Such an environment also provides the room for radio producers to learn from each other's experiences and provide better services to their listeners at large. As has been often pointed out, radio is the most democratic medium, because it is cheap and can be localized. People in countries with longer encounters with democracy in South Asia, namely India and Sri Lanka, have for long talked about plural possibilities for radio in their respective mediascapes without much to show in terms of achievement. India is mostly doing very expensive, tender-based private radio in the metros. Nepal has gone in the other direction, and this is ideal for a country with so many different identities and region-specific issues. It is for this reason that radio activists in other South Asian countries look up to Nepal's achievements to argue for a more democratic radio operation environment in their own countries. Much of what I have said here has been said before by myself and many others who have worked toward making independent FM radios a robust constituting element of a democratic Nepali society. While there are inadequacies in the independent radio sector (as has been discussed elsewhere), its achievement constitute a slap in the face to those who make it their business to repeat the cliché that 'nothing happened during the era of multiparty democracy.' In repeating myself I join the many other voices of opposition against the draconian efforts to silence FM radio stations, radio journalists and program producing institutions. These efforts by anti-democratic cabals operating from known and unknown quarters have to be opposed and ultimately defeated through the ongoing movement of all who cherish the right to be able to think for oneself and who consider the existence of independent FM radio stations and program producers as an expression of that right. Written by:Pratyoush Onta

FM Radio and the New Urban Public in Nepal

ing mostly on the ‘non-political’, these FMs have already stretched the definition of news.
Second, FM radio has increased the amount of what can be called ‘everyday life’ information.
This includes information about special events, traffic flows in the city, weather forecast,
flight schedule, bus schedule, market prices for vegetables and fruits, air pollution
readings, health tips and horoscopes (for those who believe in them). In addition, FM radio
has provided ‘live’ information about events such as elections, religious gatherings, and
national celebrations.
Third, FM radio is assisting the distribution of knowledge in new forms over the radio
waves. This is being done through programs designed to cater to various curiosities - about
contraceptives and careers, music and movies, stage and sports, language and literature,
health and hobbies and so on. Some of this new knowledge is executed through ‘quiz’ formats,
while others come in the form of chat programs and musicals. Some of this new
knowledge is superfluous but it being on air is a kind of knowledge democratization at work.
Music production has received a shot in the arm due to FM radio.
Fourth, FM radio has increased the amount of social analysis available on radio through
various programming formats. In the form of a monologue it comes as anonymous or attributed
response from persons walking on the streets (‘vox pop’ in radio parlance) or as commentary
from noted social critics such as Rhituraj, Chatyang Master, D. P. Bhandari and
Kishor Nepal (alas, they are all male!). As dialogue, such social analysis comes in the form
of one-to-one interviews between the host and her guest or in the form of multiple dialogues
between the host(s), guests and listeners who call in by phone (e.g., Dabali in Radio
Sagarmatha). Frequently, others have participated in such discussions by sending in their
queries by mail, fax or email before the programs go on air. Such analysis can also be found
in feature reportage focused on a specific theme as innovated by the early team of ‘Hamro
Khaldo’ in Radio Sagarmatha. Some of the subjects covered by these programs have never
been discussed over radio before, and others have received critical treatment impossible
to find on Radio Nepal. This kind of analysis is being done in Nepali and Newari already and
will emerge in other languages as the FM revolution spreads across Nepal.
Fifth, FM radio’s interactions with government officials and politicians have added to
the collective knowledge of urbanites regarding (mis)governance in Nepali society. Similarly,
discussions with practitioners of other professions have demystified specialist knowledge,
intellectually empowering the community of listeners.
Sixth, FM radio has increased the amount of oral history available on the radio. This
has been achieved through programs that present the life history of a ‘big’ person in his own
voice (Mero Kath) or through a profile of a ‘subaltern’ made by a reporter. Alternatively,
personal history often related to love tragedies (but occasional successful romances) has
become very popular in the form of letters to host Kalyan Gautam ("Dear Kalyan" is how
these letters begin in Mero Katha, Mero Git in Hits FM). Interviews by Bhairab Risal with
older folks in Uhile Bajeka Palama are also of this genre.
Seventh, FM radio programs have encouraged cross-media reference as a routine
practice of urban knowledge. While newspaper content has long been read over FM radio,
programs aired have influenced the print media as well. For example, since FM reports highlight
local sports events, broadsheet dailies have had to follow suit by increasing their cov-
Old Media/New Media Ongoing Histories / 77
erage of local sports. Additionally radio program hosts are bringing Internet content
to listeners who do not have direct access to the net and more radio programs are
increasingly becoming available in the Internet.
These seven points hardly exhaust the new knowledge urbanscape FM radio has
helped to generate in Kathmandu. But my intention is not to be exhaustive. Rather it is to
point out suggestively how FM radio is contributing to a new kind of urban public domain in
FM Radio and the New Communities
In this section I highlight FM radio communities and discuss their significance for the new
urban public sphere. Why highlight these communities some of which are ‘imagined’ at best?
What have they got to do with the new contours of our urban life? As will be clear from the
examples discussed below, FM radio is not only what goes on air. It is as much what
happens off air. If the programs aired are engendering a new public sphere, then the
communities that produce them and the communities, in turn, produced by them are important
elements of that sphere. The skills, intentions and desires of these communities define
for us some of the broad contours of our own experience of the new city.
First in the list of real communities is FM owning institutions. While Radio Sagarmatha
is owned by an NGO, commercial companies own Kantipur FM, K.A.T.H. FM, HBC FM, Hits
FM, and Manakamana FM. Locally elected government bodies own Metro FM in Kathmandu
and Radio Madanpokhara in Palpa. Radio Lumbini is owned by a cooperative. Companies,
cooperatives, local governments and NGOs are real institutional communities that have
taken up the new challenge of managing an FM station (this variety in ownership is an important
indication of the pluralism possible in radio in the region). The stations might not have
all the skills necessary for optimum operation but they are certainly learning on air. Off-air
they have even tried promotionals such as blood drives, child health camps, music awards
and anti-pollution campaigns to bolster their on-air image.
The group of program producers who either work as freelancers or are employed by
various FM stations comprises the second real community. When serious talk about FM
radios started in Nepal some seven years ago, many wondered where the people who
would run these stations would be found. That worry was genuine but exaggerated. After
all, we have found the people - program producers, technical experts, reporters, talk show
hosts, and music jockeys - indigenously, however inadequate their present skills might be.
Apart from individual producers, we also now have institutional program producers. For
instance, Communication Corner headed by Gopal Guragain in Kathmandu currently
produces a half-hour program called Kayakairan that is simultaneously broadcast over the
three FM radio stations outside of Kathmandu three times a week. Its aim is "to bring
listeners from outside the Valley emotionally close to the center by providing them up-dates
on happenings in Kathmandu". While the program cassettes have to be sent by bus at
the moment, with infrastructural developments, those stations will be able to download the
programs from the Internet directly.
The third real community comprises of a different type of producers - lyricists, musicians,
singers and others related to the music industry. They have benefited from the FM
78 / Sarai Reader 2001: The Public Domain
boom, as there are now more outlets for their creations. Equally, the stations can choose
from a larger pool of talent. But this subject deserves a separate treatment by more knowledgeable
The fourth real community comprises of a few FM activists. The Community Radio
Support Centre (headed by Raghu Mainali) of NEFEJ provides support to any institution interested
in opening a community radio station. The Centre will do feasibility studies for them
and give hands-on training to program producers. Communication Corner, the Centre for
Development Communication, Nepal Press Institute and some other organizations have
done research on different aspects of FM and have produced some useful manuals. Mainali
has also filed a writ in the Supreme Court challenging rules imposed by the government on
FM stations that, according to him, violate the Constitution of Nepal and the National
Broadcasting Act 2049. If the Court agrees with him, it will become easier to establish and
run FM stations.
FM radio has also given birth to new imagined or transient communities whose own
importance cannot be underestimated. Constituents of these imagined communities come
in two forms. First are news communities: people and institutions that are interested in
having news about their activities broadcast over radio and people who listen to such broadcasts.
In examining my incomplete records, I was surprised to find just how many members
of this community sent news of various happenings to Radio Sagarmatha’s Halchal program
during a two-month period in mid-1999.
The second imagined community consists of listeners of specific programs such as
Upendra Aryal’s musical Bihani Yatra or Kalyan Gautam’s Mero Katha, Mero Geet. He is by himself.
But he knows that, at that very moment, there are many others listening to the same program.
He will never meet most of them, yet he will feel like he is one with them - an imagined
community of the sort that has been made famous in social science parlance by Benedict
Anderson. FM radio has created many such imagined communities of fans of particular
stations, specific programs or their hosts. At times, a letter of praise or complaint against the
host for being partisan toward other members of the imagined community breaches the
anonymity, but it is never seriously done. On other occasions, such imagined communities
become a bit more real when, for instance, some FM fans went to Sundarijal for a picnic to
celebrate the new year 2000, or fans of Prakash Sayami’s program on ‘eternal’ Nepali songs
met to advance their common interest. Faces were put to known voices heard over the
airwaves but the community was a transient one at best. The fans soon returned to living their
own individual friendships with FM. As critic C.K. Lal put it nearly three years ago, FM is a good
friend to have in the city when families consist of atomized individuals.
Management, production, training, researches, publication and support skills that have
been developed in the context of FM radio are important assets not only for the field of
media but also for urban life and Nepali society at large. Many of these skills have been
transferred from other professions and they in turn will be passed on to other trades.
Whatever might be their trajectories, the communities that possess them are real and they
are here to stay. The imagined communities are also no less important for without them the
circuit of FM broadcast will not be complete. The future of our collective urban imagination
is richer by their presence whatever the politics of taste for FM programs might be.
Old Media/New Media Ongoing Histories / 79

