Call of conscience

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                                                                        Kathmandu l 31 Dec, 2007 - 6 Jan, 2008 l # 47 l Price Rs. 25

                                                                                                                                              Supriya Tuladhar being
                                                                                                                                       crowned Miss Newa 2007 in the
                                                                                                                                                 capital on Saturday.

                                                                                                                                                                        Bhaswor Ojha

 Call of conscience
          Whips defied by prominent ruling MPs
ä nf correspondent                                    unacceptable that a future CA has to work
                                                      under directive from the present House”, said
   At a time when G P Koirala and the Commu-          Ranabhat.
nist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M) are going             Former Prime Minister K P Bhattarai and P L
euphoric about parliament declaring Nepal a           Singh are the only two members who have not
‘Republic”, records show many members,                attended any session of the revived parliament.
especially belonging to Nepali Congress and the       “This parliament has outlived its mandate. My
UML had defied party whips.                           conscience does not allow me to participate in its
   Out of 322 members in parliament, about 35         proceedings”, Singh told Newsfront. Former
defied party instructions to be present and vote      Home Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka is away
in manner instructed. Most notable of those who       in his home town Surkhet while another
defied the whip include Taranath Ranabhat of          Congress member Govinda Bahadur Shah is
the Congress and Khadga Oli of the UML. Their         abroad.
absence confirms their displeasure and belief             Although more than 50 MPs from the
that this parliament has no right to pass a           Congress party had warned Koirala not go for
resolution of this magnitude without a fresh          the current resolution as that would ‘amount to
mandate from the people.                              surrender’ to the Maoists, they obeyed the party
   “Yes, I followed the dictate of my conscience. I   line once the whip was issued. But they have
will not be a party to any process that under-        made their reservation known to Koirala. Those
mines the right of the sovereign people to            who obeyed the whip ‘to save the party from a
decide the issues of crucial importance for the       split’ include former Ministers Khum Bahadur
country”, Ranabhat told Newsfront. Former             Khadka ,Govindaraj Joshi, Bijay Gachedar and
Prime Minsiter Oli was not available for              Arjun Narsingh K C . They had decided to fall in
comment. It is not yet known what actions the         line after Koirala took the position that defiance
parties contemplate against them, but the UML         of whip might invite disciplinary actions like
seems to be more eager to punish the dissent-         expulsion from the party which will also mean
ers than Nepali Congress. The members had             their not being able to contest the CA poll as the
been issued whips to be present in the House          party candidate.
and vote as per the official line that favoured           A senior leader of the UML said that the party
Nepal being declared republic now and leaving it      is investigating into the defiance and take stern
to the CA to implement it. “It’s absurd and           action once full details are available. ä
2    31 Dec, 2007 - 6 Jan, 2008                                                                  News
 wishes a very
happ y, peaceful
                                               Koirala and Koirala counterfeit company
and prosperous                                    It may have been unintended candor, but                                                                                 The Prime Minister further said that once the
 New Year to                                   Prime Minister G P Koirala has admitted that he                                                                         fake currencies were produced B P gave them
                                               and his legendary brother B P Koirala were                                                                              to be deposited in a bank to test whether it could
    all our                                    involved in manufacturing fake Indian currency                                                                          be detected. “Within days, the money was
   readers.                                    notes during their days in the political wilder-                                                                        withdrawn without the bank detecting it”, says
                                               ness. Incidentally, the Koirala revelations have                                                                        the Prime Minister.
                                               come on the eve of his brother’s historic return                                                                           G P Koirala also claimed that these were
                                               to Nepal with an appeal for national reconcilia-                                                                        done to feed large number of party workers and

BJP sore
                                               tion - a policy that G P Koirala has dumped – 31                                                                        tide over the financial crisis that the Koirala
                                               years ago.                                                                                                              family was going through in exile. On another
                                                    In his ongoing autographical interview series                                                                      occasion, however, B P had apparently stopped
                                               to Kantipur television recently, Prime Minister                                                                         his highly entrepreneurial younger brother G P
   Delhi’s Nepal                               Koirala said that he had hired experts to
                                               produce counterfeit currency notes when he
                                                                                                                                                                       from getting into a car-smuggling business in
                                                                                                                                                                       Bombay saying “if you get into these mafia
 policy questioned                             was in political exile in India after 1968. He                                                                          activities, they will kill you.” Had the warning not
                                               asserted that all that was done with the consent                                                                        been heard, we would have never heard of
                                               of B P Koirala who was then living in Sarnath.                                                                          Chhota Rajan and Haji Mastan.
                                                  Giving graphic details of the family business,                                                                          The involvement of Nepal’s most illustrious
                                               G P Koirala said he came into contact with                                                                              political dynasty in the forgery business will no
                                               forgery artists in Forebesganj in Bihar’s Purnea                                                                        doubt do much to raise the stature and social
                                               district. Once he was convinced about their                                                                             prestige so often denied to the con artist
                                               expertise to produce indistinguishable fake                 at the residence of Dr Devendra Prasad Singh                fraternity by society in general. The restored
                                               currency notes, he engaged them in the                      in Patna. Dr Singh, a long time friend of B P was           respectability is evidenced in the ease and
                                               business. “BP examined the notes and could not              once the vice chancellor of Bhagalpur University            comfort with which the fraternity in carrying out
                                               distinguish between fake and real ones”, said               and later a member of the Rajya Sabh-Upper                  various forms of abductions, corruptions,
                                               the Prime Minister.                                         House of Indian parliament. This is another of              ransoms and all other forms of income and
                                                   In the revelation, the Prime Minister has also          the shining examples of our people-to-people                employment generation. Al Capone could
                                               claimed that fake currency notes were produced              bonds in Indo-Nepal relationship.                           certainly learn from Nepal.

    As India’s main opposition , the
Bharatiya Janata Party, appeared riding
the crest of an electoral victory in two
                                               TU launches MA Conflict program
states—Gujarat and Himachal                    ä nf correspondent                                                                                                      University, Batticola and Ruhuna University,
Pradesh—appears to be challenging the                                                                                                                                  Matara in Sri Lanka. CPDS Coordinator Dr.
government not only on domestic issues,           Tribhuvan University has recently started a                                                                          Saubhagya Shah said that the goal of the new
but on international policies as well.         new Masters program in Conflict, Peace and                                                                              academic discipline was to produce graduates
    A clear indicator of that came when L      Development Studies (CPDS) program. The 2-                                                                              who can work on the issues of conflict and
K Advani, the person party has                 year, 4-semester program is a multidisciplinary                                                                         peace at the research, policy, and teaching
projected as its Prime Ministerial             program that synthesizes insights from various                                                                          platforms as well as working in humanitarian
candidate for the next general election,       social sciences and humanities for the study of                                                                         crisis, post-conflict reconstruction, peace
questioned Delhi’s dual approach on            contemporary conflicts around the world.                                                                                process, governance, and complex emergen-
Maoist problems in India and Nepal. He         According to the CPDS vision, the goal is to                                                                            cies.
is also believed to have conveyed to           produce a new peace praxis that synthesizes                                                                                One of the key features of the CPDS
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that it          critical social science theory and practioner work                                                                      program is the regular exchange of students
was basically Maoist dictate that was          experiences from the field.                                                                                             and faculty between Norway, Sri Lanka and
shaping Nepal’s political future than the         The new program, whose classes began in                                                                              Nepal to contribute to the exchange of experi-
genuine will of the Nepali people.             September, was formally inaugurated by State                                                                            ences and knowledge between the partner
    Advani’s reported comments come in         Minister for Education and Sports Mohan Singh               could use in society. Dean Prof. Ramesh                     universities. Apart from classes and workshops,
the wake of interim parliament in              Rathore last Thursday. The program currently                Kunwar mentioned the various individuals and                CPDS program depends on extensive
Kathmandu declaring Nepal a Federal            has 38 students. Vice Chancellor of Tribhuvan               agencies whose efforts had made CPDS a                      fieldworks and case studies from across the
Republic with the directive to the yet to be   University Prof. Madhab Prasad Sharma said                  reality.                                                    globe for teaching the students. CPDS has
elected constituent assembly to implement      that the new program was intended to offer                    The CPDS is a joint program between TU,                   received support from Norway’s NOMA
it. Advani’s stance is also being taken as     relevant and timely topics of study that they               University of Life Sciences of Norway, Eastern              program for four years.
his party’s disapproval of the response of
the government of India to the latest
developments in Nepal. Rajnath Singh,
National president of the BJP has publicly
stated in October that the interim
parliament should leave it to the CA to
decide on the issue of monarchy.
    But BJP’ assertion has grown in the
wake of its electoral victory in the states.
The new electoral fortunes in state
elections has created political difficulties
for the Congress led regime at the
centre. Yashwant Sinha, former Foreign
affairs Minister and a senior BJP leader,
said in an interview to Amarujala, a
vernacular daily from Uttar Pradesh that
the recent resolution declaring Nepal a
Federal republic was more of an
outcome of the pressure of the Maoist
party than the true reflection of the will
of Nepali people. In fact, many BJP
leaders are criticising the government
that South Block’s Nepal policy was
dictated more the CPI-M, a reference to
party’s politburo member Sitaram
Yechury’s visible engagement with                 ;'b'/klZrdf~rn                            :ju{åf/L Pkm=Pd= 102.8 MHz                kfNkfM /]l8of] dbgkf]v/f Pkm=Pd= 106.9 MHz   lrtjgM l;ghL{ Pkm=Pd= 91.6 MHz
                                                  s~rgk'/M z'SnfkmfF6 Pkm=Pd= 94.4 MHz      Ko'7fgM /]l8of] df08jL 97 MHz             /]l8of] d'lQmgfy Pkm=Pd= 90.8 MHz            nlntk'/M pHofnf] Pkm=Pd= 90 MHz
Nepal’s politics.                                 aemfªM ;fOkfn Pkm=Pd= 100.6 MHz           klZrdf~rn                                 /]l8of] klZrdf~rn Pkm=Pd= 99.4 MHz           sf7df8f}+M l;6L Pkm=Pd= 98.8 MHz
    Incidentally, Prime Minister Singh had        s}nfnLM 3f]8f3f]8L Pkm=Pd= 100.4 MHz      ndh'Ë M d/:ofËbL Pkm=Pd= 95 MHz           >Lgu/ Pkm=Pd= 93.2 MHz                       k"jf{~rn
                                                  dWo klZrdf~rn                             sf:sLM lxdr'nL Pkm=Pd= 92.2 MHz           afUn'ËM wjnflu/L Pkm=Pd= 98.6 MHz
recently directed to senior officials of 13                                                                                                                                        emfkfM s~rgh+3f Pkm=Pd= 92.6 MHz
                                                  afFs]M e]/L Pkm=Pd= 105.4 MHz             dfR5fk'R5«] Pkm=Pd= 91 MHz                dWodf~rn
                                                                                                                                                                                   ;Kt/ËL Pkm=Pd= 101.6 MHz
states of India which are under grip of           /]l8of] e]/L cfjfh Pkm=Pd= 95.6 MHz       uf]vf{M /]l8of] uf]vf{ Pkm=Pd= 92.8 MHz   wg'iffM /]l8of] hgsk'/ 97 MHz
                                                                                                                                                                                   ;'g;/LM ;Ktsf]zL Pkm=Pd= 90 MHz
                                                  /]l8of] afu]Zj/L Pkm=Pd= 94.6 MHz         gjnk/f;LM ljho Pkm=Pd= 101.6 MHz          k;f{M gf/fof0fL Pkm=Pd= 103.8 MHz
Maoist violence to ‘crush the virus of            ;'v]{tM /]l8of] e]/L Pkm=Pd= 98.6 MHz     ?kGb]xLM n'lDjgL Pkm=Pd= 96.8 MHz         dsjfgk'/M x]6f}8f Pkm=Pd= 96.6 MHz           df]/ËM sf]zL Pkm=Pd= 94.3 MHz
terrorism’ to restore order in the country.       a'Na'n] Pkm=Pd= 103 MHz                   ltgfp Pkm=Pd= 98.2 MHz                    /]l8of] kfn'· 107.2 MHz                      pbok'/M /]l8of] lqo'uf 104 MHz
                                                  bf·M /]l8of] t'N;Lk'/ Pkm=Pd= 100.2 MHz   ?kGb]xL Pkm=Pd= 102 MHz                   k|ltWjgL Pkm=Pd= 97 MHz                      ;f]n'v'Da'M ;f]n' Pkm=Pd=102.2 MHz
                                                                                            News                                                                                         31 Dec, 2007 - 6 Jan, 2008     3

