Locals in Nepal take direct action

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Police use a water cannon to push back protesters on the streets of Kathmandu. Photo: Nepali Times

The jury is still out on federalism in Nepal, which was put in place in 2017, after elections to three levels of government – local, provincial and federal. But there is no doubting that local people are getting more vocal about their frustrations at the slow pace of road building and other infrastructure works. I wrote the following in this week’s Nepali Times:

Think locally, act locally

  • In May, residents and traders burned tyres to block the Chabahil-Jorpati road, signalling their frustration at long-delayed construction on the dusty, crater-filled stretch. They succeeded in sparking action, but after upgrading work stalled, protests erupted again last week in a bid to force the contractor to finish the job.
  • The road blocking trend morphed into poster protests, where the faces of delinquent road contractors were plastered to poles and vehicles. This included Nagarkot, where contractor Sharada Prasad Adhikari, also the landlord of Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was targeted. The tactic spread further, with Mayor Bhim Parajuli of Biratnagar being publicly shamed last week.
  • Residents attempting to stop road-building in Baitadi in October were turned on by an excavator operator, whose shocking attack with the machine injured eight people. Attempted murder charges are pending.
  • In Udaypur last week, locals clashed with police after seizing more than a dozen dump trucks and an excavator that were being used to gouge sand and rocks out of a local river.
  • Residents of Charikot of Dolakha District took to the streets last week to protest the lack of progress in repairing the Jiri Highway. They blocked the main intersection to vehicular traffic for hours.

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In-depth reporting on Nepal’s elections

Most English-language media in Kathmandu reporting on ongoing local elections have limited themselves to noting the numerical quotas for low-caste, ‘Dalit’, candidates.

But the Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ) went a step further by interviewing a group of Dalit women in Saptari district, including candidates, voters and would-be voters. (Why would someone be a ‘would-be’ voter? Click on the article link below to find out). Continue reading

Nepal’s election: little hope for the families of victims of the conflict

The shocking photo of murdered Nepal teacher Muktinath Adhikari.

The photo of teacher Muktinath Adhikari, killed in 2002 and left tied to a tree by Maoist insurgents, shocked the nation, and beyond. (c) Nepali Times.

Elections take place on Nov. 19 for a new constituent assembly in Nepal. Despite fears of not achieving a ‘free and fair’ vote – and even the possibility of violence – many Nepalis hope desperately that the exercise will set the country on the path to recovery six years after the end of conflict between the state and Maoist insurgents.

Relatives of victims of human rights abuses during the conflict are less hopeful.

Earlier this year the caretaker government led by the former chief justice introduced an ordinance that would provide amnesty to perpetrators of human rights abuses committed during the 10-year conflict. There are reports that political parties vying for election are promising to finally get to the truth behind the abuses during the conflict, but not that they will embark on punishing those responsible. Continue reading