December 24, 2004
Nepal Local FM radio broadcasts the wonderful experience of a young man in Nepal
Local FM radio broadcasts the wonderful experience of a young man in Nepal whose only worry in life was that no girl would marry him. Dr. Birsen Gokyigit, a Seva Volunteer took care of his problem. He feels so confident that he shares this wonderful experience in the local FM radio.
Parami Dhakhwa reports from Nepal
Seva Volunteer, Dr. Birsen Gokyigit
Nov 12th 2004: Arrived NepalNov 13th 2004: Flew to Bharatpur, King Mahendra Memorial Eye HospitalDec 9th 2004: Flew back to Kathmandu and also departed from Kathmandu.
Dr. Birsen Gokyigit of Turkey volunteered on behalf of Seva at King Mahendra Memorial Eye Hospital (KMMEH) Chitwan, Nepal for almost a month. Dr. Gokyigit was introduced to Seva by Dr. J. Merten, a long time Seva Volunteer to Nepal. Rotary International sponsored Dr. Gokyigit’s visit. While she was in Nepal, she dedicated her full time to the patients of Bharatpur. She worked for long hours in the hospital and performed various surgeries.
Every day she examined patients at the outpatient department and in total she performed about 70 surgeries. Especially small children and adult patients with squint benefited from her service.
Lot of patients who had squint took advantage of Dr. Birsen's visit. Prior to her visit squint patients who needed surgery had to travel to Kathmandu, the capital city, to have the surgery. It is very expensive for people to travel to Kathmandu and have surgery. So, generally people lacked proper treatment. Dr. Birsen's service made the treatment of such patients possible at their own community. She performed squint surgery to patients ranging from age 5 to 20. All the patients who had surgery were very happy with the result. One guy felt extremely lucky to have his squint corrected. He was about the age of 20. He worried that no girl would marry him because of his squint. After having the operation he said that he was very happy and he felt confident about himself and will soon find a girl to marry. He was even interviewed in local F.M. station to share his wonderful experience of the operation.
Dr. Birsen also created history by performing surgery to small children. With the help of anesthelogist from General Hospital at Bharatpur, she performed surgery to small kids. Had she not been there these children would have to travel either to Shree Rana Ambika Shah Eye Hospital, at Bhairahawa or to Kathmandu.
Dr. Birsen was not only good at her clinical work but she was also a very disciplined person. She demonstrated qualities a good staff of a hospital should have. She showed other staffs how a patient should be treated and the importance of punctuality and hard work at any working place.
We would like to thank all the wonderful people who made Dr. Birsen's visit to Bharatpur possible. We would also like to express our especial thanks to Dr. Birsen for her excellent service towards the people of Bharatpur.