                                                                                   Resignation galore?

 Price hike
                                                                                                      Terai party formed, more MPs to quit
                                                                                   ä nf correspondent

                                                                                      The long awaited Terai
                                                                                   Madhesh Loktantrik Party
                                                                                   (TMLP) came into existence on
                                                                                   December 29 with its founder
                                                                                   President Mahantha Thakur
                                                                                   declaring that the new party
                                                                                   stands for an autonomous
                                                                                   region with the right to self-
                                                                                      He however, said the right to
                                                                                   self determination is in no way a

                                                                                                                          Pix by newsfront
    Good news: petrol pumps have far less number of vehicles queuing               right to secede. “It is a right that
 up for fuel. And bad news: the petrol price has gone up second time in            the oppressed communities will
 less than a month. According to the latest decision of the government,            have to create a separate
 the price of petrol has gone up to Rs.80 from Rs.73 per litre. According          province within a federal set-up’.                        representation system for the              led by Upendra Yadav which
 to the Nepal Oil Corporation, the new hike is to adjust the price of              The party was launched nearly a                           constituent assembly has issued a          many think is a signal of likely
 petroleum products with the prevailing rate in the international market.          fortnight after four parliamentar-                        call to members of parliament              polarisation that might dominate
    An official has said that the price of diesel, kerosene and other fuel         ians along with Thakur quit their                         belonging to various janajati groups       future politics in Terai. While
 also may be increased in the coming days, adding “tut that has to be              parties as well as their parliamen-                       to resign their seats immediately and      TMLP is dominated and led by
 done carefully as it might lead to unrest among the consumers”. But               tary seats.                                               search for an ‘alternative platform’.      the upper castes at the moment,
 whether the supply and distribution of petrol will be smooth in the days             The formation of the new party                         NFIN president Pasang Sherpa said          MJF is emerging more like a
 to come will depend on how promptly the Nepal Oil Corporation pays                comes with clear ominous signs                            on December 30 that the indigenous         platform of intermediary castes.
 back huge arrears to the Indian oil Corporation (IOC).                            for the interim parliament as well                        MPs should resign if the demands              “We are expecting prominent

 Minister chastised
                                                                                   as the government led by G P                              are not met soon. He however, did          leaders like Bijay Gachedar to quit
                                                                                   Koirala . The TMLP leaders have                           not set any deadline for the               the Congress and come to our
                                                                                   already questioned the validity of                        resignation.                               fold along with his supporters any
    Minister for Industries and Civil                                              the current interim parliament                               Pasang’s appeal comes at a time         time”, a TMLP leader said on
 supplies, Shyam Sunder Gupta                                                      and its right to exist and there are                      when more resignation from the Terai       condition of anonymity. As a
 often hogs media headlines for                                                    more resignation expected from                            MPs are expected. The only                 counter move, Prime Minister G P
 wrong reasons. He is no                                                           Terai MPs.                                                parliamentarian from Terai to quit         Koirala has been luring Gachedar
 exception this time around as well.                                                  In a parallel move, the                                after Mahantha Thakur is Jaya              and some other prominent Terai
 On December 29, parliamentary                                                     National Federation of Indig-                             Prakash Gupta. But to the disappoint-      leaders that they will be inducted
 committee on State affairs                                                        enous Nationalities (NFIN) which                          ment of the MTLP , he joined the           in the council of ministers very
 chastised the Minister for ignoring                                               is still demanding proportional                           Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (MJF)            soon.
 the committee’s summon to

 appear before it on the petroleum
 price hike issue. “It’s unacceptable
 that a Minister ignores the
 committee’s summon”, said
 Mahendra Pandey, chief of the
    The committee has informed                                                                           Verification raises more questions
 the Prime Minister as well as the
 Speaker about the Minister’s defiance. Gupta faces charges of                 ä nf correspondent
 abduction, torture and wrongful confinement of his political rivals, mainly
 the ones who broke away from Nepal Sadbhavana party (NSP)                        The recently concluded verification
 recently.                                                                     of Maoist combatants has raised

 Durgesh in Delhi
                                                                               fresh questions about management
                                                                               of the Maoist arms and armies as
                                                                               more than 8,640 ‘combatants’
    Durgeshman Singh is being tipped as Nepal’s ambassador to Delhi.           skipped the process and their
 He will be replacing Shailaja Acharya whose appointment was                   whereabouts are not known..
 cancelled by the cabinet recently on ‘health grounds’.                           The final report made public by Ian
    Although Shitwalniwas sources said they have no information about          Martin, Chief of the United Nations
 Singh’s likely appointment, a senior cabinet minister told Newsfront that     Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) recently
 Singh was acceptable both to both the Prime Minister and Foreign              revealed that a total of nearly one
 Minister Sahana Pradhan.                                                      third of those registered with the UN
    Singh, an economist, has earlier served as member of the Planning          were found not qualified as combat-
 Commission . He was also Nepal’s ambassador to the European Union             ants. Altogether 19,602 out of 32,240
 in the 90s.                                                                   registered were qualified as ‘combat-
 Diplomatic snub?                                                              ants’ on final verification. UNMIN chief
                                                                               admitted he had no information about
    The G P Koirala government                                                 those who deserted the camps after                            important questions about the              monitoring the supervision of arms and
 feels a bit embarrassed that three                                            their registration.                                           reliability of the UNMIN process itself.   armies of both sides. It must gather
 of the ambassadors proposed by                                                   The report said altogether 2971                            The large scale desertion naturally        information and assure the govern-
 the government may not be                                                     were found to be child soldiers while                         brings into question the reliability of    ment that its job is done thoroughly”,
 acceptable to the host countries.                                             another 4008 were found recruited                             the verification process was. In           Sources in the Prime Minister’s office
    France refused to accept                                                   after May 25, 2006, the day peace                             response to a question ( during the        told Newsfront , adding “the Prime
 Maoist leader Pampha Bhushal                                                  process had begun and were being                              release of the report) by a media          Minister is going to take up the issue
 while Australia turned down                                                   disqualified on that ground.                                  person over the direct link between        both with Maoist leaders and the
 Yogendra Dhakal’s nomination.                                                    Martin’s way of making details of                          the disappearance of the combatants        UNMIN.”
 Dhakal , a nominee of the Maoist                                              the reports public through a press                            and the activity of the Young                 In fact, Martin has already acknowl-
 party, is supposed to have                                                    conference also drew an angry                                 Communist League (YCL) , Martin            edged that he had no information
 overstayed in the United States as                                            response from the Maoists question-                           said the fundamental commitment            about how many of the deserters were
 an illegal immigrant. Similarly,                                              ing his right to go that way. The                             was to keep the People’s Liberation        in the YCL . He said, “- frankly, we
 Hameed Ansari, a nominee of the                                               report that confirms sizeable                                 Army (PLA) out of the constituent          have a little information as to where
 UML, has not been accepted by                                                 presence of the child soldiers in the                         assembly election. He hoped that that      those people are at the moment.
 Saudi Arabia. “Now that the                                                   Maoist army on one hand, and                                  the Maoist army would maintain full        Certainly some of the child protection
 agreemo have not come for more                                                confirmation of mass scale defiance                           discipline over those in the canton-       agencies have come across some of
 than three months, we can assume that they are not acceptable to the          and desertion by more than 8,000                              ments as their future is under             them back in their own communities. It
 host countries’, Foreign Ministry sources said.                               people is another issue that the party                        discussion.                                may indeed be that some are now
    In the meantime, Bhushal , a prominent Maoist leader, has been             may not feel comfortable about.                                  But the government is more worried      active in the YCL in their own
 inducted as a cabinet-rank minister in the council of Ministers.                 On the other hand, the process of                          about the status of the disappeared        communities or elsewhere. But we
                                                                               verification also raises some                                 combatants. “UNMIN is responsible for      simply don’t have that information”.
4         31 Dec, 2007- 6 Jan, 2008                                                                                       Editorial

