Friday, October 9, 2015

World Mental Health Day, 10 October

Today, 10 October, is observed internationally as WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY. Events in various countries highlight the need to educate everyone about what mental health is. It is also an opportunity to de stigmatize mental disorders.

WHO estimates that fully 25% of Nepal's population suffers from some mental health issues - depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia being the major ones. The decade-long insurgency has further exacerbated the dent in the nation's mental health. The April earthquake and the current blockade have not improved matters. Mental health services are abysmal with around 50 psychiatrists, mostly in the capital, and even fewer psychotherapists. The next budget has zero allocation for mental health!

The next time you see a person with mental disorder, please do not dehumanize her/him by simply dismissing the person as mad, crazy, or worse. Mental disorders are rooted in chemical imbalance of the brain. Proper medication, therapy, support from family and friends, conducive environment, exercise, and spiritualism can pave the way for a perfectly normal productive life.

There is no health without mental health!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Blockade Update

Here is my understanding so far:

There is a Indian blockade, officially denied. The argument that there is no security in Terai for essential goods to pass through is stupid. The Army can provide absolutely secure transit of the convoys from India. Yes, it may have to come down hard on some of the Madhesi demonstrators; and that would be problematic to our neighbor.

Seems the Bihar election is a litmus test for PM Modi's BJP. The election concludes on 5 Nov, still more than a month away. Apparently 80% of Madhesis in Nepal originate from Bihar. So one can put two & two together.

At least 8 international laws and conventions are being broken by India with this blockade. Our government has not raised the issue. International community is twiddling its thumbs.

Seems NOC is not bound to obtain petroleum products exclusively from IOC. Was there really an offer from China to help out in this regards, an offer refused by our government? 

Terai parties have pre-conditions to sitting down for talks with the government. Unacceptable.

The responsibility for this entire mess falls on the brain-dead heads of the troika which fast-tracked the constitution without ameliorating Madhesh issues. In any sane nation, they would have payed a heavy price - political and otherwise!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Take on Current Indian Blockade

As I see it:

There is a blockade of essential goods coming into Nepal from India. Sure, it may be "unofficial" but there is no denying the reality of it. Rumour has it that things will improve when Mr. Modi returns to India from the US, today perhaps. Others link the blockade to a flexing of muscles by the politicians in Bihar, where elections - to conclude, by phases, on 5 Nov only - are underway and they want to look strong; apparently 80% of Nepali Madhesis are from Bihar.

On the home front, I do not see any serious dialogue between the government and the Terai parties yet. The former has to push for this; the latter needs to cease hiding behind Bihari dhotis.

Meanwhile, rationing of petroleum products is operational. Prices of food products have risen. There is a cloud of anti-Indian phobia across the land. Since yesterday, all Indian TV channels have been blocked out here.

Unfortunately, the Tatopani border point with China is still not operational after the earthquake's devastation. So essential goods not yet forthcoming from our Chinese friends.

Still a work in progress. Let us see who comes to their senses first!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Post-constitution Musings

To continue the last blog...well, the nation has been well and truly teased. Question remains whether we laugh or cry.

We have a federal constitution to which there is vociferous opposition from the Terai-based political parties and various indigenous and ethnic groups as well as those who see no need for federalism in this country. We have a secular state which will "preserve the Sanatan practices passed down through the ages"; a peculiar definition of 'secular' decipherable only to the troika who shoved the constitution down the throats of the sheep-like Constitutional Assembly members. We have annoyed Big Brother to the south by not listening to their suggestion to put off the promulgation until the Terai issues were ironed out. We rejoice at the success of a fast-tracked constitution which was delayed for seven years then approved in around seven days.

I'm not laughing. But who gives a damn! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Teej and the Teasing of a Nation

Today is the fasting day of Teej, observed by women all over Nepal. The singing and dancing sober down today as women fast for the health and long life of their husbands or, for the unmarried, to find a good husband. Not being a believer in getting benefits from others' sacrifice,  I believe that, if they wish, they can fast; but they should not feel obliged to do so. Wearing red sarees, green beads joined by a gold ornament slung over a shoulder, women bear a certain aura today.