Community Radio in Nepal
An Interview with Bharat Dutta Koirala published on BRIEFING DOCUMENT: COMMUNITY RADIO IN INDIA, Proceedings of an Internet Conference on The Hoot November 30, 2001 to February 10, 2002
Interview by SEVANTI NINAN
Q: What is the current status of community radio in Nepal, how many independent stations are now running? Could you please give some names and locations.
Out of the 22 independent radio stations now operating in Nepal, four can be called community stations. The others are referred to as commercial stations but most of them have strong public service contents in their programming. Nepal's National Broadcasting Act does not provide clear distinction between commercial and community stations. The community radio stations are identified by their ownership and the power of the transmitters they use. Since license fees are based on the transmitter's capacity, from Rs. 50,000 for using a 100 watt transmitter to Rs.200,000 for using a 500 watt transmitter, the communities prefer to use low power (100 to 200 watts) transmitters since they have very limited financial resources. All of the private stations are on the FM band since the law specifies that private groups can operate radio stations only on the FM band.
Of the four community radio stations one is located in Kathmandu and the other three are in western Nepal. Radio Sagarmatha was established as a community radio with a 100 watt transmitter. But since it has been providing its service to listeners in the whole Kathmandu Valley, along with six other commercial stations, its role has gradually changed from that of a community station to a popular public service station. It has been constantly expanding its programmes, in terms of time and diversity, and because of this expanded role it decided to increase its transmitter's power from 100 watts to 500 watts. The other community radio stations are: 1. Radio Madanpokhara which is located in Palpa District of Western Nepal. It is is owned and operated by the Village Development Committee of Madapokhara. 2. Lumbini FM is located at Manigram which is close to the industrial and commercial town of Butwal, also in Western Nepal. It is owned and operated by a cooperative formed by local entrepreneurs and journalists. 3. Swargadwari FM is located in the town of Ghorai, the headquarters of Dang District in Western Nepal. It is the newest among the community stations and has just started its test transmissions.
Of the private commercial stations there six in Kathmandu, four in Pokhara (a tourist town in Western Nepal), one in Bharatpur (Synergy FM) to the South of Kathmandu, one in Hetauda (Radio Mankamana), one in Itahari (Saptakoshi FM) in Eastern Nepal, one in the industrial town of Biratnagar (Koshi FM) and the re-transmitting station of Kantipur FM at Bhedetar in Eastern Nepal. Metro FM owned and operated by the Kathmandu Municipality, the environmental station in the process of being wset up and owned by an environment NGO (SEF) and the Spiritual FM (also in the process of being established) are three stations which have definite target audiences and have a public service motive.
There are at least 25 applications pending with the Government. No licenses have been issued in the past few months.
Q: How many of these are community owned and managed?
As already described above four of the existing 22 stations are owned and managed by local communities. Radio Madanpokhara is owned by the Village Development Committee, the lowest rung of the government structure. Radio Lumbini and Swargadwari are owned by local cooperatives and Radio Sagarmatha is owned by Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists. Among the 25 applications yet to be reviewed by the govlernment many of lthem are for community stations. In most cases local individuals have set cooperatives and then applied for licenses. However, in all cases there arfe broad-based broadcasting committees that oversee the work of the stations and are involved in making policies and deciding on programming.
Q: What has been the experience of Nepal in financing community radio? Has finance been easy to come by? Is it possible to give an approximate figure of what it costs to set up a small community radio station? What would be its reach?
The first two community stations in Nepal, Radio Sagarmatha (set up in 1997) and Radio Madanpokhara (set up in 1999) were financed through IPDC (UNESCO) grants. They have since then been supporting themselves both through donor assistance for specific projects and through their own income from advertising and sponsored programms. Both are now largely self-supporting. Lumbini FM at Manigram was set up by a cooperative with an initial investment of US$10,000 raised from among the members of the cooperative. Since then they have expanded their facilities both through their own income from advertising and sponsorship and a grant from DANIDA to set up a second studio and to buy a new transmitter. Swargadwari FM in Dang, too was set up by a cooperative with their own money but DANIDA provided the initial expenses to buy transmitting and studio equipment. They seem confident they will be self-supporting once they go on the air with their regular programmes. Finance has not been the main problem with the community radio movement in Nepal. Many communities that have applied for licenses plan to raise their own investment money, and in some cases, they have already done so. There are several donors who realize the value of community broadcasting in a country like Nepal and ready to offer assistance in setting up community stations. The real bottleneck is in the licensing process. Even though the process is very clear in the National Broadcasting Act and the National Broadcasting Regulations, the government has failed to promptly review the applications and grant licenses where the pre-requisites have been met.
It is difficult to say exactly how much it costs to set up a community radio station since a lot depends on the local circumstances. From our own experience we have found that a station like Radio Sagarmatha which serves a population of over a million people requires more than US$30,000 to set up the station. The operating costs are also relatively high. A really rural station like Radio Madanpokhara was set up and fully equipped with less than US$20,000. Based on these experiences we figure it will cost US$15,000 to make a rural-based station fully operational while an urban-based station will cost about US$30,000.
But, it must be remembered that community radio can be set up and broadcast with much less since all it takes is a transmitter and a few microphones to go on the air with local programms. What is required is the motivation and enthusiasm of the local community to use the medium.
Q: What is the most common source of financing, is there any financing by the community? Is there any revenue from advertising?
In all cases there has been some local financing. While some received initial funding from UNESCO or DANIDA, there were others that raised money locally both to set up and operate their stations. In the case oworried about financing. In tghe case of the Manigram station, they have so much advertising that they are no longer worried about financing. Radio Madanpokhara has saved enough money to money property and building a new structure to house a studio and offices. Swargadwari FM has raised enough money to operate the station; donor money was used to buy equipment. Madanpokhara holds period meetings of the community to discuss how more resources can be mobilized to make the station sustainable. Yes, there is some advertising revenue in all cases. These stations, not being commercial, have a policy to broadcasting limited number of advertising messages and be more selective in the type of advertisements to be accepted by the station.
Q: Is there much interference from the government in running community radio?
Surprisingly, there has not been much interference from the government. One of the conditions imposed at the time granting the license is to broadcast Radio Nepal's main news, which all stations do. Recently, the independent stations received a letter from the government to use 25% of their time in broadcasting programms of Radio Nepal. The stations decided not to do it and the Minister of Information and Communication claimed he was unaware of such a letter. On the whole the stations are quite independent. What is sad is that the government is not issuing licenses on a continuing basis. Q: In countries like lndia fear of misuse in insurgency is cited as a common reason for not permitting community radio stations. Given the Maoist insurgency in Nepal how has community radio managed to be permitted by the government?
Fear of misuse in insurgency is only an excuse for not granting licenses to operate community radio stations. In Latin America where there are thousands of community radio stations, there has not been cases of such stations being taken over or misused by insurgents. In the Philippines where there are many community radio stations, even in the area most affected by insurgencies, the radio stations continue to operate and serve their communities. Insurgents are not interested in local stations, they would rather capture government stations which are better endowed and have wider reach. Besides, insurgents are often members of communities that operate the stations and would, therefore, like to see the station continue to inform and entertain the community. In Nepal, none of the stations have become the targets of the Maoist insurgency even though the stations exist in some of the most sensitive areas. Frankly, the flow of information that local radio stations generate is the best safeguard against insurgency. Local stations are the most effective means of promoting democratic education.
Q: What sort of safeguards are there against such radio stations being hijacked by people with political agendas? Have the Maoists established or attempted to establish any radio stations?
It is true that unscrupulous politicians could try to hijack such stations with their own political agenda. But there are enough safeguards to prevent this from happening. First, the legal framework should provide the initial safeguards. In the case of Nepal, the National Broadcasting Act clearly states that private radio stations should not be used for a political purpose, rather it should be a medium for the education and entertainment of the people. Second, the broad-based broadcasting committee which the community appoints to oversee the work of the station should be so balanced that no individual or party can hijack the station. Third, since the stations are on the FM band, they are able to reach only the members of the community who react promptly to any attempt by politicians to impose their agenda. There was a piece of news a few weeks ago which spoke about a Maoist radio station in the mid-western hills. It did not specify where exactly the station was and what it broadcast. There has not beenany other information to corroborate the published news item.
Q: Now that stations like Sagarmatha have been running for a few years,What sort of problems are cropping up here, or elsewhere if any?
Yes, Sagarmatha has been running since 1997 and it has been able to establish itself as a free, independent and high credible station. Since most of the private radio stations are of commercial nature, Radio Sagarmatha has the distinction of being the only public service stations that could survive the competition. There several problems that the station has faced. First, how to survive with limited advertising and more educational service-oriented programmes. Second, how retain creative and dynamic journalists and producers in a competitive world. Two such producers are working at the BBC in London. Third, how to learn management techniques (of running radio stations) on a continuing basis. Fourth, how to create a marketing strategy and a dynamic marketing team in a small, low-cost station. Finally, how to motivate volunteers who could produce programmes without posing a burden on the limited resources.
Q: Is sustainability becoming a problem or not?
Sustainability is a topic that always comes up when there a is discussion on community radio stations. I found the same thing in the Philippines where there are many community radio stations that have been operating for a nunmber of years. The question of sustainability comes up because many such stations have been set up through grants by donors with the initial misgivings that the communities would not be able to manage the stations once the support is with drawn. The very fact that most of the stations are running, many of them are doing very well and some have even saved enough to expand their facilities and services confirms our belief that community radio can become fully sustainable. But, to be able to do so, the community must be intimately involved in the planning, establishment and operation of the station. Once the people feel that it is their station, that they must run it, and that it must continue to serve the community, the station will become sustainable. Any outside support should be limited to purchase of new equipment and training in techniques and management.
When we have many stations, there will be some which will do very well,some will manage to exist, while a few may even close down. This is a fact of life we must accept. But, looking at the present status of community radio in Nepal there is every reason to expect the existing stations to become fully sustainable.

Source: The Hoot

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Int'l Community Welcomes Royal Address

THT Online

Kathmandu, April 27:The European Union (EU) has urged the implementation of the King's announcement to reinstate the House of Representatives without further ado.

The EU took careful note of the royal proclamations on April 21 and April 24 and the Nepali people's reaction to the twin addresses. It also welcomed the monarch's decision to hand back sovereignty to the people.

"EU fully supports the Nepali people in their aspiration for peace and democracy." The EU has also called on alliance leaders to work out a roadmap for the establishment of peace and democracy in the country.

"Action is needed without delay to restore peace to the country and to put in place a democratic, accountable government," said an EU press release issued on Wednesday.

The EU also welcomed the alliance's nomination of Girija Prasad Koirala as Prime Minister. The EU expects security forces to refrain from using force against pro-democracy demonstrations and to be prepared to work under a democratic government, the statement said.

"The EU continues to urge the transition of the CPN (Maoist) into the democratic political mainstream, but this process must include the renunciation of violence and decommissioning of weapons," said the release.

The EU expressed its commitment to facilitate the functioning of all democratic institutions in Nepal.Meanwhile, Australia also welcomed the reinstatement of parliament. "I welcome King Gyanendra's April 24 announcement that the Nepalese parliament is to be reinstated and will recommence sitting on April 28," said Alexander Downer, Australian minister for foreign affairs in a press statement.

He said Australia supported Nepal's return to multiparty democracy and called on the political parties to join hands to form a responsible and effective government."The Maoists should now cease armed violence, turn to mainstream politics and support the rebuilding of peace, democracy and social development in Nepal," Downer said while expressing Australia's commitment to monitor developments here closely.UK foreign office minister Kim Howells also welcomed King Gyanendra's announcement. "This is a tribute to the Nepali people's desire for democracy and peace. We therefore welcome the King's announcement and the reinstatement of parliament," said Howells in a press statement.The statement said that with the return of multi-party democracy and a government with full executive powers, the moment that the political parties were long looking for had come."The Maoists now need to prove their commitment to democracy by giving up violence and by entering into a peace process with the new government, beginning with ceasefire," the release said.The minister reiterated the UK's readiness to assist the new government and the people of Nepal, while also promoting peace, democracy and development in the country.Associated Press reported on Wednesday that Norway would resume its financial assistance following the King's announcement.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nepalis cautious over king's move

They came in their thousands, young and old, men and women, all marching along the ring road that encircles the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu

Tens of thousands of Nepalese had planned to attend a major opposition rally in protest against the king. Instead, they found themselves rallying for victory.
The king's late night announcement that he was restoring the country's parliament has been welcomed by the political parties which on Tuesday named veteran leader Girija Prasad Koirala as their candidate for prime minister.
"The new parliament will meet on Friday, an interim government will be formed and we will pass resolutions on beginning a dialogue with the Maoist rebels as well as holding elections to a constituent assembly," Communist Party (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal told the BBC.
However, in a strong statement, the Maoists rejected the king's move and said by welcoming the royal proclamation, the parties were making a big mistake.
Senior Maoist leader, Baburam Bhattarai, told the BBC Nepali service that merely restoring the parliament was not going to resolve the problems and that the rebels planned to continue fighting against government forces.
The Maoists and the seven party opposition alliance struck a 12-point agreement last year, which included agreeing to set up an interim government and a constituent assembly.
The Maoists control vast swathes of the countryside and are also heavily armed, one reason why they command a high degree of influence.
Many people also believe that the Maoists have not given up on their goal of turning Nepal into a communist republic.
Not surprisingly, the mood on the streets of Kathmandu is mixed.
While there is an overwhelming sense of relief that the protests have come to an end, many feel that merely restoring parliament is not enough.
The neighbourhood of Kalanki, in the south-east of the capital, has been one of the flashpoints of the rallies - three protesters were killed here last week, shot dead by police.

