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February 27 2014

Savory Momos, Sweet Sel Roti and 5 Other Delicious Nepali Delicacies

Nepal, a land of diverse culture and tradition, has its own unique dishes that leave the taste buds craving for more. The delicacies presented here have been selected from hundreds of mouth-watering recipes originating from the high mountains to the Nepalese plains.

1. Sel roti

The famous Nepali crispy doughnut (sel roti), a must during the Tihar or Deepawali festival, is prepared from rice flour.

See NepaliMom’s instructions to cook the doughnuts:

2. Gundruk

Gundruk, a popular dish among Nepalis, is prepared by fermenting and drying leafy vegetables, namely mustard and radish leaves. The blog Nepali Local Food explains how to cook gundruk ko jhol (soup).

Gundruk ko jhol (soup)
Serves 6 to 8
Gundruk/Sinki 50 g
Onion 1 chopped
Tomato 1 chopped
Dry red chili 2 pods
Turmeric powder 1/2 Tablespoon
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Method: Soak Gundruk/Sinki in water for 10 min. Heat oil and fry chopped onions, tomatoes, chilies. Drain up soaked Gundruk/Sinki and fry, add turmeric powder and salt, and put 2 cups of water. Boil for 10 min, and serve hot with cooked rice.

3. Momo

A typical serving of a plate of Momo with Sesame Yellow Sauce and Red Ginger Chilli Sauce in Nepal. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kushal Gayal. CC BY-SA

A typical serving of momo with sesame yellow sauce and red ginger chilli sauce in Nepal. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Kushal Gayal. CC BY-SA

Momo, a type of Tibetan dumpling, is so popular among Nepalis that it could be considered the country's top dish. The ubiquitous restaurants selling the dumplings generally stuff it with minced buffalo meat, chicken, mutton or vegetables.

Check out the step-by-step momo cooking guide in the Taste of Nepal blog. Or watch a YouTube video posted by Pucca syanu showing how to cook them:


4. Chhoila

Chhoila, a favourite dish among the Newars of Kathmandu Valley, has become popular throughout the country. Generally made from buffalo meat, the burnt version called “haku chhoila” (black chhoila) is very tasty. Check the We All Nepali blog for details of cooking chicken chhoila.

Watch Babus Cooking demonstrating chhoila preparation:

5. Chatamari

Chatamari, also called Nepali pizza, is a kind of rice crepe made famous by the Newars of Kathmandu Valley. The blog We All Nepali offers details on how to prepare it.

See how chatamari is made in this YouTube video by Marc Wiens:

6. Bagiya

Bagiya is a healthy and delicious dish made from rice flour savoured especially during the Deepawali festival in eastern Terai of Nepal. It is a special to the indigenous Tharus. While Tharus in eastern Nepal prefer flat bagiya with lentils, the Tharus in western Nepal prepare bagiya in a tubular shape without lentils, explains the blog Voice of Tharus.

Learn how to make it via Voice of Tharus:

Soak the rice is soaked in water and mill it in a dheki, the traditional rice milling machine. The taste of the flour ground in a dheki is many times better than the one ground in a rice mill.
Sift the flour and fry it in an iron cauldron (Don't add oil and keep in mind not to burn the flour).
Mix warm water to the flour and knead enough to prepare a tender dough.
Steam lentils and add spices, ginger, mustard oil and salt to it.
Make round dumplings out of the dough. Bore a hole, put the mixture of lentils and spice and flatten it with the palms at the middle and leave both the ends protruding out.
Steam the dumplings over a clay pot of boiling water.
Serve the steamed bagiya with chutney or vegetable curry.

7. Sidhara

Sidhara Cakes. Image via author courtesy Voice of The Tharus blog

Sidhara cakes. Image via author courtesy Voice of The Tharus blog

Sidhara is prepared from taro stem, turmeric, and dried fish. The aroma is pungent and the taste bitter, but still it is one of the delicacies eaten by the Terai dwellers especially indigenous peoples like the Tharus, Danuwars, Musahars and others.

The blog Voice of Tharus details the cooking of Sidhara:

Gather the Dedhna and Ponthi varieties of fish. Both the varieties are found in abundance in the paddy fields and public water sources.
Dry the fishes on sun. It will take few days to dry perfectly.
Gather Kachu (taro – Colocasia) stems and cut them into small pieces. Wash them thoroughly.
Grind or mill the dried fishes, together with the colocasia stem and turmeric, and make small cakes.
Leave the cakes to dry on the sun for 10-15 days and after that it store in a dry place for future use. Your sidhara is then ready to cook and eat.
To cook the sidhara, crumple and break the cakes into tiny crumbs. Fry the pieces of sidhara in mustard oil together with onion, green chillies, radish and spices. Add water and salt to taste.
Garnish the dish with green coriander leaves and serve with puffed and beaten rice.