Editor & Publisher : Yubaraj Ghimire
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                                   Point to Ponder
    Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not
    sure about the universe.                           - Albert Einstein

    Price of Democracy
       World community has condemned Benazir’s Bhutto’s assassination
    in one voice—that it was an act of cowardice. But it is also a major
    victory for all those who practice the politics and religion of hatred,
    fanaticism and intolerance. While it is yet to be verified independently,
    al-Qaeda with its base in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility for
    Benazir’s killing. For al Qaeda, she was the most hated enemy as ‘she
    was America’s most precious asset out to defeat the Islamic militants.
    And the other reason that her killers did not mention is so open —that                               Now-here to every-where
    they would never want a woman to lead Pakistan.
       Bhutto’s assassination has now made the election process, and                                                 ä Vinaya Prasad Adhikary        forms
    Pakistan’s return to democracy totally uncertain. From Nawaj Sharif                                                                              shapeless
    to Imran Khan, Pro-democracy leaders have withdrawn from the                                         When clouds gather in the sky and           shapes,
    electoral process as the event triggered series of riots and clashes in                              dissolve in the sky,                        beginning
    parts of Pakistan. Bhutto who had just been back from nearly eight                                   When water bubbles in oceans and            endless
    years in exile was not only seeking to lead Pakistan government, she                                 dissolve in the oceans,                     extensions
    was also looking for a larger endorsement of the people for her fight                                                                            what a
    against militancy and religious fundamentalism. And she was right in                                 When thoughts manifest from no-where        dimension,
    her calculation that the state could defeat religious fundamentalists                                and vanish in                               without any dimensions.
    only with the support of the people.                                                                 the same no-where
       But this event has a wider implication beyond Pakistan’s border as                                                                            When my eyes blink,
    well. The world community’s anguish and unequivocal condemna-                                        Then,                                       and the lungs breathe,
    tion of the murder shows it is aware of such an implication. While it is                              I see the no-where in its naked form,      When my ears listen
    Pakistan government’s responsibility to bring those involved in the                                   I see no-where now-here,                   and mouth waters,
    murder to justice, world community’s responsibility lies in defeating                                I see now-here every-where.
    ‘terrorism’ in any form and manifestation any where. In fact, it would                                                                           I see the no-where now- here,
    be dangerous for any one to treat terrorists as ‘short-term’ ally even                               When I drink a cup of tea,                     I see the no-where now- here.             Free the judiciary
    for a limited time and purpose. That will only grant them a platform                                 When I drink just a cup of tea,                                                             Your editorial ‘Judicial emasculation’
    and opportunity to grow. Great powers must desist from the short-                                    I can see the taste of tea.                 When there is birth,                         was very appropriate and timely. The
    term conveniences of one country’s terrorist is another country’s                                                                                They say a child is born.                    supreme court is no more an apex
    freedom fighter’ calculations.                                                                       When I see birds chirping in the            When there is birth,                         representative of the judiciary, and it is
       Any politics that preaches intolerance, hatred and execution of the                                                                           I say a mother is born.                      only increasingly becoming the extended
    ‘enemies’ needs to be dealt with collectively by those believing in                                                                                                                           organ under the executive. Judiciary’s
                                                                                                         I can smell the melodious sounds,
    democracy. Perhaps, President Musharraf has come to realise that                                                                                 When they see a death,                       independence was subverted com-
                                                                                                          When I see the blue ridge mountains,
    state alone could not defeat the forces of terrorism. His facilitating                                                                           They say now the poor is finished.           pletely the day Kedar Prasad Giri was
                                                                                                          I taste some deep resounds.
    the return of Benzir Bhutto and Nawaj Sharif from exile had                                                                                      When there is a death,                       nominated as the Chief Justice by the
    apparently been influenced partly by his own belated realisation. and                                                                            I say, now here it begins.                   Prime Minister after the parliamentary
                                                                                                         When I climb the mountain,
    partly by the compulsion of the emerging domestic politics.                                                                                                                                   hearing had failed to endorse him. Giri is
       But far greater challenges are ahead for president Musharraf                                      The mountain vanishes,
                                                                                                         When the mountain vanishes,                 When I see no-where,                         more like Koirala’s chief justice now, as
    and pro-democracy leaders in Pakistan now. People’s anger and                                                                                    I see everywhere,                            his appointment is much against the
    anguish over the tragedy have taken the form of riots in parts of                                    stones, soils, pebble
                                                                                                         and trees emerge.                           When I see everywhere,                       provision of the constitution. But as your
    the country. A further deterioration in the law and order will only                                                                              It is simply now-here.                       editorial rightly points out, this judiciary
    make fertile ground for the forces of authoritarianism to grow. In                                                                                                                            can not go against the government on
    the meantime, government’s failure to contain militancy will make                                    When I further climb,
                                                                                                         I kiss the sky high,                        Then,                                        crucial cases for the simple reason that
    Pakistan and the region under increased presence and interfer-
                                                                                                         When sky meets sky,                                                                      we have an Executive’s or the Prime
    ence from international community.
                                                                                                         then it is a great fly.                     I see the no-where in its own form,          Minister’s representative as the Chief
       A consensus among the pro-democratic forces on how to face
                                                                                                                                                      I see no-where now-here,                    Justice. his first loyalty will be for the
    the immediate crisis and ensure Pakistan’s smooth transition to
                                                                                                         When I smell a flower,                      I see now-here every where.                  Prime Minister, and not for the constitu-
    democracy are the best way to move ahead. Ultimately, that will
                                                                                                         Smell flowers me.                           I see every-where no-where                   tion.
    perhaps be the most appropriate homage to Benazir Bhutto who
    sacrificed her life for democracy in Pakistan.                                                       When I write a poem                                                                                           ä Ramesh Thapaliya
                                                                                                         writing poems me.                           Every where!!!                                                                Bishal Nagar

                                                                                                         Spiritual                     Corner
       Transformed from scholar to                                           from the time giving details of Chaitanya’s life,         apparent attraction to the chanting and             stunned at his external sudden change of heart
                                                                             the most prominent ones being the Chaitanya               singing of Krishna’s names from a very              (from scholar to devotee) and soon Chaitanya
       devotee                                                               Charitamrita of Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami              young age, but largely this was perceived           became the eminent leader of their Vaishnava
          Chaitanya Charitamrita (1486 - 1533)                               and the earlier Chaitanya Bhagavata of                    as being secondary to his interest in               group within Nadiya.
       was a Vaishnava monk and social reformer in                           Vrindavana Dasa Thakura and the Chaitanya                 acquiring knowledge and studying Sanskrit.             After leaving Bengal and receiving entrance
       16th century Bengal and Orissa in India.                              Mangala, written by Lochana Dasa Thakura.                    When traveling to Gaya, Chaitanya met            into the Sannyasa order by Keshava Bharati,
       Chaitanya was a notable proponent for the                                In his youth,                                                               his guru, the ascetic          Chaitanya journeyed throughout the length
       Vaishnava school of Bhakti yoga based on the                          Chaitanya was                                                                  Ishvara Puri, from whom        and breadth of India for several years. He
       philosophy of the Bhagavata Purana and                                primarily known as                                                             he received initiation         spent the last 24 years of his life in Puri,
       Bhagavad Gita. Specifically he worshipped the                         an erudite scholar,                                                            with the Gopala Krishna        Orissa, the temple city of Jagannath. The King
       forms of Radha and Krishna and popularised                            whose learning                                                                 mantra. This meeting           of Orissa, Maharaja Prataparudra, regarded
       the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra. His                          and skills in                                                                  was to mark a                  him as Krishna incarnate and was an
       line of followers, known as Gaudiya                                   argumentation in                                                               significant change in          enthusiastic patron and devotee of
       Vaishnavas, revere him as an avatar of                                his locality were                                                              Mahaprabhu’s outlook           Chaitanya’s Sankirtan party. It was during
       Krishna in the mood of Radharani who was                              second to none. A                                                              and upon his return to         these years that Chaitanya is believed by his
       prophesised to appear in the later verses of                          number of stories                                                              Bengal the local               followers to have sank deep into various
       the Bhagavata Purana.                                                 also exist telling of                                                          Vaishnavas, headed by          meditational trances (Samadhi) and divine
          There are numerous biographies available                           Chaitanya’s                                                                    Advaita Acharya, were          ecstasy (Bhakti).
                                                             Debating Development                                                                          31 Dec, 2007-6 Jan, 2008         5

                        Buddha, Jung Bahadur
                        and Prachanda
                        It seems Prachanda is quite fasci-
                        nated by Lord Buddha. He has
                        invoked Buddha's name several times
                        publicly. The first was when he
                        surfaced at Prime Minister's resi-
                        dence in Baluwatar on June 2006
   ä Yubraj Ghimire     signaling the end of his more than
                        two-decade long underground
                        political life.

                           Recently, he predicted the birth of
                        either Buddha or Jung Bahadur to
                        steer the country out of the current
                        crisis. And on December 29, a day
                        after parliament finally succumbed to
                        his party's diktat to declare Nepal a
                        'Republic state' leaving it to the future
                        constituent assembly to implement it,
                        Prachanda dwelt on the matter in
                        further details.