Some 20,000 protesters gathered here on Tuesday, chanting and cheering.
But in a reminder of the violence that had taken place, many in the crowd held posters and placards with pictures of the dead men.
"We want justice for those who have died," said one protester, Madhav Gurung.
"The police commander who ordered the shooting must be arrested and tried," he said.
Bikash Sharma, 29, teaches English at a local college.
He said the protesters would not be satisfied until the king was overthrown.
"A constituent assembly is needed so that we can have the people's mandate. The king must be replaced by the people's man."
While many welcomed the appointment of a new prime minister, others warned that the political parties should not squander the opportunity.
"The politicians should not fight among each other as they have in the past and try and pursue personal agendas," said another protester, Gyanendra Bhattarai.
"GP Koirala needs to improve on his previous performance," he said.
Mr Koirala has been prime minister on three previous occasions but Nepal's experience of democratic government has been an unhappy one.
The country has had 13 prime ministers since parliamentary democracy was introduced in 1990. Internal bickering and political rivalries meant that all the prime ministers were unseated by rivals before they had completed a term.
Moreover government corruption was seen as a widespread problem by Many Nepalis.

By Sanjoy Majumder BBC News, Kathmandu

From BBC

Nepalis celebrate protest victory

Thousands of Nepalis have held a victory rally in theKathmandu after the king gave in to their demands to reinstate parliament. The seven party opposition alliance said it had called off its weeks of demonstrations and a nationwide strike.

It has chosen former Prime Minister GP Koirala to head a new government.

But Maoist rebels behind a 10-year insurgency rejected King Gyanendra's deal with the opposition, and vowed to continue blockading the capital.

People gathered for the victory rally, waving party and national flags, and shouting slogans against the king from the roofs of vehicles.

"Gyanendra, thief, leave the country," shouted some protesters who had gathered near the royal palace, saying they would not stop demonstrating until the king was stripped of his powers.


Meanwhile the city began to return to normal, after a crippling strike. Taxis were back on the streets, shops were reopened, and mobile phone connections were restored. Riot police were still in evidence, though.

Despite the hardships imposed by the strike, Nepalis insisted it had been worthwhile.

"It is only a small sacrifice for the good of the country," said Sabita Tamang, who has earned nothing from her grocery store for three weeks.

"The prices of food went up so high I had to cut down on what I eat," said Rajendra Sahi, a college student.

He added: "The people have done their part. Now it is the leaders who need to do theirs.

" The king assumed direct powers in February 2005, saying opposition parties were failing to manage the Maoist insurgency.

Communist Party (UML) leader Madhav Kumar Nepal told the BBC the formation of a new government would be "the first step towards a constituent assembly", which would be tasked with redrawing the constitution.

Maoists' next move

But the Maoists said in agreeing the deal with the king, the opposition had betrayed an agreement it made with them in November, which called for fresh elections and an end to an "autocratic monarchy".

The king's concession was "a new ploy to break the Nepali people and save his autocratic monarchy", said Maoist leader Prachanda in a statement.

Until the November agreement was implemented in full, they would blockade Kathmandu and all district capitals, the statement added.

Another senior rebel, Baburam Bhattarai, told the BBC: "The minimum demand is a free election to a constituent assembly."

King's address

During the recent protests, the demonstrators had repeatedly defied shoot-on-sight curfews despite the deaths of 14 people. Girija Prasad Koirala will head the new government In a late-night TV address on Monday, King Gyanendra expressed his "heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their lives in the people's movement and wish the injured speedy recovery". He added: "We are confident that the nation will forge ahead towards sustainable peace, progress, full-fledged democracy and national unity." He said the lower house of parliament would reconvene on Friday. The US welcomed the king's announcement and said he should now consider assuming a "ceremonial role". More than 13,000 people have died in the Maoist insurgency. Violence has escalated since the rebels ended a truce in January - although they declared a ceasefire in Kathmandu this month as the street protests began.

Monday, April 24, 2006

New York Times

In a Retreat, Nepal's King Says He Will Reinstate Parliament

Binod Joshi/Associated Press
There were street celebrations in Katmandu, Nepal, after King Gyanendra went on television late this evening to concede to the demands of the angry pro-democracy demonstrations.

A four-hour television series and interactive web site by The Times, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the ZDF network of Germany.

His offer came on the eve of what were billed as the largest demonstrations to date. The political parties that began the protests 19 days ago had been preparing to encircle the city center on Tuesday. Instead, celebrations broke out late Monday night on the streets of the capital, Katmandu.
"We are confident this house will contribute to the overall welfare of Nepal and the Nepali people," the king, looking ashen, told the nation in an address broadcast on state-owned television. "We are confident that the nation will forge ahead toward sustainable peace, progress, full-fledged democracy and national unity."
For the first time, the king acknowledged the protests that have prompted hordes of Nepalese to defy shoot-on-sight curfew orders and have brought the capital to a virtual standstill. At least 13 people have been killed by police officers and soldiers since the demonstrations began. "We extend our heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their lives to the people's movement," the king said.
He did not, however, explicitly address the demands for a referendum to redraw the nation's Constitution and let the Nepalese people decide on the future of the monarchy. The vote on the Constitution is a principal demand of the Maoist rebels, who have fought a bruising 10-year insurgency to defeat the monarchy.
They have lately linked arms with Nepal's political leaders and offered their blessings to the protests. Their influence has also been felt on the streets, with demonstrators ever more loudly calling for the end of the monarchy.
Whether the Maoists, Nepal's political leaders and the people in the streets would allow King Gyanendra to hold onto the monarchy remained an open question. It also remained to be seen whether the king's latest concession would be resisted by the more radical members of the opposition.
"This is the victory of the people on the street," Ram Chandra Poudel, a central committee member of the Nepali Congress Party, said minutes after the king's address.
The Maoists issued no comment on the king's speech on Monday night. But the previous night, the army said, they attacked government buildings in a small town barely five hours by road from the capital, luring the Royal Nepalese Army into a gunfight that killed six people, including one soldier.
Initially at least, protesters and political leaders greeted the address with glee, though the king stopped short of fulfilling what for him is certainly their most unpalatable demand: his abdication. The king did not renounce the throne, only the power he seized 14 months ago and retained with the help of the security forces under his command.
Certainly, he also gave up more than he had intended. Only three days ago, the king offered to allow the political parties to appoint a prime minister of their choosing. The parties turned down that offer, pinched as they were between pressure from the Maoists, their angry foot soldiers on the street, and their own distrust of the king.
Flouting pressure from abroad, party leaders insisted at the time that they would not stop agitating until the king agreed to reinstate Parliament and permit a referendum on the Constitution, which enshrines the monarchy and gives it control of the military.
Still, the king's offer on Monday to restore Parliament, effective Friday, was a significant retreat.
Within minutes of his appearance, the streets of Katmandu exploded in jubilation.
In the Tinkune section of the capital, a man with bandages around his head jumped and shouted. "I wouldn't mind losing my life for democracy," said Bhagawan Bhandari, 44. He had been injured by King Gyanendra's baton-wielding police force at a protest on Friday.
The State Department issued a statement saying that the king "should now hand power over to the parties and assume a ceremonial role in his country's governance," Reuters reported. The king's announcement came hours after the State Department had ordered all nonessential embassy staff and family members to leave the country.

Tilak P. Pokharel contributed reporting for this article.