While Teej is being celebrated, the nation is being teased to an ominous situation by a cabal of politicians who cannot see further than their self-interest. Yes, of course, it is the new constitution "fast-tracked" for promulgation on Sunday 20 September 2015. If only our reconstruction and development efforts were fast-tracked in this manner! In four days, if the situation remains as is, this release of the long-awaited document may very well release the political fury of the Terai-based parties, the ethnic Tharus, Magars, Limbus, as well as those who have not given up yet on a Hindu state. The constitution was promised by a year after the last elections. That self-imposed deadline went by months ago. Now, in the name of I know not what, it is being rushed through without serious attempts at ameliorating the differences with the disgruntled parties. Various politicians are saying that prolonging the constitution drafting process will endanger the nation. Pardon my ignorance, but all that will be endangered is: Mr. Oli may have to wait a bit longer to be Prime Minister, the current Prime Minister also may have to wait to be President with the additional accolade of having promulgated the constitution during his watch, and the comrades are in a rush to ensure that a federated state comes into being quickly so that they don't look like fools if it does not.

Armageddon or Arcadia? Either way, the die is cast. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

An Open Letter to the United States of America

I posted this in the blog NepsliPerspectives 6 years ago, 2 years after taking retirement from the U.N. and prior to the writers' block that followed. Found it while Googling myself! Quite a bit of it is, not surprisingly, still relevant.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Why Sanatan Dharma in the Constitution

Monday, September 7, 2015

21st September & Beyond

I understand that the new constitution will be promulgated on Monday, 21 Sept. 2015 by the bumbling leaders (and I use the word with distaste) of the three parties - Nepali Congress, United Marxist-Leninist, and United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists).

NC takes pride in being the party which brought democracy to Nepal. That was when the astute visionary B.P. Koirala led the party. His youngest brother, the late Girija, left behind a hollow party sans principle sans direction. Its present leader and PM, another Koirala, is a septuagenarian suffering serous health problems.

The UML is neither united, Marxist or Leninist; at best it is mildly socialist, straddling the political fence between the NC and Maoists.

The Maoists are now divided into three factions: Prachanda's (UCPN-M); Baidya's, the more doctrinaire faction; and Chand's, which is the far left and even espouses armed rebellion once again. The first faction has the money, and money talks. The other two factions boycotted the last CA elections in protest and now want to flex their unelected muscles.

But it is the Sushil Koirala, KP Oli and PK Dahal troika who are in the process of coming out with a secular 7-state model constitution. Should they have the short-sighted hubris to do so, the constitution will be opposed by the Terai-based political parties, the Janajatis (inigenous ethnic groups) and the forces calling for a Sanatan Hindu state.  Reasons for this are already discussed in previous blogs. Women's groups aso have representational issues with the constitution draft. Why, many CA members of the three high-handed parties are opposing the current draft.

About two weeks still remain till "D-day". Whether the constitution will land safely in the mountains, valleys and plains of Nepal or whether this country will go up in the flames of religious and ethnic strife depends on how well the three oligarchs and their henchmen read the situation and prepare and plan. A pity I don't see the likes of Churchill or Eisenhower among them! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Proselytization Conundrum

Francois Gautier is a French political writer and journalist based in India since 1971. The above link is a post by Gautier in FaceBook today.

He pinpoints the Jesuits, which is not necessarily true for Nepal where proselytizing is mainly the domain of Protestant groups. Churches are mushrooming in the country; the last census put the Christians as 1.5% of the population, that proportion has increased rapidly over the past 4 years. A significant portion of the blame is due to the non-reformist nature of Hinduism. A Dalit or an untouchable treated as a pariah by their fellow Hindus has no stake in Hinduism. Given the right motivation, not just spiritual but also education, health and finanancial, he/she will readily convert to Christanity. And who is to blame them for that? On the other hand, the missionary zealots who see Jesus Christ as the exclusive saviour of souls are no less to blame. They are tearing apart the intrinsic culture and traditions of society for their own purposes.