                           In an interview given to
                        Shuvshankar Kandel of Sagarmatha
                        Television, the Maoist supremo just
                        stopped short of admitting that he
                        indeed was Jung Bahadur in the
                        offing. Surprisingly, his dream to be
                        the 21st century Jung Bahadur came
                        less than a week after he signed a
                        fresh 23-point pact with the govern-
                        ment, with renewed pledge to go to
                        the polls for the constituent assembly
                        by Mid April. But the latest Prachanda
                        utterances go against both the spirit
                        of peace agreement and democracy.
                        Prachanda appears to be condition-
                        ing the public that the Maoists prefer
                        to seize power
                           'peacefully.' But should that option
                        fail, Prachanda will be compelled to        state powers without bloodshed, and         masters without facing the polls for       Maoists have become the core part of
                        exercise plan B --that is to follow what    of course, without facing the               the past 18 months.                        the new state, it will be much easier
                        Jung Bahadur did in 1846. But no            electorate. Unfortunately, G P Koirala                                                 for the party to choose the timing of
                        matter how the Maoists seize power          has already lost the moral high                 Prachanda's present calculation is     Kotparva, or the revolution from
                        – through peace or violence -               ground to question Prachanda's              simple. If G P Koirala can rule in this    within as in the classic Bolshevik
                        democracy and the democratic                interpretation of Buddhism in the           fashion, why can’t he ? In fact, he has    October insurrection. History appears
                        process will be the casualty.               current context. In the past 18             been successful in creating condition      all set to repeat itself in Nepal.
                                                                    months of the controversial peace           for the birth of Jung Bahadur. Koirala
                           A parliament led by G P Koirala          process and government, Prachanda           is just a 'dummy' in that exercise.           In that historical reenactment,
                        and chaired by Subhash Nembwang             has skillfully undercut G P Koirala of      Jung Bahadur massacred all his             Koirala can only imitate hapless
                        has already proved that Prachanda's         his historical standing and political       potential rivals in a coup in 1846—        Mathbar Singh Thapa who was a
                        bandwagon is gaining momentum by            stature which he had attained               recorded as                                necessary stepping stone to Jung
                        the day. But Prachanda's understand-        immediately after janaandolan II.               Kotparva— and established the          Bahadur’s rise. What will happen to
                        ing of Buddha’ way and philosophy is        Things have now come to such a              Rana dynasty that ruled the country        Nepal's peace process if things move
     G P dumped his     not only limited, but distorted as well.    sorry pass that how long Koirala            for 104 years. Pracahnda is now trying     in the direction that Prachanda has
                        For Buddha, his journey and mission         hangs on to his position depends on         to convince and cajole the other left      predicted? Nepali citizens have more
visionary brother B     began with detachment from                  the terms set by Prachanda.                 parties, especially UML’s Madhav           or less abdicated their democratic
   P Koirala's policy   everything he had – kingdom, power                                                      Kumar Nepal, that it is possible for the   duties in allowing a regime of
                        and privileges. He stood for truth,            G P dumped his visionary brother B       communists to rule this country for the    questionable legitimacy to play havoc
  of national recon-    respect for human life and dignity,         P Koirala's policy of national reconcili-   next 150 years once all pro-democracy      with the judicial independence,
ciliation to appease    love, compassion and crusade                ation to appease Prachanda and              forces are annihilated. The clear          parliamentary supremacy, and
      Prachanda and     against injustice and inequality—all        continue in power. He has assumed           message here being that the left           constitutional rule.
                        through non-violence. Kindness and          the power of a dictator with no             should not care much for the election
 continue in power.     forgiveness together constituted his        accountability to parliament--a role        to get into power, there are other            Such an authoritarian trend is still
      Now He has as-    philosophy and way of life.                 that Prachanda hopes to snatch any          more efficient methods available.          fraught with other dangerous
                                                                    time now. Koirala has given a mortal                                                   consequences: a possible revolt and
   sumed the power        Prachanda path is just the reverse.       blow to the independence of judiciary         Then what is the 23-point                defiance by the organs of the state,
   of a dictator with   He is driven by the lust for everything     and reduced the parliament to a             agreement all about? The 23-point          and a total non-recognition of the
   no accountability    that does not belong to him legiti-         rubber stamp. Like any communist            agreement was authored for two             regime by the international commu-
                        mately. He has neither forgiven any         state apparatus, the Speaker of the         main purposes in mind. First, it dilutes   nity which is already annoyed at the
     to parliament--a   one, nor even dared to repent for           House Subash Nembwang presides              the Comprehensive Peace Agree-             government's failure to hold elections,
role that Prachanda     heinous crimes like Madi massacre           over a parliament without an                ment (CPA). Secondly, it establishes       twice on deadline. These are grave
                        that his party committed. It seems his      opposition to the government. Worse,        the centrality and indispensability of     challenges which the current
     hopes to snatch    understanding of Buddhism only              Koirala has been (mis)ruling the            the Maoists in interim constitution and    dispensation does not seem to have
       any time now.    means a convenient way of capturing         country on behest of the Maoist             the current political system. Once the     appreciated. ä
6      31 Dec, 2007- 6 Jan, 2008                                                                                                                                                                      Enviro

   ICIMOD has both mandate
     and capability to work for
 improvement of living condi-
tions of mountain people and
    environment in the region.

                               ä Tone Bleie                                                                THE LEAD

Lessons from Himalayan                               from increasingly uninhabitable mid-hills, and
degradation                                          also tens of millions of people desperately
                                                     escaping the lowest-lying fertile plain lands due
    The Hindu-Kush Himalaya (HKH) continues          to increasing sea levels and contaminated fresh-
to inspire religious devotion, conquest, and         water sources. The repercussions for human
share wonder about its biodiversity riches for the   wellbeing, regional security, and for the current
region and for humanity. Often, the global           landscape of state-borders would be unprec-
community and national governments have              edented.
given less attention to the lives of the mountain
region’s own people. Many millions of working           In this atmosphere of alarm over the current,
children strive to combine their disparate family    medium and long-term consequences of global
obligations. Several hundred thousands migrant       warming, many could say there is a need for
youth in the Middle East and South East Asia         non-political knowledge institutions that do not
have escaped conflicts and unemployment, and         succumb to panic and gross exaggerations, as
earn remittances which are critical for those left   was to some degree the case during the 1980’s
back home. There are innovative female and           debate on Himalayan degradation. In other
male mountain farmers, industrious long-             words, we are in need of institutions that collect,
distance traders and renowned faith healers          analyse and disseminate unbiased scientific
who with little or no external assistance,           evidence of micro-meso-macro-level trends.
contribute to community wellbeing and prosper-       These can inform and facilitate comprehensive
ity.                                                 regional cooperation in key areas of scientific
    The region harbours a growing urban              information sharing, policymaking, capacity
population living in increasingly congested,         building and the scaling-up and scaling-down of
polluted and crime-infested hill and foot-hill       concrete action initatives, which help users to
towns. Their inhabitants may score higher than       adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. One
national averages on income and educational          may ask, does the region have such institutions?
indicators, but they depend on very poor
services from for example water authorities and         The good news is that there is indeed an
police. Often both popular media and the             institution who is about to respond to the            decorated outdoor pavilions and China with the          The region harbours
scientific community have picked up overtly          demands from premier institutions in the              impressive heritage-inspired reception area. Is
                                                     member countries and to the renewed interest          this symbolic demonstration of regional pooling,
                                                                                                                                                                   a growing urban
stereotypic meta-narratives about mountain
peoples. Often they have been depicted as            of intentional agencies in the HKH-mountains.         backed by a more active use of and larger               population living in
environmental culprits. As for example, in the                                                             financial commitments to ICIMOD? Indeed, the            increasingly con-
increasingly discredited Theory of Himalayan         An ambitious mandate                                  recently concluded meeting of the Board of
                                                                                                                                                                   gested, polluted and
Environmental Degradation, the Nepalese hill             The International Centre for Mountain             Governors is indicative of an emerging trend of
farmers’ use of fodder and fuel wood collection      Research and Development (ICIMOD) is a                the regional members’ countries greater interest        crime-infested hill
was seen as the main cause for flooding and          regional institution with a mandate of contribut-     for investing in ICIMOD.                                and foot-hill towns.
devastation in Bangladesh. Or hill farmers and       ing to improved living conditions of mountain
high-mountain pastoralists were depicted as          peoples and environment in the eight member              Earlier on there has been a mismatch
helpless victims of nature’s wrath or of plain       countries; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan,           between the overall high expectations in terms
policies - utterly insensitive to the realities of   China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan.           of impact and actual results. The Centre’s
mountain living.                                     Since its foundation in 1983, ICIMOD’s regional       multiple users - including national research         countries - have from their different vantage
                                                     headquarter has been located in Nepal. In             institutions, the international research commu-      points expressed responses varying from
   Now there is a new alarm, the “meltdown” of       2005 ICIMOD moved into its own new head-              nity, the civil society, community-based and user-   tempered appreciation to rather harsh disap-
the glaciers will create destructive floods, later   quarters. The regional member countries have          federations, and donors - in recent years            pointments over heavy-handed technical
on the rivers and groundwater sources will dry       all contributed. As for example, the host country     principally Switzerland, Austria, Germany,           orientation, ICIMOD’s attention to leading
out. In our worst nightmarish scenarios of           Nepal donated land; Bangladesh and Bhutan             Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands, all             national institutions’ mountain-focused work and
climate change we imagine involuntary migration      have contributed with two exquisitely carved and      except the two latter, themselves mountainous        to diplomatically touchy issues, of also regional
onment                                                                                                                                                                       31 Dec, 2007- 6 Jan, 2008             7
  and international importance. Sharing of            consultations were coordinated through the            member countries must be parties to, most              between earlier amiable local communities and
  scientific data for transboundary cooperation       recently established country offices.                 notably the growth engines China and India. If         between central governments-states and a
  and the linkages between social inequities such                                                           such a global compact fails to be established          proliferation of armed non-state actors.
  as ethnic conflict, poverty and environmental          The new programme is planned to be                 and astutely implemented, the interdependent
  stress, are among these issues.                     implemented in much closer collaboration with         global and regional climate systems will affect           ICIMOD as a non-political body would not
                                                      national nodal research institutions, local and       living conditions of both upstream and down-           touch upon these highly sensitive unresolved
     These external critiques from various national   central governments, and civil society                stream populations in adverse ways we have yet         refugee issues. Yet, ICIMOD’s partner-based
  and international stakeholders have often, but      organisations than has hidherto been the              to fully comprehend and design scenarios for.          programmes operating in Chittagong Hill Tracts
  not always, been rather well-founded. The           practice. There are signs that ICIMOD is coming                                                              of Bangladesh and in some of India’s North-
  critiques have for a variety of reasons, not the    to age as regional convenor where critical issues        The disappointingly limited tangible results of     Eastern states, have an important role to play,
  least purely financial viability, been taken        such as landscape protection and water                regional cooperation be it through ICIMOD or           by addressing rights to livelihood, access and
  increasingly seriously by ICIMOD’s own              management, are placed within a broader               SAARC, are to a very large degree the result of        benefit sharing for shifting cultivators and other
  governing bodies and management. In fact, the       framework for regional cooperation that realises      troubled bilateral relations. These are a              small-scale farmers in mountain communities
  recently concluded meeting of the Board of          ICIMOD’s Mission. This mission also compli-           considerable degree related to the fateful             marred by militarization and intense political and
  Governors in Dhulikhel (Nepal), does provide        ments SAARC Vision Beyond 2000. ICIMOD                Partition in 1947, and to subsequent contested         resource competition.
  decisions on strategic redirection which are        will have to show diplomatic finesse, while           nation-building projects built on homogenising
                                                                                                                                                                       As if the above frame-conditions do not pose
                                                                                                                                                                   enough challenges for strengthened regional
                                                                                                                                                                   cooperation, bilateral relations are marked by
                                                                                                                                                                   longstanding territorial disputes, contested
                                                                                                                                                                   treaties and not the least, stalled negotiations
                                                                                                                                                                   over major water management schemes. I will
                                                                                                                                                                   here confine my comments to this last issue, as
                                                                                                                                                                   it is sought to be addressed in one of ICIMOD’s
                                                                                                                                                                   new strategic trusts in a double sense, as
                                                                                                                                                                   hazard management and co-management of
                                                                                                                                                                   water resources as services. Pro-active
                                                                                                                                                                   facilitation of multilateral cooperation for sharing
                                                                                                                                                                   of the headwaters of the Brahmaputra in the
                                                                                                                                                                   eastern Tibetan plateau (which flows through
                                                                                                                                                                   Assam Valley and into Bangladesh where it
                                                                                                                                                                   merges with the Ganges) emerges as a
                                                                                                                                                                   formidable challenge due to escalating competi-
                                                                                                                                                                   tion over the precious high-plateau waters for
                                                                                                                                                                   economic modernisation in China as upstream
                                                                                                                                                                   country and India and Bangladesh as lower-
                                                                                                                                                                   riparian countries.