April 24

.Full text of the royal proclamation
House of Representatives reinstated
KATHMANDU, April 24 - Beloved Countrymen,
Convinced that the source of State Authority and Sovereignty of the Kingdom of Nepal is inherent in the people of Nepal and cognizant of the spirit of the ongoing people's movement as well as to resolve the on-going violent conflict and other problems facing the country according to the road map of the agitating Seven Party Alliance, we, through this Proclamation, reinstate the House of Representatives which was dissolved on 22 May 2002 on the advice of the then Prime Minister in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990. We call upon the Seven Party Alliance to bear the responsibility of taking the nation on the path to national unity and prosperity, while ensuring permanent peace and safeguarding multiparty democracy. We also summon the session of the reinstated House of Representatives at the Sansad Bhawan, Singha Durbar at 1 P.M. on Friday, 28 April 2006.
We are confident that this House will contribute to the overall welfare of Nepal and the Nepalese people.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their lives in the people's movement and wish the injured speedy recovery. We are confident that the nation will forge ahead towards sustainable peace, progress, full-fledged democracy and national unity.
May Lord Pashupatinath bless us all! Jaya Nepal!

People wins

Nepalis cheer climbdown by king
Nished Gautam

Jubilant Nepalis have taken to the streets in celebration after embattled King Gyanendra agreed to their demands to reinstate parliament.
"This is the people's victory! Long live democracy!" hundreds chanted in parts of the capital Kathmandu.
Opposition leaders say a huge anti-monarchy protest planned for Tuesday will now be a victory rally.
The king's announcement follows weeks of unrest by opponents to his absolute rule. At least 14 people have died.
A tired and tense-looking King Gyanendra announced the move in a late-night televised address, saying it was aimed at "protecting multi-party democracy and restoring peace".

He said the lower house of parliament would reconvene on Friday.
The US welcomed his announcement and said he should now consider assuming a "ceremonial role" in the country's governance.
On Monday, thousands of demonstrators defied a shoot-on-sight curfew in Kathmandu.
But the mood turned to one of celebration after the king's address at 2330 local time (around 1800GMT).
Hundreds streamed into the streets of Kathmandu and other towns, chanting, clapping and singing.
"The people from every corner are pleased to come and celebrate," bank employee Prakash Nepal, 40, told the Associated Press.
The opposition alliance is due to meet to discuss the next step in resolving the country's crisis, opposition leader Shobhakar Parajuli told the BBC.
He said the mass rallies planned for Tuesday would go ahead, but would be a victory celebration and no longer a protest rally.

In his address, the king expressed his "heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their lives in the people's movement and wish the injured speedy recovery".
He added: "We are confident that the nation will forge ahead towards sustainable peace, progress, full-fledged democracy and national unity."
The protests and a crippling strike led the United States to order all its non-essential diplomatic staff and their families to leave Nepal.
More than 13,000 people have died in the 10-year Maoist insurgency aimed at replacing the monarchy with a communist republic.
The king assumed direct powers in February 2005 saying parties were unable to deal with Maoist rebels.
Violence has escalated since the rebels ended a truce in January - although they declared a ceasefire in Kathmandu this month as street protests began against King Gyanendra.
A series of curfews have been in force in the city in recent days, but ignored by demonstrators.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Embattled King of Nepal Offers Gesture to Protesters

Manish Swarup/Associated Press

Police officers used clubs to break up an antimonarchy demonstration Friday in Katmandu. King Gyanendra said later that he would turn over power to a prime minister chosen by the political parties, but his statement seemed to bring little relief in the national crisis.

Published: April 22, 2006
KATMANDU, Nepal, April 21 — Nepal's embattled King Gyanendra said Friday evening that he would turn over the reins of government to a prime minister chosen by the country's principal political parties, but his gesture brought little relief to a nation on the verge of paralysis.
Skip to next paragraph
Tomas van Houtryve for The New York Times
A photograph of King Gyanendra landed in a ditch Friday with other items tossed there by demonstrators in Katmandu, the Nepalese capital.
"Executive power of the Kingdom of Nepal, which was in our safekeeping, shall, from this day, be returned to the people," the king said, in a long-awaited, surprisingly short address on state-owned television.
Earlier Friday, more than 100,000 demonstrators flooded the heavily fortified main road in Katmandu, the capital, in defiance of a daylong shoot-on-sight curfew, gathering in the largest pro-democracy protests to date. By late evening, there was no official reaction from the country's political leaders, who were huddled in meetings and were to render their verdict on Saturday.
In a statement that said nothing about the king's address, the seven-party alliance that has led the demonstrators vowed to intensify the protests.
"The movement will continue like this until further notice," it read. "We call upon people from all walks of life to take to the streets and bring everything in the capital and all across the country to a complete halt."
The mood on the streets, swept by 16 days of often violent confrontations between pro-democracy protesters and the security forces, remained uneasy. At least 12 people have been killed by police officers and soldiers in the demonstrations, hundreds have been injured and several thousand arrested.
"There's nothing for those who were killed in these protests," Raj Narayan Thakur, 26, said of the king's speech, as bonfires burned on a street in a western suburb, Chabahil, and protesters milled around in the pitch dark.
"It doesn't work," said Bishwokiran Shakya, 46, with a brisk wave of his hand. "No good."
It remained unclear this evening whether the leaders of the seven-party alliance would seize the king's offer and, if they did, whether they could sell it to either the Nepalese people who have poured into the streets or the Maoist rebels with whom they have linked arms in a effort to wrest power from the palace.
In an accord signed last fall, the politicians agreed to the central Maoist demand for a referendum on the Constitution; in exchange, the Maoists agreed, among other things, to play by the rules of parliamentary democracy.
The king, who took over the government 14 months ago in what he said was an effort to defeat a Maoist rebellion, agreed to give up control of the state. But he did not address the two principal demands of the politicians and their foot soldiers on the street: restoration of the elected Parliament, suspended in May 2002, and a referendum to review the Constitution and decide whether Nepal still needs a king.
Calls for an end to monarchy, which is enshrined in the Nepalese Constitution, have grown louder and more brazen in the past weeks. The king's speech made it plain that he was in favor of maintaining the status quo: a multiparty democracy with a constitutional monarchy.
He spoke hours after Katmandu was engulfed in the largest protests to date, as several large neighborhood rallies converged on the sealed Ring Road that circles the city center. They shouted gleefully for the king's head, burned effigies and, at one point, toppled a small tin-roofed police post and set it alight, as a gantlet of police officers in riot gear, backed by soldiers, watched.
Apparently anticipating further discontent, the government extended the curfew on Friday evening until midnight.
There was no question that after two weeks of angry protests and a heavy-handed state crackdown, it will be harder for those clamoring for an end to Gyanendra's rule and the establishment of a democratic republic to accept any political deal that maintains the monarchy.
Favorable nods for the king came from abroad. Nepal's neighbor and most vital ally, India, swiftly endorsed the king's offer, saying in a statement that the king's words "should now pave the way for the restoration of political stability and economic recovery of the country."

Why the world is watching Nepal
By Paul Reynolds World Affairs correspondent, BBC News website

Tourists hoping to visit a mountain Shangri-La have been surprisedWhile it would be an exaggeration to say that Nepal occupies a strategic position in the world - isolated as it is in the Himalayas - its future is being watched closely.
Partly this is for sentimental reasons. The kingdom used to be the destination of choice for thousands of Western hippies who thought of it as a mountain Shangri-la.
The one-time guru of the Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, had connections in Nepal and once broadcast his vision of saving the world by "Transcendental Meditation" on Nepali television.
So there is a great interest in the West to see how that quiet and peaceful place (perhaps not so quiet underneath) has developed into the scene of civil war, repression, riot and uprising.
It is the government of India that is the most concerned. India itself has considerable problems with Maoist rebels
The Yogi's message does not seem to have worked. But then the 1960s and their message of flower power are a long time ago. The world has moved on in more violent ways, and Nepal is a part of that movement.
Then there is the Everest trek that keeps Nepal in a wider public eye. Currently teams of climbers are preparing for their attempts on the summit during the calm period between now and the end of May. They have largely escaped the recent troubles, although two climbers were injured last November when Maoist rebels attacked their vehicle on its way to base camp.
And there is the added factor in Britain because Nepal is home to the Ghurka fighters who serve in the British army.


We salute people of Nepal: US
Kantipur Report

KATHMANDU, April 21 - The Unites States on Friday saluted the courage and resilience of the people of Nepal in their struggle for democracy and expressed the hope that King Gyanendra, who announced handing power back to people in his address today, would live up to his words.
“We are pleased that King Gyanendra’s message today made it clear that that sovereignty resides with the people,” said Sean McCormack, spokesman of the US Department of State. “We expect the king to live up to his words, and allow the parties to form the government.”
McCormack also urged the political parties – the seven-party alliance – to respond quickly by choosing a prime minister and a cabinet. “We urge all sides to refrain from violence to allow the restoration of democracy to take place swiftly and peacefully.”