The caste system has been illegalized, but exists socially especially in rural areas. Without awareness raising and education, this social disease cannot just be litigated away. Further, if the judiciary system cannot, and it does not, enforce the fact that casteism is illegal, reforms become well-nigh impossible. There are needed reforms which must be addressed by the pro-Hindu state advocates. Not enough to just shout for a Hindu Rashtra while turning a blind eye to areas in Hinduism which need imminent reform. The status of women, the barring of non-Hindus to convert to Hinduism, the monopoly of Brahmins in rituals and ceremonies, the eclipsing of spiritualism by pedantic ritualism, and the list could go on. A concrete example: Pashupatinath Temple is arguably the most sacred Hindu site in the country; there is a sign at the entrance "Only Hindus Allowed". As a Hindu, I have visited churches, mosques, and Jewish temples all over the world. Why do we feel threatened by non-Hindus entering our holiest shrine? And, actually, the sign basically keeps out only Caucasians and Africans because anybody who 'looks' like a Hindu can enter. Or as a friend told me, there is a church in Cracow, Poland, with a sign outside "Enter to pray only". Pretty practical, I daresay. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Nepal's Constitutional Challenges

Just finished watching a Al Jazeera u-tube video on the above subject, kindly posted on Face Book by Jan Sharma. Please watch the video on u-tube (title as above) or in his or my FB timeline.

I cannot understand how some of the Nepali panelists used "caste" and "ethnic group" synonymously. There are 4 castes, legally abolished but unfortunately socially still a work in progress. There are around 100 ethnic groups in Nepal. Fortunately, Al Jazeera showed an Ethnographic Map of Nepal to enlighten the confused. "Every major caste was promised a state" - that stung my ears loud and clear!

A major point of discussion was on the meaning of "New Nepal". One of the panelists tried to summarize it as (a) the end of monarchy; (b) secularism; and (c) centralization to Federalism (sic). Am glad that Ms. Manjushree Thapa widened the meaning to broader aspects. In any case, (a) was not a demand of the 2006 'People's Movement' which was against "ABSOLUTE" monarchy, not the institution per se.

(b) was a Maoist agenda, to which the two other major parties acceded through coercion or in the mistaken belief that secularism is a sine qua non for democracy, supported by international proselytizing interests.

(c) is the reason why Nepal is in flames now with ethnic groups demanding their own state (which was erroneously made synonymous in the programme with 'province' by some panelists). The carnage in Tikapur a week ago, a bandh in Pokhara yesterday instigated by Magars, and we have not seen the last of it. Politics 101 as well as any dictionary can confirm that the opposite of centralization is decentralization, not federalization. Federalism also arose from the Maoist insurgency where the insurgents promised ethnic groups their own state in order to garner their support for the ignominious 'people's war'. Nepal has not had local government elections for 22 years; therein lies the solution, not federalizing a unitary state, a feat never accomplished in the history of nations. The Madhesh political parties are naturally for federalism in the hope that they will get at least two or three states, if not the entire Terai, as their own. Birgunj, one of the major border cities with India is under curfew as I write. I hear rumours Nepalgunj is also in a similar fate. To add fuel to the fire, the Indian Home Minister has been quoted as proclaiming that India will safeguard its citizens in Nepal Terai, further implying, wrongly, that 30% of Nepal's population is Madhesis. Fact remains that 60% of the Madhesis are Nepalis and the remaining only are Indians, who are welcome to return to their country. Further, the Minister had better not included Nepali Madhesis as his constituency.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

As the Loktantrik Dispensation Unravels... by Dipak Gyawali

This Beautiful Game

250 million people play it in 200 countries - the Beautiful Game, as termed by the iconic Pele' . Football, also called soccer in North America, is more than a game. It is a passion, much more than a pastime for most. Wars have been fought over the game and many a riot has taken place. Twenty-two individuals take to the field and morph into a team, if they wish to win.

One such game was played last Saturday by boys from Nepal and India. The prize was the championship of the inaugural South Asian Football Federation Under-19 tournament. After 22 years, Nepal won an international championship. That too against perennial 'big brother" rivals India. But more than that, it was a victory that Nepalis needed sorely. A devastating earthquake four months ago, a heart-rending massacre of security personnel less than a week ago, the never-ending political morass of constitution making, people needed something to cheer about. Attending my first ever international football match (not via TV), I could feel the throbbing expectation of the spectators as the two teams took to the field. Played in a small stadium, holding about 3,000 people (with many more crowded in the balconies of surrounding buildings), the enthusiastic cries of "Ne...paaal, Ne...paal" resounded as if there were 30,000 fans present. Arguably, one of the oldest people watching the match, I saw the fervour and single-minded unity of the young people wishing, hoping, wanting, praying that Nepal will win.