                                                                                                                                                                   A future for mountain and
                                                                                                                                                                      The Nobel Laureate, the Intergovernmental
                                                                                                                                                                   Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) recently
                                                                                                                                                                   launched their fourth assessment report, which
                                                                                                                                                                   contained strikingly sparse data on the impacts
                                                                                                                                                                   of climate change in the Hindu-Kush Himalayas.
                                                                                                                                                                   The is a growing consensus that Himalayan
                                                                                                                                                                   glaciers are thinning and receding, melting will
                                                                                                                                                                   lead to increased glacial lake outburst foods and
                                                                                                                                                                   changes in melt water, all of which will affect
                                                                                                                                                                   ecosystem services, and the livelihoods of 150
                                                                                                                                                                   million of mountain dwellers and the 1.3 billion of
                                                                                                                                                                   plain peoples downstream. How fast and
                                                                                                                                                                   uniform are these changes and what are the
                                                                                                                                                                   most likely scenarios for the future generation?
                                                                                                                                                                      Will climate change provide new opportunities
                                                                                                                                                                   for agriculture and increasing yields in high
                                                                                                                                                                   plateau areas? What are the hydrological effects
                                                                                                                                                                   of climate change? How are ecosystems and
                                                                                                                                                                   human wellbeing already being affected and
                                                                                                                                                                   what are theirs’ and societies’ adaptive capacity
                                                                                                                                                                   for increasing water shortages, floods, other
                                                                                                                                                                   hazards, new pests, biodiversity losses, changed
                                                                                                                                                                   food-chains, erosion of cultural knowledge and
                                                                                                                                                                   conflict resolution mechanisms for averting and
                                                                                                                                                                   solving resource conflicts?

                                                                                                                                                                      ICIMOD is currently preparing, in collabora-
                                                                                                                                                                   tion with partners in and outside the region, to
                                                                                                                                                                   play a key role in identifying and filling regional
                                                                                                                                                                   knowledge gaps and scaling-up and down good
                                                                                                                                                                   practices that may become vital for the regional
                                                                                                                                                                   governments’ ability to formulate regional and
  encouraging for the following reasons:              undertaking regular consultations and facilitation    forms of nationalism, prestigious mega-projects
                                                                                                                                                                   national policies ad action initiatives. Both in the
                                                      with key national stakeholders of upstream and        claimed to spur national development, state
                                                                                                                                                                   area of climate change and in the other
     The three strategic thrusts on (1) adaptation    downstream riparian countries if they are to          discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity,
                                                                                                                                                                   prioritised areas, the recently established
  to environmental change and sustaining eco-         prefer multilateral transboundary solutions that      caste, religion and region, combined with weak
                                                                                                                                                                   Himalayan University Consortium with their
  system services, (2) integrated water and           are bold, innovative and accommodating to all         legal protection of de facto second-class citizens
  hazard management and (3) sustainable               the stakeholders to of this vast and underdevel-      and even more so of those who have been                good records of knowledge production and
  livelihoods and poverty reduction, are critically   oped region.                                          considered as illegal immigrants. These                networking, customising of knowledge, and
  interconnected. For the first time has the Centre                                                         reinforcing processes have unlashed a number           mountain-focus in policy advocacy can play a
                                                                                                                                                                   significant role. That is to say, if what the third
  through good use of its recently established        Global commitments and                                of massive involuntary migration movements
                                                                                                                                                                   sector (the civil society) have argued for quite
  matrix-oriented programme organization,                                                                   over porous national borders, some of which
  managed to integrate in a quite trustworthy
                                                      bilateral relations                                   has resulted in longstanding refugee problems          some time - that social justice, environmental
                                                         ICIMOD’s mission of facilitating equitable and                                                            management and sustainable livelihoods have to
  manner, the cross-cutting dimensions of                                                                   like the Tibetan diasporas in Nepal, India and
  governance, social and gender equity, human         sustainable well-being for women, men and             elsewhere, the Lhotsampas in eastern Nepal             become mutually supportive – is clearly and
  resource development and knowledge manage-          children in the high mountains, mid-hills and         and the Biharis in Bangladesh. The involuntary         consistently articulated in ICIMOD’s regional
  ment. These dimensions have often been found        foot-hills of Hindu-Kush Himalaya through             migration has also led to dramatically altered         initiatives and in government departments’
  wanting in the earlier rather sector-oriented       regional cooperation, hinges critically on that the   demographic composition, political contestations       policies and plans.
  programmes. It is also encouraging that these       follow-up of the Bali Conference leads to a very      over cultural, political and civil rights, and often        (Tone Bleie is a Professor of Public Planning
  trusts have been developed through stakeholder      ambitious international environmental agree-          “ethnification” of resource and political conflicts    and Cultural Understanding, University of
  consultation in the member countries. In the        ment, to which not only the currently worst           which reinforce poverty, environmental                 Tromsø, Norway and outgoing Independent
  case of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the        Western culprits, but also ICIMOD’s own               degradation and multi-scale violent conflicts          Member of the Governing Board of ICIMOD)
8     31 Dec, 2007-6 Jan, 2008                                                                   Opinion

Terai party's
challenge and
   It was an outcome of combina-                                                    his eligibility to head the New party.
tion of various factors that have
given birth to a new Political party                                                   Terai was headed towards an
in Terai. Apart from its negligence                                                 unprecedented political vacuum
by the state, treating it more like                                                 ever since the peace process
an internal 'colony', its own                                                       begun. Koirala’s henchman Home
                                                     ä Manoj Dahal
leaders have betrayed it on                                                         Minister was instrumental in
occasions in the past. Terai does           The formation of the Madhesh-           creating a situation in which
not have much hope and faith in          Terai Loktantrik in the aftermath of the   Maoists and popular Terai forces
the present leadership and the           23-point agreement shows Terai             frequently clashed . As a result,
government to provide a new              leaders are not convinced by the           Maoists were forced to vacate most
direction and hope either.               claims being made by the ruling            areas in Terai, but national level
                                         alliance in Kathmandu. In the past,        political parties failed to show their
   The fact that Prime Minister G P      Terai leaders terminated their             presence in the area. As a result,
Koirala takes latest developments        movement for two goals - being co-         more and more armed groups came
in Terai solely as India's con-          opted into Kathmandu's ruling circle,      into existence for Terai's rightful
spiracy to weaken Nepal and his          and being recognised by Delhi as           share. But they could not take            Mahantha Thakur