The king has taken bold step: Karan Singh

Minutes after the nationally-televised address, India's Special Envoy Dr Karan Singh has welcomed the king's offer, saying the king has taken a bold step.
"I think it is the right thing to do to difuse the situation," he told the Post, adding, "Now the political parties have the shoulder the responsibility and take the process forward. The sooner that can happen the better, it will be."
The government of India is expected to make a statement along the same lines soon.


Full text: Nepal king's speech

The text of Nepal's King Gyanendra address to the nation, broadcast by Radio Nepal, in which announced handing over political power to the people and asked a seven-party alliance to choose a new prime minister.

Beloved Countrymen,
You are all aware that given the situation prevailing in the country then, we were compelled to take the decision of 1 February 2005 to set in motion a meaningful exercise in multiparty democracy by activating all elected bodies, ensuring peace and security and a corruption-free good government through the collective wisdom, understanding and the united efforts of all the Nepalese.

By supporting our decision, the Nepalese people made amply clear their desire for peace and democracy and the civil servants demonstrated sincerity towards their duty. We are appreciative of this. We also have high regard for the dutifulness, valour and discipline displayed by the security personnel by upholding their glorious tradition.

By visiting different parts of the country we made honest endeavours to acquaint ourselves with the hopes and aspirations of our people, mitigate their hardships and boost their morale. We also called on the political parties to enter into a dialogue in the interest of the nation and the people afflicted by violence and terror. However, this did not materialise.
The ideals of democracy can only be realised through the active participation of political parties.
In keeping with the tradition of the Shah dynasty to reign in accordance with the popular will, in the greater interest of the nation and people and our unflinching commitment towards constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy, we through this proclamation affirm that the executive power of the Kingdom of Nepal, which was in our safekeeping, shall from this day be returned to the people and the exercise according to Article 35 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990.

As the source of sovereign authority is inherent in the people, harmony and understanding must be preserved in the interest of the nation and people in an environment of peace and security.
While safeguarding multiparty democracy, the nation must be taken ahead along the road to peace and prosperity by bringing into the democratic mainstream those who have deviated from the constitutional path. Similarly, a meaningful exercise in democracy must be ensured with the activation of representative bodies through elections as soon as possible.
We therefore call on the seven-party alliance to recommend a name for the post of the prime minister at the earliest for the constitution of a council of ministers which will bear the responsibility of governing the country in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990. The present Council of Ministers will continue to function until the appointment of the prime minister.

May Lord Pashupatinath bless us all.
Jai Nepal

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gathering anger against Nepal's king

By Sanjoy Majumder BBC News, Kathmandu

Hundreds of people joined a protest in Kirtipur, Kathmandu
"I hope you've brought peace to our troubled land."
The immigration officer at Kathmandu 's Tribhuvan international airport looked up as he stamped my passport, resplendent in his blue uniform.
"We need democracy, total democracy not partial," he said.
"Make sure you put that in your report. Without democracy we cannot develop as a nation. Enough is enough."
For the past few days, the tide appears to have turned against King Gyanendra.
What started out as a political protest by a seven-party alliance, and then translated into a show of people power as Nepalis stormed the streets across the country, has finally crossed another frontier.
Professionals, lawyers and now bureaucrats - including from the all-powerful home ministry - have joined the struggle, some in spirit and others more substantially.
Public sentiment
The one institution above all others that has remained loyal to the king has been the Royal Nepalese Army.
But as flak-jacketed soldiers patrol the corner of every street in the Nepalese capital, they are acutely aware of the public mood.
"The public sentiment here is far too strong," says one local journalist.
"The protests have spread far wider and appear to be much more intense than those of 1990," he added, careful to remain unnamed, with the administration particularly severe against the media.
The king... is so removed from reality that he has to step aside
Lakshmi, protester
That was the year when the former monarch, King Birendra, was forced to usher in multi-party democracy in the wake of public protests.
The mood against his brother, who ascended the throne after King Birendra's brutal murder in the 2001 palace massacre, is equally strong.
On the eve of a planned mass protest in the capital, political rallies took place in pockets around Kathmandu.
In the suburb of Kirtipur, more than 1,000 people gathered at the main market square as speaker after speaker railed against the king.
"This is a criminal regime," shouted one speaker, representing local traders.
"The king must go - he must go now."
"He must go - he must go now," chanted the crowd, cheering and clapping.
Single issue
Narayan Rathod Singh is a local member of the mainstream Nepali Congress Party.
He says things have moved beyond party politics.
"It is no longer important which party you belong to or what you believe in," he says.
The king is not somebody with our interests at heart
Pawan, protester
"There is only one issue before us - restore democracy.
"There is not a single person here who does not support that," he said waving his hand at the crowd.
"I grew up believing in the king and what the monarchy represents," says Lakshmi, who was attending the rally with her children.
"But the king has let us down. He is so removed from reality that he has to step aside.
"I don't think they should grow up in a Nepal which is an absolute monarchy," she says looking down at her little son and daughter.
Ravi Thapa and his friend, Pawan, are students.
He admits that joining the protests at first was fun - daring even - but that he had thought little about the issues at stake.
Now, however, he is clear in his mind.
"When the shootings started and the beatings I knew that this was serious.
"I also realised that the king is not somebody with our interests at heart. If he did, he wouldn't have filled the jails with ordinary people.
"He wouldn't have ordered his army to open fire on innocent civilians.
"He is not an aristocrat - he's an autocrat."
A few hundred metres away from the Kirtipur rally, smoke rises from a still smouldering burnt tyre.
Children run past it shouting, unmindful of what it represents.
But for King Gyanendra, safely ensconced behind the high walls of Kathmandu's Narayanhiti Palace, it is a sign that the public mood could quite easily turn ugly.

Time's run out

The Kathmandu Post

The rulers and elite have always ditched the Nepali people. The dark history dates back to 1768, when a smart warrior king unified the country with the help of the poor people, but his successors never recognized their rights and sovereignty. The oppressed denizens, who woke up to fight for their rights in 1950, successfully toppled the Rana oligarchy. Unfortunately, the 1950 agreement brought the monarchy to the fore. Consequently, the successive monarchs played the "cat-and-mouse" game with people's representatives to deny their rights. In December 1960, King Mahendra ousted the elected government and established the autocratic Panchayati that lasted for 30 years. In 1990, the late King Birendra showed certain farsightedness and bowed down before the people. However, the elite and monarchists immediately started hatching conspiracy against the restored democracy. In order to show one-upmanship to his slain brother, King Gyanendra usurped all state authority by staging a coup on Feb 1, 2005. But in just over a year, the king's move has culminated in a deep political crisis.
The Nepali people of 21st century have become so infuriated with the king that many wonder whether he will manage to save his crown. If the monarch dilays further to address the problem, the country will not remain a kingdom. For the king the time has run out. More than 12 people have already lost their lives since the people's movement waged by the seven party alliance began on April 6. On the fifteenth day alone, the security forces shot dead three protestors in the capital and critically injured dozens of demonstrators. No ruler can get away by killing innocent people. King Gyanendra will certainly be held accountable for the deaths and injuries of so many people. If the chairman-cum-king continues to play with the fire and refuses to bow down before the people, he is waiting for a political disaster.
Reportedly, the king is trying to seek a solution by appointing a middleman like former Prime Minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai as the prime minister. But the movement has reached a new level of intensity where neither an individual nor any political party can rescue the monarch out of the current political imbroglio. We believe the king has gone to the extent of no return. Even if he restores people's sovereignty as per people's wishes, he may not be able to protect the 237-year old institution. The country is in flame. It has witnessed a dozen of deaths. Who is responsible for these deaths? The people know it well. If such peaceful demonstrations continue to see more deaths, the people would not accept any peaceful settlement. Let us hope Indian and other foreign envoys have transpired the message to the king.

Nepal braced for fresh protests

The protesters are demanding an end to absolute rule
The government of Nepal has imposed a new shoot-to-kill curfew in Kathmandu, in the wake of escalating violence between police and protesters.
The curfew, which will remain in force throughout Friday, coincides with a planned rally called by the opposition.
Police on Thursday opened fire on demonstrators who defied the curfew, killing three and wounding many more.
The protesters, who have staged mass strikes for the past two weeks, want the king to give up direct rule.
King Gyanendra sacked the government and assumed direct powers in February 2005, saying this was necessary to quell the long-running insurgency by Maoist rebels.
'Indiscriminate fire'
The opposition alliance has called for its supporters to demonstrate on Kathmandu's ring road on Friday.
Protesters burnt tyres on some city streets and on the outskirts ahead of the curfew, and opposition parties pledged to defy the curfew for the second day.
"So many people have come out on the street despite the curfew and crackdown. It is an indication that our movement has succeeded. We will continue this until the result comes in favour of the people," Nepali Congress leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula told Reuters.