Braving the hot sun, I stood with a few family members for three hours lost to the magic wound by the Goddess of Football. Memories of playing the game in school, in the school alumni team and finally, for UNDP, in the UN League in New York slid through my mind as if vignettes in a play. It was good to feel young again. It was good to cheer for the national team. It was good to celebrate a historical victory.

Eleven Nepali boys, with emphasis on NEPALI, brought an almost forgotten joy to the people of this struggling country. They did not play as Gurung, Magar, Limbu, Tamang, Newar, etc., but as Nepalis united as a team, keeping the "raato chandra ra surya" flying high proudly. Therein lies a lesson which really does not have to be spelled out here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tikapur Revisited

Yesterday's blog was from the heart. This one is from the head, after the shock and despair has more or less dissipated.

While paying sincere condolences to the families of the police and the two year old boy who lost their lives during that afternoon of carnage, one has to question the judgement and preparedness of the police who walked into a crowd armed with spears and axes with an almost suicidal over-confidence. One also wonders why the authority in charge had apparently ordered the Armed Police Force not to fire their weapons. True, that authority has been removed and recalled; is any action being taken against him? Or, in the 'true spirit of Nepali tolerance', has a mere slap in the hand been administered? Security forces have not been attacked and killed in this manner since the Maoists specialized in it over a decade ago. The national trauma reverberates.

On the other hand, there have been reports that the mob was infiltrated by others espousing the politics of violence and the Tharus, generally known as a peaceable people, were used by these culprits for their own nefarious purposes. Regardless, the Tharu mob did come out armed with the implements mentioned above; it is unclear whether they meant to use them or they were just for show; even if it was the latter, it was not prudent at all.

The Army has been mobilized in Kailali and two other districts to maintain law and order. Curfews are the order of the day. The people cower or are even more emboldened, resulting in shootings by the security forces. The area is aflame. The conflagration will spread as the seeds of federalism bloom.

In Kathmandu, it seems the Big Three political parties, at least for now, intend to proceed with the constitution drafting process. Even read in yesterday's paper that 'secularism' remains in the constitution as insisted upon by the Maoists, while a huge majority of the people want a Hindu State. Should the triumvirate not pause to think and promulgate the constitution as drafted now, I can only shudder at what will happen to this country. It's not just the secularism issue. More importantly is the federalism issue where 6 states have been increased to 7 to mollify the folks in western Nepal, but leaving the Tharus out in the cold. Meanwhile, the Madhesh parties, not popular usually with the Tharus, are instigating the latter for their own purposes.

What in heaven's name are the politicians doing trying to federalize a unitary state, ahenomenon that has never occurred anywhere in the world? Yes, social injustice remains as regards the marginalized groups. The solution though is not federalization but strong elected local governance. Mind you, there have been no local elections on this country for over two decades!

The politico pundits have declared this country the "Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal". Forgive them, Lord, they know not what they do. We are not federal and will/should never be. Our democracy is a combination of oligarchy and kleptocracy. Republicanism was never an agenda of the Jana Andolan of 2006; it was sneaked in by self-serving politicians whose ambitions

Something Happened

Something happened last Monday, at a place I had never heard of, to people I did not know. There must have been many such incidents during the decade-long insurgency, but I never experienced the news first-hand as I was out of the country. I did not expect the force with which this incident touched my psyche. Sure, I love my country as much as the next person. Sure, what happened was an absolute mockery of governance, law and order and mob control. Every Nepali, without personal agendas, will likely agree.

Almost in a daze of anger and sorrow, I turned to FaceBook as an outlet for my feelings. Calling  for a military coup, posting u-tube videos supporting my feelings, exhorting young people to save the country, did I over-react? After all most of my posts are to FB friends, a measly 200 or so, quite a few expatriates and NRNs. Over-reaction or not, it was a catharsis of sorts. It helped me a lot, the situation not at all. Just a selfish act, only to help myself.

I am posting this rather personal statement as I try and revive my blog which has remained dormant for almost two years. I posted mainly my articles which had been published. It has been a ego trip of sorts. Not planning to publish anything now. Maybe just put my thoughts into the blog, not only personal ones like this one, but also addressed at the political and social environment.

Welcome back to the Chiya Pasal.