own leadership only proves his           Terai leaders.                             shape of political parties. Koirala
myopic vision. Koirala’s agreeing                                                   not only chose not to give larger
to sign the 23-point agreement with         Going against this Terai political      role to the likes of Thakur to keep
the Maoists and his complete             tradition, Mahantha Thakur has taken       Terai connected with Kathmandu,          as a senior leader and a minister in      regional states. That also saw the
reversal of position on the issue of     a new direction. He got out of             but deliberately chose to have him       Kathmandu in the past, has been on        beginning of a process that
monarchy just within a span of six       Kathmandu's power centre to lead           work under diktat of the likes of        the side of Kathmandu when                encouraged inclusion of more
weeks shows how scared he is of          Terai's cause. He stated that it was       Sitaula. The other person used by        Gajendra Narayan Singh and his            regional and state parties in the
that 'conspiracy'. In the special        not at somebody's behest, but for the      Koirala to deal with the Terai issue     likes represented Terai aspiration.       political alliance governing Delhi.
session of parliament in Novem-          love for his soil that he was forming a    was Ram Chandra Poudel, another          Similarly, the new political outfit and   But political parties there have not
ber, Koirala's Nepali Congress           new party. He snapped his more than        hill Brahmin, equally despised in        its leadership also need to be aware      gone to the extent of demanding
Party's stand was clear--'we are in      four-decade long association with the      the Terai.                               that creation of a separate state is      local autonomy with the right for self
favour of Nepal going republic, but      Nepali Congress, quit the ministerial                                               not panacea for all problems and          determination.
that decision should be taken by         post and Parliament position to earn          Yet, the formation of the new party   disparities. There could be more             This is where the Nepali leaders
the CA'. The reversal of that stand                                                 is just a step towards correcting the    demands for smaller states from           including the newly formed MTLP
comes in the wake of Koirala's                                                      historic mistakes. Any aberration in     within on the same ground which           needs not only to be careful, but
latest perception that the South is
                                            India, despite a                        its conduct, however, might lead to      Mahanth Thakur has raised while           also lead the rest of regional and
out to get at him, and as a counter,        federal set-up of                       serious accidents. Terai is a unit of    forming the new party.                    other groups that have been left out
he must not lose Maoists.                   the government                          the proposed Federal Nepal with its                                                from the power groups in the past. A
                                                                                    own challenges and pitfalls. Some           India, despite a federal set-up all    stable and united Nepal alone would
   Unfortunately for the country and        all these de-                           of them might be common to other         these decades, has faced social           be in the best interest of the country,
the Terai, the three major parties          cades, has faced                        groups in the hills and mid-hills,       and political movements, some-            and the way to address regional and
are now asserting that the Terai                                                    while some could be fundamentally        times with demands for cessation.         other aspiration can not be found in
issue has been addressed with the
                                            social and politi-                      different. Secondly the new Terai        But with the authority of the centre      isolation. Only a comprehensive
23-point agreement signed. This is          cal movements,                          could reproducing the historical         intact, it has been able to diffuse the   package through an institutionalised
likely to be a costly misconception         sometimes with                          injustices if the minorities and         situation. North east India still faces   mechanism will do the magic. The
to hold for the ruling parties to hold                                              socio-economically backward              these challenges. The decade of the       seven party alliance has shown any
at this point.                              demands for                             groups within Teari as well if they      90s saw a shift in India's policy to      will or ability to lead Nepal in that
                                            cessation.                              continue to be marginalized. Thakur,     strong centre and empowered               direction. ä
                                                                                           From the region                                                                      31 Dec, 2007-6 Jan, 2008         9

          Who killed Benazir?
   The unusual press conference by           potential impact on the future of
interior ministry spokesman Brigadier
(retired) Javed Iqbal Cheema on the
                                             Pakistan, that the truth must be
                                             uncovered. The fact that almost all                                                                                                  Bhutto’s
                                                                                                                                                                                  son to lead
death of Benazir Bhutto has created          the past political assassinations and
a controversy that threatens to linger       unusual deaths in PakistanÕs history
on for weeks, perhaps even months            — including those of Liaquat Ali Khan,
and years. Cheema, releasing the             Hayat Ahmed Sherpao, General Ziaul                                                                                                      As Pakistan remains in
transcript of a conversation that            Haq, Murtaza Bhutto and Omar                                                                                                         mourning and in crisis following
allegedly took place between South           Asghar Khan — remain shrouded in                                                                                                     the assassination of opposition
Waziristan Taliban commander                 mystery provides little assurance that                                                                                               leader Benazir Bhutto, CBS
Baitullah Mehsud, and an associate,          questions surrounding this killing will                                                                                              has learned that the Bhutto
has stated that the militant leader was      be satisfactorily answered. Only an                                                                                                  dynasty will continue for another
behind the assassination.                    inquiry by a credible, neutral panel of                                                                                              generation. Bilawal, her 19-
   He has also maintained that               international experts would hold any                                                                                                 year-old son is stepping into his
Benazir was not shot, or injured in          weight with people — and it is                                                                                                       mother’s shoes, taking over
the suicide bombing that took place          unfortunate the government has                                                                                                       leadership of her political party.
at Liaquat Bagh on the day of her            dismissed the possibility of permitting                                                                                                 Prospects for elections
rally there, but died after hitting her      such an investigation, despite the fact                                                                                              scheduled on January 8, 2008
head against the lever of the sun-           that BenazirÕs death is no small                                                                                                     look increasingly unlikely and the
roof of her vehicle, as she tried to sit     matter.                                                                                                                              government continues to insist al
                                                                                           Slain former Pakistani Premier Benazir Bhutto's daughters Bakhtawar(R) and
down again inside it. At least one                                                         Asifa(L) offer prayers for their mother at the Bhutto family mausoleum in Garhi        Qaeda was responsible for
PPP legal aide has instantly denied             It must also be noted that even if         Khuda Baksh.                                                                           Bhutto’s death.
the veracity of these claims. More           the official claims regarding the                                                                                                       The government says it
details are expected to be provided          involvement of Baitullah Mehsud are           were joyfully released after agree-        Pakistan establishment is widely            knows who carried out the
in the days ahead by the PPP                 accepted at face value (these were            ments with Mehsud were reached.            believed to have played a role in the       attack, but Pakistani police say
leadership. The problem is that the          denied on Saturday by a spokesman             Perhaps if these dubious deals had         setting up of this shadowy group. It is     their investigation is just
lack of official credibility makes it        claiming to speak for Mehsud), the            not been struck, Benazir Bhutto            also unclear why, since Mehsud              beginning.
almost impossible to separate fact           regime itself must take responsibility        would be alive and Mehsud behind           conveniently revealed his location and         Despite a government-
from fiction. This is all the more so        for allowing so dangerous a criminal          bars.                                      the home he is staying at in the            released video which shows a
as, on several occasions, the PPPÕs          to operate freely. In August this year,                                                  intercepted phone conversation, why         gun being fired at close range
late leader had laid blame for attacks       after Mehsud and his men captured                There are also other facts that         no effort has been made to appre-           towards Bhutto moments before
on herself on other quarters, close          at least 200 army troops — almost an          raise questions about possible links       hend him.                                   the suicide blast, officials claim
to the Islamabad government. That            entire company — the Pakistani                between the Pakistan establishment            This may have served a more              she died, not from a bullet or
FIRs which the PPP filed, both after         government, in exchange for the               and Taliban elements. In the               useful purpose than releasing a             shrapnel wound, but after her
the Karachi suicide bombing of               release of these men, caved in to the         transcript of Baitullah MehsudÕs           plethora of material to the press,          head hit a lever on her car.
October 2007 and now, apparently             demands of Mehsud. Over 100                   conversation, released to the press        which in fact would have only ended            Violence in reaction to
naming these persons, have not               militants were released and the 2005          by Cheema, there is a mention of           up alerted him — that is, if all what       Bhutto’s killing continued to rage
been registered, only adds to the            Sara Rogha accord, which restricts            ÔBadrwallahÕ in the context of one         Brigadier Cheema said is true. There        in the streets of some Pakistani
doubts and suspicions.                       government operations in the South            of the militants who allegedly carried     are, as such, still many questions that     cities Saturday, with hundreds of
                                             Waziristan area, including actions            out the attack, possibly a reference to    need answers.                               demonstrators throwing stones
  So grave is the nature of the              against the Taliban, revived. Some            a member of the Al Badr jihadi                           (The News International)      and looting stores.
assassination, and so profound its           reports say pigeons and balloons              organization. It may be noted that the

  Christians Fear Attacks by Hindus                                                                                                   Hong Kong to elect
      Hundreds of Christians,                                                                      who leads an anti-conversion
                                                                                                                                      their leader in 2017
   fearing more clashes with                                                                       movement.                             In a rarest move, Hong Kong            to receive an approval for its region’s
   Hindu nationalists, fled to                                                                        The New Delhi-based             received an official acknowledgement      public to democratically choose his
   government-run relief                                                                           Catholic Bishops Conference        from China to directly elect its leader   successor and 60 members for the
   camps where authorities on                                                                      of India said the fighting         in 2017 and its legislators by 2020.      Legislative Council in 2012.
   Saturday were providing                                                                         began when Hindu extremists
   them with food, medicine                                                                        took offense at a show
   and security.                                                                                   marking Christmas Eve,
      The clashes left at least                                                                    believing it was an attempt to
   four people dead last week,                                                                     convert poor and lower-caste
   including three killed when                                                                     Hindus to Christianity.
   police fired on a group of                                                                         That has long embittered
   hard-line Hindus that had                                                                       Hindu groups who say
   torched a police station in                                                                     Christian missionaries try to
   Kandhamal district’s                                                                            lure the poor and those on
   Brahmangaon village.                                                                            the lowest rungs of
   Another person also died in                                                                     Hinduism’s complex caste-
   the communal fighting.                                                                          system away with promises of
      The Hindus had                                                                               money and jobs. Since
   complained that the police                                                                      Monday, Hindu nationalists
   were failing to protect them                                                                    have ransacked and burned
   from Christians.                                                                                about 19 churches, according
      The killings and                                                                             to officials who say Christians
   subsequent flight of nearly                                                                     burned down several Hindu
   700 Christians to four relief Indian Christians stage a silent rally in Calcutta, India, homes in apparent retaliation.               However, the decision disappointed        After the region became part of
                                     Saturday, Dec. 29, 2007 to protest the recent violence on
   camps are the latest in a         Christians and Churches in the eastern Indian state of           Authorities were providing      some pro-democracy supporters who         China, the Chinese authorities had
   series of religious and           Orissa.                                                       food, medicine and security to     were pushing for electing a new           agreed to maintain social and
   political power struggles in                                                                    Christians moving into the         leader in 2012.                           economic autonomy of Hong Kong
   the secular but Hindu-dominated            country’s 1.1 billion people, and             four relief camps, said Pradeep              Hong Kong, a former British colony,    under ‘one country, two systems’.
   India’s eastern state of Orissa,           Muslims, who make up 14 percent —             Kapoor, the inspector-general of          became a part of China in 1997.              But achieving a universal
   which has one of the worst                 are usually peaceful.                         police. Two police officers were          Currently, an 800-member committee        suffrage by 2017 is still an
   histories of anti-Christian violence.         There were conflicting reports of          suspended and a top district              elects a leader for the region, which     important step in the region’s
      In 1999, an Australian mission-         what sparked the violence in rural            administrator was transferred for         in the past has tried to embrace          history as on paper its constitution
   ary and his two sons, aged 8 and           Kandhamal, about 840 miles                    failing to prevent the violence,          democracy. Hong Kong’s Chief              has no specific date to empower
   10, were burned to death in their          southeast of New Delhi. Each side             Kapoor told The Associated Press.         Executive Donald Tsang was chosen         Hong Kong’s public.
   car in Orissa following a Bible            blamed the other.                             Nearly 800 police and paramilitary        for a five-year term in March by the         “Hong Kong is entering a most
   study class.                                  The Hindu hard-liners said                 forces were trying to restore calm.       committee.                                important chapter in its constitutional
      But relations between religious         Christians tried to attack an 80-year-           At least 25 people have been              Tsang had submitted proposals on       history,” Tsang said Saturday in a
   minorities — such as Christians,           old leader, Laxmanananda Saraswati,           arrested, Superintendent of Police        Dec. 12 to the Standing Committee of      press conference.
   who account for 2.5 percent of the         of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad group,           Narsingh Bhol said. ä                     China’s National People’s Congress                                          (AHN)
10     31 Dec, 2007 - 6 Jan, 2008                                                                 Perspective