The curfew began at 0900 (0315 GMT) and is not due to be lifted until 2000 (1415 GMT).
Government workers were asked to be in their workplaces before it took effect.
Police opened fire on Thursday as tens of thousands people tried to defy the daytime curfew.
Demonstrations against King Gyanendra's absolute rule or against the monarchy altogether had been going on for two weeks and the day was promised as the culmination.
Huge groups of anti-royal protestors, totalling perhaps 100,000, approached the capital from all directions, in each case coming up against barrages of security forces guarding the curfew zone.
On the north-east side of the city, the demonstration took place in a carnival atmosphere, the BBC's Charles Haviland reports from Kathmandu.
But at the western suburb of Kalanki, things turned violent when tens of thousands descended to the road from the hills.
HAVE YOUR SAY The king should understand he will never anymore be able to continue his regime. It is only a matter of time when he will fall down Sudeep Kafle, Kathmandu Send us your comments
Eyewitnesses said the police had opened fire indiscriminately and that in addition to those who died, many had been seriously injured.
Another person died on Friday in the town Gulariya, some 500km (300 miles) south-west of Kathmandu, after being injured in protests a day earlier, reports say.
At least 14 demonstrators have now died around the country in two weeks of protests.
A special envoy from India, Karan Singh, has held talks with King Gyanendra.
Indian diplomatic sources said he had conveyed Delhi's view that the monarch should urgently restore multi-party democracy.
Later, Mr Singh said he hoped the King would soon make an announcement to defuse the situation in Nepal.
"Certainly the situation has spun virtually if not out of control at least it is spinning out of control. Therefore some drastic and urgent steps are needed, and that was really my message to him," he said.

Deep meditation for peace of Nepal

India's key role in Nepal affairs

By Rabindra Mishra
BBC Nepali service

Recent clandestine meetings in India between leading Nepalese politicians and Maoist leaders have once again highlighted the crucial role India continues to play in Nepal's internal affairs.
Nepalese leaders have denied any face-to-face meeting with rebel leaders in India, let alone in a government guest house where talks are believed to have taken place.
For its part, India denies knowledge of any Maoist leaders on its soil and has declared them "terrorists". But it has been a long established fact that some top Maoist leaders do reside in India.
Since the 1 February royal coup, Nepalese leaders have regularly visited Delhi, but last week saw an unprecedented jamboree in the Indian capital.
Delhi 'check-ups'
What surprised many was the sudden visit of a leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal, to Delhi.
Mr Nepal's visit took place less than a week after he had returned from an extended three-week tour of India, during which he met several Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
As soon as he returned home, he had a series of meetings in Kathmandu with British Ambassador Keith Bloomfield, American ambassador James Moriarty and Indian Ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, as efforts to find a solution to Nepal's political impasse continued.
Mr Nepal then headed off to Delhi again after the meetings. Mr Moriarty, who has remained active in co-ordinating a uniform international approach towards Nepal, was already there.
Mr Nepal insisted he had gone for a "heart check-up", while Mr Moriarty said his was a regular visit for consultations with Indian officials.
Meanwhile, Nepali Congress president and former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was in Delhi too, also for a "health check-up".
And a leader of a smaller partner in Nepal's seven-party opposition alliance had gone there for his "son's health check-up". There were other leaders too.
Crucial time
What baffles many is the role Delhi is suspected to have played in all these movements.
Last week, the Indian foreign ministry denied any information about the latest meetings.
However, it is difficult to believe that the movement of top Nepali leaders in the heart of Delhi and meetings with rebel leaders declared terrorists at a politically crucial time could have gone unnoticed by the Indian authorities or intelligence officials.
General Ashok Mehta, a leading Indian security expert, believes that Indian intelligence established links with the Nepalese Maoists at least two years ago.
Speaking to the BBC, he once said "in circumstances as that of the Maoists, government strategy is implemented through intelligence agencies and not the official channels".
However, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran tries to avoid any direct reference to an alleged link between the Indian establishment and the rebels.
He said the Indian government was engaged in dialogue with all key political actors of Nepal, but did not mention the Maoists by name.
India was the first country to call the Maoists "terrorists" in September 2001, even before Nepal did so. At that time the Nepalese government was engaged in peace talks with the rebels.
Ironically, leading Maoist negotiator Krishna Bahadur Mahara travelled to Kathmandu from Delhi to participate in peace talks in November that year.


India's role has been crucial in every major political change and the sustenance of such changes that Nepal has witnessed since the late 1940s.
After late King Mahendra sacked the elected government and took control of state power in 1960, the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, made his displeasure public.
However, within six months, his government had signed four aid agreements with Nepal and normal friendship resumed.
Many believe that the self-serving change in Indian attitude helped the continuation of the monarchy's rule for 30 years.
Similarly, many believe India played a crucial role in the collapse of the royal regime in 1990.
Supporters of the current king have been trying to portray Delhi-rushing leaders as "anti-nationalist".
However, it is very common for Nepalese political actors to maintain silence if the involvement of India helps them - and curse it if it does not.
The latest Delhi saga is only likely to strengthen the belief of many Nepalese that Kathmandu remains a hostage of Indian national interest, which they say, has led India to constantly manipulate the politics of its tiny, land-locked neighbour.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Eyewitness: 'I was shot'

Violent clashes between police and anti-monarchy protesters are continuing across Nepal as thousands of people defy a curfew imposed by the royal government.

The BBC News website spoke to one man, Milan Lamsal, in the resort town of Pokhara who was shot and wounded by security forces at the weekend.

After seeing a big crowd of demonstrators in the main street on 8 April, I could not stay indoors.
Within a matter of seconds, the wound had become excruciatingly painful Nepalis describe chaos I have been a supporter of the pro-democracy movement and the slogans protesters chanted outside were something I could not ignore.
Despite my wife's reservations, I went out and joined the protest rally that was heading towards Mahendra Pul to the north of Pokhara.
There were thousands of protesters and all looked quite energetic and determined for democracy. That injected the spirit of a true democratic demonstrator in me.
But even when every one was marching ahead with that sense of confidence, I think many had this sneaking feeling that sooner or later we would confront security personnel.
On the contrary, we saw a group of security personnel being chased by another group of demonstrators. Soon, many demonstrators in our group started pelting stones at the fleeing security personnel.
'Piece of bullet'
Suddenly, I saw someone falling down (later on I found it was Bhimsen Dahal who had died on the way to hospital).
Crowds have been fired on a number of times in Pokhara
I was not sure what was going on. Then, someone said the police had opened fire. I thought I should run.
Just when I had begun to do so, I felt something like a needle-prick in the tricep of my right arm.
There was something that had pierced through my shirt and the t-shirt I was wearing.
Within a matter of seconds, the wound had become excruciatingly painful. I did not realise that I had fallen down. I started crying for help.
Fortunately two fellow protesters carried me to a nearby hospital. The doctors took out a piece of lead from my arm and said that it was a piece of bullet.
I am surprised that the bullet could pierce though my arm but not make any hole in my shirt and t-shirt.
I am under medication now and I feel much better except for an occasional pain. The incident has made me more fearless, that is why I have been participating in protest rallies almost every day, even if that means defying curfew orders.
I think the country is demanding change - the monarchy will have to make compromises
I feel sad to remember now that the person whom I had seen falling before another bullet hit me was Bhimsen Dahal.
We knew each other although we were not so close. He was hardly 15 metres away from me when the bullet hit him and he fell down. I could not hear him because everyone was shouting and fleeing the scene.
Opening fire on the demonstrators was totally unnecessary.
True, some protesters had thrown stones at security personnel. But they could have tackled the situation in different ways, for example with baton charges or by firing blanks.
The more such brutal actions take place, the more protesters become determined.
I believe this movement should end up with a proper conclusion. I think the country is demanding change - the monarchy will have to make compromises.

The Newyork Times

Nepal Chaos Gets Worse, as India Tries to Strike Deal

Published: April 21, 2006
KATMANDU,/April 20 — The royal government struggled to dam a tide of pro-democracy protest on Thursday. But it broke through anyway, carnival-like in some places and violent in others, as emissaries from Nepal's most vital ally, India, met with King Gyanendra in an effort to defuse a hardening political impasse.
Shehab Uddin/Associated Press
Police officers yesterday charged protesters in Katmandu who defied a curfew to demand that Nepal's king give up the total control of the government that he assumed last year and restore democracy to the country.
A four-hour television series and interactive web site by The Times, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the ZDF network of Germany.
The demonstrations, which the government tried to head off with a strict 18-hour curfew, brought tens of thousands of people to rallies big and small on the edges of the heavily fortified city center in the largest turnout in two weeks of protests.
The deadliest event came at midday in the Kalanki neighborhood, where security forces fired on demonstrators, killing three people and wounding as many as 100, according to officials at two city hospitals where the wounded were treated. Two of the dead appeared to have been shot in the head, a hospital official said.
The clash came on the 15th day of protests called by a coalition of Nepal's seven largest political parties, demanding a restoration of parliamentary rule. As violent protests roil the country, the king has reiterated his call for dialogue with the political parties. The parties, meanwhile, vow to continue the agitation until he restores Parliament, which he suspended early last year, and gives up control of the government.
"We are people of the 21st century," shouted Prakash Muni Dahal, 60, a teacher who joined the throngs on the streets. "We will rule our country." Around him a boisterous crowd, in a brick-strewn eastern neighborhood known as Chabahil, burned the king's picture and brayed for his fall. "Gyaney!" they shouted, using the diminutive form of his name, once unthinkable here in the world's last Hindu kingdom. "Hang him!"
After a meeting with the king on Thursday morning, Karan Singh, the son of a former Indian maharaja and related by marriage to Nepal's royal family, hinted a deal was imminent. "Now the ball is squarely in the court of the king," Mr. Singh, a special envoy sent by the Indian government, said on his return to New Delhi, according to Reuters. "I am hopeful that very shortly some sort of announcement will be made by him, which will help considerably defuse the situation."
Representatives of the United Nations > Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Katmandu said they had been blocked from routine monitoring of demonstrations. The office denounced the restrictions as a "clear violation" of its agreement with the government.
Neither foreign diplomats nor the International Committee of the Red Cross could move freely in the streets. By evening the government announced that it would extend the 18-hour curfew by seven hours.
Nepal has had a fitful experiment with democracy since parliamentary elections in 1990. In 2002, with a Maoist insurgency in the hills and politicians squabbling, the elected prime minister dissolved Parliament, and scheduled elections were postponed. Several prime ministers were appointed and fired by the king. The last of them was deposed in February 2005, when Gyanendra assumed total control of the government and promised to finish off the insurgency. An estimated 13,000 Nepalese have been killed in the conflict.
In a deft political twist, the Maoists and the political parties have lately linked arms in an effort to overturn the king's control of the government. The protests have hampered ordinary life in the capital. Fuel is in short supply, vegetable prices have soared and the movement of trucks carrying goods into Katmandu has been frozen for two weeks. Thursday began with an eerie calm as the daylong curfew left shops closed, people inside their homes and police officers and soldiers guarding the roads.
Around midday, as the protests began, security forces aimed their assault rifles and fired above the heads of the protesters in the Kalanki district. Then, in circumstances that remain unclear, they killed a protester on a rooftop. A Nepalese journalist who saw the incident said a police superintendent had aimed his pistol at protesters and begun firing, killing the man on the roof.
As the body was taken away in a minivan serving as an ambulance, people in the crowd vented their grief at the police, yelling, crying and then, from the rooftops, throwing bricks, unleashing swift retaliation. The police picked up the bricks and hurled them at the crowd. They fired tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. The clash continued for hours. The Nepal Red Cross Society said it tended to 293 injured people across Katmandu on Thursday.
Tilak P. Pokharel and Tomas van Houtryve contributed reporting for this article.

Concern of Nepal over the world

Times of India :
KATHMANDU: Stepping up their offensive against King Gyanendra, leaders of the seven-party alliance on Friday said "token" moves by the monarch would not serve any purpose and pressed their demand for handing over sovereign power to the people.

A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's special envoy Karan Singh expressed the hope that Nepal King Gyanendra would make an "announcement" that would help defuse the crisis, Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudyal said "given the way the movement has snowballed both in agenda and dimension, there is no way we can make do with token steps. Election to the Constituent Assembly is a must."

Nepali Congress Democratic leader Minendra Rijal said "aspirations of the people are least likely to be addressed until and unless the future of monarchy is put to ballot. Election to a Constituent Assembly is the bottom-line."

Meanwhile, people rushed out to buy provisions as curfew clamped for over a day was lifted for six hours on Friday morning. A Home Ministry announcement said curfew has been extended from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Normal life has been disrupted in the capital, which is facing acute shortage of fuel and food supplies.

The envoy on Thursday had a two-hour meeting with the monarch and handed over a letter from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He emphasised that a lasting solution to the problems of Nepal has to be found by the people of the country through a "peaceful political process."

During his visit to the country, Singh also met with former Nepalese Prime Ministers Surya Bahadur Thapa, Girija Prasad Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba and Rashtriya Prajatantra Party President Pashupati Rana.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Young Nepalese Lead Their Nation's Push for Democracy


Published: April 14, 2006

KATMANDU, Nepal, April 13 — The Nepalese New Year dawns on Friday, with Nepal's young lashing furiously at the past.

Tomas van Houtryve for The New York Times
Protesters gathered on the outskirts of Katmandu, Nepal, to rally against King Gyanendra's absolute rule, which began in 2005.
Tomas van Houtryve for The New York Times
A vast majority of those demonstrating for democracy in cities all over Nepal are adults who came of age after 1990, when democratic rule was first introduced there.
"We will not ask the king to leave the throne — we will go and take the throne and put it on display," Gagan Thapa, 29, the political symbol of young Nepal, told a crowd of thousands on the outskirts of this capital on Thursday. The vast majority, dressed in baseball caps and jeans and looking well below the age of 30, roared in approval.
A brassy antimonarchy call-and-response echoed through the warren of terraced lanes.
"We will burn the crown," Mr. Thapa shouted.
"Burn the crown, burn the crown," the crowd hollered back.
The irrepressible protests that have gripped Nepal in the last several days, demanding the end of palace rule and the reinstatement of Parliament, are a function of demography and its discontent.
Young Nepal has been at the forefront of this week's rambunctious, often violent pro-democracy protests, which have left four people dead. Whether Nepal descends into further tumult or sees the dawning of a new political age in the Nepalese calendar year of 2063 will depend on whether the protesters can be appeased.
With his country's crisis mounting by the day, King Gyanendra seemed to make the slightest of nods in that direction. In a brief statement read on state-owned television shortly before midnight, he called for general elections "with the active participation of all political parties committed to peace and democracy."
But the king said nothing about when elections would be held or, more important, whether he would concede to elections to review the Constitution, something the country's coalition of political parties and the Maoist rebels insist on.
Whether the gesture restores peace in the Himalayan kingdom will depend on the reaction on Friday from the uncompromising throngs of young people who today represent his most formidable foe.
Nearly 60 percent of Nepal's 23 million citizens are under 24. They came of age after democracy came to Nepal in April 1990, and they have tasted the fruits and failures of electoral politics. They have seen a Maoist rebellion put much of the countryside through the wringer.
In February 2005, they saw their king suspend Parliament and install prime ministers of his own choosing in a bid, as he said, to defeat a bruising Maoist insurgency. For 14 months, they have lived under the king's direct rule.
Last week, he banned protests here in the capital and for six days imposed a daytime curfew.
That order has not stopped young people from defiantly pouring out into the streets. They have been taking the lion's share of police beatings. On just one day this week, of the 59 people admitted to Katmandu's main teaching hospital for treatment of their injuries, only 13 were over the age of 30.
Consider the verdict of Shashi Sigdel, a 22-year-old medical student on the shift in attitudes toward the king.
"My grandfather used to think he is a god," Mr. Sigdel said. "My parents used to think he stands between God and the devil. Me, I think he's the devil. That's the generation gap."
On Thursday, the government restored cellphone service, suspended for nearly a week, and lifted the curfew in the capital. The ban on protests in Katmandu and several other cities continued — as did the protests.
The Royal Nepalese Army has been dispatched to some of the demonstrations. But so far, it has largely refrained from open confrontation with the demonstrators. Of the four people killed in the demonstrations, at least two died by army fire.
A protest by the Nepal Bar Association on Thursday morning ended with the police beating of dozens of demonstrators; nearly 50 landed in the hospital, including two whose heads had been grazed by rubber bullets.
In a statement on Thursday, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights hinted that the use of excessive force by police officers could jeopardize Nepal's participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions, a good source of income for the country.
"One would expect them to be respectful of United Nations standards in their conduct at home," Ian Martin, the High Commissioner's representative in Nepal, said in an interview Thursday night.