                                    Relying on meaning, not words
                                       …In the Mahayana Sutras, there are more collections of deeper level teachings on realisation…
                                    ä Mahayogi Acharya Sridhar                                                                                                                    make Bhikchhus.
Marshland Flowers                   Rana Rinpoche                                                                                                                                    In ancient India, as recorded by the
                                                                                                                                                                                  famous Chinese traveler Huen Tsang
                                       The Buddha’s main two disciples                                                                                                            of the 6th / 7th century, there were
                                    called the Agrasravakas, who are                                                                                                              also followers of Mahayana who
                                    always portrayed standing at his two                                                                                                          followed the Theravadin Vinayas too.
                                    sides - Maudgalyayana and Sariputra,                                                                                                          But today due to various historical
                                    were both Brahmins. Another very                                                                                                              flukes, no such Bhikchhus are found.
                                    famous disciple Mahakashyap, already                                                                                                          As the Buddha himself had given
                                    possessed miraculous powers even                                                                                                              permission that if the Bhikchhu
                                    before he met the Buddha, and already                                                                                                         Sangha so deems it fit, it could
           All such                 had one thousand disciples even before                                                                                                        change the minor Bhikchhu rules.
        records are                 he met the Buddha. He too was a                                                                                                                  So as Buddhism spread to far
                                    Brahmin as his name Kashyap implies.                                                                                                          away lands where the climes and
    recorded in the                 The Buddha defeated him both in                                                                                                               cultures were so drastically different
      Sutra Pitaka.                 philosophical debate and display of                                                                                                           from India, some of the rules of the
                                    miraculous powers and he became a                                                                                                             Vinaya Pitaka had to be changed. It
      There are the                 disciple of the Buddha, along with his                                                                                                        must be said that the Theravadin
          Mahayana                  one thousand Brahmin disciples.                                                                                                               Sangha claim that they have not
       Sutra Pitaka                    All such records are recorded in the                                                                                                       changed anything from the time of
                                    Sutra Pitaka. There are the Mahayana                                                                                                          the Buddha; but most scholars do not
            and the                 Sutra Pitaka and the Sravakayana                                                                                                              agree with this.
       Sravakayana                  Sutra Pitaka. Of the Sravakayana                                                                                                                 However, as the Buddha himself
                                    Sutra Pitaka, today only that of the                                                                                                          very clearly gave permission to
      Sutra Pitaka.                 Theravada and the Sarvastivada                                                                                                                change minor rules, and even if there
             Of the                 remains intact. There are bits and                                                                                                            are changes, it does not contradict
       Sravakayana                  pieces of Sutras of others like                                                                                                               the intentions of the Buddha. In fact, it
                                    Mahasanghikas etc. too, available                                                                                                             goes along with the intention of the
      Sutra Pitaka,                 either in the original or in various                                                                                                          Buddha. In the Sutra, the Buddha
    today only that                 translations.                                                                                                                                 has very clearly said, “Artha
                                       However, in the Mahayana Sutras,                                                                                                           pratisharanam na vyanjanam”
              of the                there are more collections of deeper                                                                                                          meaning, do not rely/depend on the
     Theravada and                  level teachings on realisation, insight                                                                                                       words but rather on the meaning/
                 the                etc. mostly conducted in paranormal                                                                                                           intention. And this statement is found
                                    dimensions whereas the Sravakayana                      Pitaka which is a collection of the        Sarvastivadin and the Mahasanghika         in Sarvastivada, Theravada and
      Sarvastivada                  Sutra are a motley of mundane and                       records of the rules made for the          have managed to survive to the             Mahayana Sutra Pitaka.
    remains intact.                 philosophic topics, conducted mostly                    Bhikchhunis and Bhikchhus by the           present day. Most of Mahayana                                     (To be continued)
                                    within normal dimensions.                               Buddha himself. Here too there were        schools use the Sarvastivadin and                (Sridhar Rinpoche is a Vajrayana
                                       The second Pitaka is the Vinaya                      many, of which the Theravadin, the         Mahasanghika Bhikchhu Vinayas to                                            Master)

       Democracy – Nepali Style
   International media, CNN and BBC in this case, have trumpeted the headlines “Nepal abolishes its 240 years old
                 monarchy”, “Nepal ceases to be the last Hindu Kingdom in the world”, and so forth.
ä By Roop Joshi                                               President of Nepal before it is too late; another   the street has never been asked whether he        this undemocratic political move. The Chief of
                                                              a leftist politician who has hopes of somehow       wants a republic or wants to maintain a           the NA has clearly stated that the NA will
   December 28th was another busy day for                     being the first Prime Minister of a republican      constitutional or ceremonial monarchy. This       support democracy and the legitimate
the unelected interim parliament of Nepal.                    Nepal; and the third whose political party is in    “asking” is commonly known as a Referendum.       government of Nepal. But legitimacy in the
With 3 dissenting votes, it approved the                      government solely from the effects and future          If Nepal is to be a modern multi-party         current context can not be delinked from basic
declaration of Nepal as a Federal Democratic                  threats of its guns – has declared this country a   DEMOCRACY, it is time for Nepalis who love        norms and process of democracy.
Republic – to be “implemented” by a simple                    republic without finding out what the Nepali        this country to practice wisdom and rationality      Half of the world’s population is below the
majority of the 601-member Constituent                        Public wants. Further, this declaration goes        and take this declaration as a direct insult to   age of 25. At a time when National Leaders all
Assembly when elected by mid-April 2008.                      against the Comprehensive Peace Accord              their intelligence and basic human rights. If     over the world are taking the helm of their
The declaration had been made public a                        between the then government and the Maoists         Jana Andolan I (1990) put an end to the           countries while they are below the age of 50 –
couple of days earlier with the machination                   which clearly stated that the issue of republic     Panchayat system and Jana Andolan II (2006)       France’s President Sarkozy is a recent
and blessings of the leaders of the three                     versus monarchy would be decided by                 to an autocratic government, it may be            example – the youth of Nepal confine their
major political parties in Nepal.                             majaority votes of the Constituent Assembly,        opportune now for Jana Andolan III. This one      involvement in politics to senseless “mobism”,
   International media, CNN and BBC in this                   when elected. Of course, the CA elections have      will put an end to the high-handedness of an      indoctrination into obsolete political ideologies,
case, have trumpeted the headlines “Nepal                     been postponed first in June 2007, then in          oligarchic government controlled by a             or being the stooges of wily old politicians. As
abolishes its 240 years old monarchy”, “Nepal                 November 2007, and are now vaguely planned          triumvirate of power hungry politicians.          per data from the “2006 Demographic and
ceases to be the last Hindu Kingdom in the                    for April 2008. In short, the common Nepali in         There are already visible discomfiture over    Health Survey – Nepal”, almost 40% of
world”, and so forth. The headlines, of course,                                                                                                                     Nepal’s population is between the ages of 10
ignore the “implementation” part of the                                                                                                                             and 29. If ages 30 to 34, which really are
parliamentary approval though it does appear                                                                                                                        young enough to be considered youths, are
inconspicuously in the body of the news                                                                                                                             included, the figure rises to over 45%. The
stories. They do not question why the CA is                                                                                                                         present political leaders have followed the
needed if this parliament is going to do its                                                                                                                        near-sighted power-crazed policy of not
work. For all purposes, the World woke up                                                                                                                           grooming young political leaders. This is one
today to discover that in one fell swoop Nepal                                                                                                                      reason why our political leadership is well
is now a republic. Voila!                                                                                                                                           beyond the range of what can be called
   I have always been under the impression                                                                                                                          youths. This alone however does not give
that “democracy” is rule by the people (of the                                                                                                                      almost half the population of Nepal under the
people, for the people – if you want the full                                                                                                                       age of 35 the excuse to sit quietly while the
American definition). I am bemused that a                                                                                                                           country is robbed of its right to Democracy. It
parliament which has not been elected, at the                                                                                                                       is time Nepali youths use their education,
instigation of three political leaders – one an                                                                                                                     nationalism and vision to speak out with

octogenarian with ambitions to be the first                                                                                                                         firmness and non-violence.
                                                                                         Art & society                                                                   31 Dec, 2007- 6 Jan, 2008      11
FIREFRONT                                                                             literature on the same sex retaliations.

                                                                                                                                 Brandy Off the Hook
                                                                                      They are simply ignored as obscene
                                                                                      and probably the person showing
                                                                                      such tendency would be at once be
                                                                                      taken to a shaman or a priest. One
                                                                                      gay writer I met in London seemed

                                                                                                                                    Brandy can breathe a little easier
                                                                                      appalled by my aesthetics. He
                                                                                      strongly disliked my “River” poem that
                                                                                                                                    In a belated holiday gift,
                                                                                      most of my readers find very smart
                                                                                                                                 prosecutors in Los Angeles have
                                                                                      and enticing. To describe a man
                                                                                                                                 decided not to file a misdemeanor
                                                                                      woman relationship, the River poem
                                                                                                                                 vehicular manslaughter charge
                                            most vividly described in our folklore    employs erotic images reminiscent of
                                                                                                                                 against the R&B songstress for last
                                            and legends. You feel the difference      Sanskrit masters evoking the Shringar
                                                                                                                                 year’s chain-reaction car crash that
                                            once you have traveled, the changes       Rasa.
                                                                                                                                 resulted in a woman’s death.
                                            you perceive most when you see                                                          According to a statement from the
                                            realize how human life in spite of all       I had great difficulty in translating
                                                                                                                                 Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office,
ä Yuyutsu RD Sharma                         the changes has remained the same.        famous Irish language poet Cathal O’
                                                                                                                                 authorities opted not to proceed
                                                                                      Searcaigh’s poems into Nepali. Some
                                                                                                                                 with a criminal case after a probe
   Journeys are crucial to the makeup           During my journeys, to most people    Nepali critics refuse to understand the
                                                                                                                                 found “insufficient evidence” that       pelvic fractures, the wife and
of a creative writer and his world.         in Europe the male behavior Nepalese      poems as they do not or can not
                                                                                                                                 Brandy, whose last name                  mother of two died the following
Journeys make us better human               man woman relations in Asia remained      comprehend the nuances of a poem
                                                                                                                                 Norwood, was to blame.                   evening in the hospital.
beings. They make you understand            reminiscent of their own society some     celebrating the same sex relations.
                                                                                                                                    “After conducting a thorough             Weeks later, once news of the
the basic facets of humanity that           fifty years ago. The way I approached     Also with male dominated Nepali
                                                                                                                                 investigation, which included            accident became public, Brandy
otherwise you might simply ignore or        my spouse and the way she reacted to      verb, it’s difficult to express the
                                                                                                                                 consulting with some of the top          issued a statement through her
generalize.                                 my so-called orders at every steps of     emotions containing the same sex
                                                                                                                                 accident reconstruction experts in       publicist in which she “express[ed]
                                            life reminded people in Europe of their   relationships.
                                                                                                                                 the country, city prosecutors            her condolences to the family of the
   The actual feel of the landscape         parents. In the middle class Nepalese                                                concluded there was insufficient         deceased” and called it a “terrible
and the people in it gives you a vision     families men are seldom allowed by           On meeting people from all over
                                                                                                                                 evidence from which a jury could         tragedy.”
of what postcard simplicity or a            women to do any menial work. “My          world in London, for example, you
                                                                                                                                 find Ms. Norwood guilty of such a           After investigating the crash
touristy television show might not offer.   father used to behave like you do in      release how multiculturalism remains
                                                                                                                                 charge beyond a reasonable               scene and testing Brandy’s sport
As the New Year approaches, my              my mother’s presence,” one of my          the future of modern world. And that in
                                                                                                                                 doubt,” prosecutors said.                utility vehicle for any mechanical
visions of the days spent in London         English friend remarked.                  spite of tribal uprisings and rise of
                                                                                                                                    The fatal collision occurred on       defects, the California Highway
on the New Year Eve last year and                                                     obsolete ideologies, the future of
                                                                                                                                 Dec. 30, 2006, when the Grammy-          Patrol eventually recommended a
the recent visit to Helumbu where I            After my journey to Europe I can       Asian society like its economic
                                                                                                                                 winning ex-Moesha star slammed           misdemeanor manslaughter charge
witnessed a ritual ceremony in a            never ever write a poem or create an      metamorphosis lies in understanding
                                                                                                                                 her 2007 Land Rover into the back        be filed against her, saying
monastery make me understand the            episode in a novel approving such a       the essentials of the other world.
                                                                                                                                 of a 2005 Toyota Corolla at 65           negligence was responsible for the
difference that these tourist destina-      behavior that a writer who has not                                                   mph, setting off a four car pile-up.     accident.
tions offer in the media.                   traveled could easily write. Nor can I       A journey outside become a
                                                                                                                                    The driver of the Toyota, 38-            A guilty conviction could have
                                            ever dismiss the same sex relations       journey within, leading you to the
                                                                                                                                 year-old Awatif Aboudihaj,               netted the 28-year-old entertainer
  Journeys made in the outer world          as monstrous and unsocial. Even if        ultimate nirvana of the new millen-
                                                                                                                                 careened into the highway’s center       anywhere from a year in jail and a
cause a dramatic transformation             you do not approve, you accept that       nium.
                                                                                                                                 divider before being broadsided by       $1,000 fine to house arrest or a
within. You move out to turn deeper         these people exist, like you do. There             The writer can be reached at
                                                                                                                                 another car. After suffering multiple    work-furlough program.
within. The paradox of journeys is          is very little available in Nepali                  
12            31 Dec, 2007- 6 Jan, 2008                                                             Makers

              Between the pages
                                                                                                                                                                            and extending back to the most
                                                                                                                                                                            ancient, the creation of the
                                                                                                                                                                            Haggadah's illuminations by an artist
                                                                                                                                                                            in medieval Seville.
                                                                                                                                                                               These historical sections are richly
                                                                                                                                                                            detailed, enthralling accounts and
    Brooks' historical novel tells tales of   afterword, Brooks notes that the                                                                                              could almost stand alone as short
the lives linked to ancient book              novel is based on the true story of this                                                                                      stories. The chapters, all in third-
    Geraldine Brooks has enjoyed              Haggadah, though she has fictional-                                                                                           person, most depicting people trying
three successful phases of her writing        ized her account, imagining the                                                                                               to survive times of great suffering,
career: first working as a foreign            book's history.                                                                                                               contrast markedly with the punchy
correspondent for The Wall Street                In 1996, Sarajevo is still smoldering                                                                                      first-person narration of the Hanna
Journal in Bosnia and other war               from its recent war: "half the houses                                                                                         chapters.
zones, then writing nonfiction books,         weren't there anymore. They were                                                                                                 Although People of the Book
including 1994's acclaimed Nine Parts         just jagged bits of masonry, sticking                                                                                         contains scads of beautiful writing, the
of Desire: The Hidden World of                up in ragged rows like rotting teeth."                                                                                        overall work is uneven. Sometimes
Islamic Women, and most recently              A Muslim librarian saved the                                                                                                  the mystery-thriller aspects of the
trying her hand at historical fiction.        Haggadah during the worst of the                                                                                              novel - such as globally dispersed
    She hasn't done so shabbily at it:        fighting, which destroyed Sarajevo's                                                                                          expert analysts sending Hanna
She won the Pulitzer Prize for her            library, and now the city's officials                                                                                         breathless messages about the
most recent novel, March, an                  want to display the book to boost the                                                                                         incredible facts they've discovered
imagining of the life of Louisa May           country's morale.                                                                                                             about this bit of parchment or that bit
Alcott's father.                                 Hanna is only 30, but as she says,                                                                                         of hair - sit uneasily alongside the
    Brooks' resume would seem to make         "I don't go in for false modesty: I'm                                                                                         finely crafted historical episodes.
her uniquely qualified to tackle the          great at what I do." She was chosen                                                                                           Brooks' effort to create an entertain-
complex subject matter of her new novel,      to complete this important work in                                                                                            ing narrative in which to embed the
People of the Book. The tale traces the       part because her country of origin,                                                                                           historical vignettes is admirable, but
history of one coveted tome, a Jewish         Australia, offends none of the parties                                                                                        she handles the Da Vinci Code-like
prayer book traditionally used during the     involved in hiring her.                                                                                                       thriller moments as if splicing
Passover seder, through time as it travels       Despite her skill at her profession,                                                                                       Masterpiece Theater with CSI.
through war-torn Europe of many eras          Hanna's egotistical, world-renowned                                                                                              Additionally, a few of the plot points
and influences the lives of the people        neurosurgeon mother belittles it, and                                                                                         don't seem believable: Is it possible for a
who create or encounter it.                   they clash frequently. Hanna is no less                                                                                       hair from the brush of the original
    In April 1996, rare-book conserva-        acerbic than her mother and is fiercely                                                                                       painter of the illuminations to have been
tor Hanna Heath flies into Sarajevo to        committed to her own independence.                                                                                            preserved throughout the book's travels
inspect and repair the Sarajevo                  While completing the work, Hanna                                                                                           and yet overlooked by all previous
Haggadah, which has just turned up            has a fling with a man named Ozren,                                                                                           expert examiners of the Haggadah?
after being lost during the war. "The         the librarian who saved the                    During her inspection of the              These objects serve as clues that    Theoretically, sure, but when so many
Sarajevo Haggadah, created in                 Haggadah from the bombing. During           Haggadah, Hanna finds a fragment of       launch the narrative into historical    coincidences add up - including a
medieval Spain," Brooks writes, "was          the war, Ozren's wife was killed and        an insect's wing, wine stains, salt and   episodes from the Haggadah's past,      similarly preserved insect wing and a
a famous rarity, a lavishly illuminated       his child brain-injured from sniper fire.   a hair, which she collects to consult     beginning with the most recent times    suddenly revealed missing genius father
Hebrew manuscript made at a time              When Ozren invites Hanna to visit his       with her colleagues who are experts       - the Haggadah's narrow escape          whose heritage links Hanna culturally to
when Jewish belief was firmly against         unresponsive son in the hospital, she       in these subjects before carefully        from burning during World War II with   the Haggadah - it strains the readers'
illustrations of any kind." In the            only reluctantly agrees.                    rebinding the book.                       the help of another Muslim scholar -    suspension of disbelief.