February 25 2014

VIDEO: 7 Months Pregnant – And Still Working the Fields

This video report by Sonia Narang for The World originally appeared on PRI.org on February 23, 2014 and is republished as part of a content sharing agreement.

Januka Rasaeli lives in a rural village in Nepal, where women do strenuous chores all day long. Heavily pregnant, she worries her work will put her baby at risk.

In recent years, Nepal has made a big push to improve the health of pregnant women, and the country has seen a drop in the number of women dying during childbirth. Yet expectant mothers often do backbreaking work that can harm their health and that of their unborn children. As she toils all day, Januka Rasaeli, 28, shares her hopes and fears.

This story is part of PRI's The Ninth Month series, a journey through pregnancy and childbirth, across cultures and continents. Join the Ninth Month community on Facebook to share stories about childbirth where you live. Twitter hashtag #ninthmonth

February 21 2014

Congratulating The New Prime Minister of Nepal

Nepal’s Parliament has elected Mr. Sushil Koirala (75), the president of the party Nepali Congress, as the new Nepali Prime Minister. Nepali diaspora blogger Indra congratulates the new Prime Minister and thinks that “the gift Mr. Koirala has for empowering others with his humility and sincerity will go a long way”.

February 17 2014

Nepal Airlines Plane Crashes Killing All 18 On Board

Image from Wikimedia Commons by Wolfgang Soshin Drechsler. CC BY-SA 3.0

A De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter of Nepal Airlines, similar to the aircraft involved in the accident. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Wolfgang Soshin Drechsler. CC BY-SA 3.0

An ill-fated Twin Otter plane crashed on 16 February 2014 killing all 18 on board in the forests of Masine in mid-western Nepal.

The wreckage of the state-owned Nepal Airlines Corporation plane which went missing after 1 p.m. Nepal Standard Time (NST) on Sunday and was found on Monday morning by local youths who had been there to play with the snow, reports Nepali online newspaper Setopati. The aircraft may have hit a mountain, which caused the crash.

Medico, a medical doctor from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), tweeted:

Sad news. What had to happen, got to know the same. All 18 aboard the Nepal Airlines Corporation plane died.

Journalist Bhabasagar Ghimire tweeted an earlier picture of the plane:

On 24 April 2010 the plane was to ferry a patient to Nepalgunj from Jumla airport.

The plane was 43 years old and was carrying 15 passengers and 3 crew members, blog Mysansar reported. Among them were a Danish national and a child. The aeroplane was scheduled to be decommissioned in 2014.

Rajan Bhattarai from Germany tweeted:

The weather throughout the country was very bad on the day the plane crashed:

The ones who permitted to fly the plane in such weather should be jailed.

Although being old, the plane had had only one incident of slipping on the runway of Jumla airport on 25 June 1992. The plane was also hijacked by Congress workers 40 years ago to loot the 30 lakhs of Indian rupees (about 4,800 US dollars) that the plane was carrying, reported Mysansar.

The Nepalese aviation industry has seen a huge number of accidents in the recent years, with two fatal plane crashes each year from 2010 to 2012. The European Union has banned all airlines from Nepal to fly into the 28 European nations.

Social media was awash with the news about the crash and condolence messages. Former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai tweeted:

Pyasi tweeted:

[They say] a lot of courage is needed to scale Mount Everest. Seems thousand times more courage is needed to travel in a Nepali plane.

Indeed, the air journeys in Nepali skies seem more dangerous with the recent air accidents.

February 16 2014

One Nepalese Doctor's Hunger Strike Wins Action From Officials

After an assurance that Prof Dr Prakash Sayami would be reinstated as the dean of Institute of Medicine following Dr Shashi Sharma's dismissal, senior orthopaedic surgeon Prof Dr Govinda KC is ending his 3rd hunger strike in Kathmandu. Image by Narayan Maharjan. Copyright Demotix (24/1/2014)

After an assurance that Dr. Prakash Sayami would be reinstated as the dean of Institute of Medicine following Dr. Shashi Sharma's dismissal, senior orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Govinda KC is ending his third hunger strike in Kathmandu. Image by Narayan Maharjan. Copyright Demotix (24/1/2014)

Dr. Govinda KC, a senior orthopedic surgeon of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Nepal who has earned the nickname Crusader KC, ended his fourth fast-unto-death [ne] on 15 February 2014. Dr. KC, who was fighting to end political interference in the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in Nepal, has once again proven that victory can be won without resorting to violence.

The doctor had only ended his third hunger strike for the same reasons on 25 January after officials had assured him they would meet his demands, but he resumed the strike in early February, accusing them of dragging their feet.

He had been demanding to appoint a new dean at the Institute of Medicine (IoM) on the basis of seniority, stop granting affiliation to medical colleges in urban areas, autonomy for IoM and action against Tribhuvan University (TU) vice-chancellor, rector and registrar, who according to him were corrupt and influenced by “medical mafia”.

Medical students taking care of Dr KC during the fast offered juice to him to end the latest eight-day strike, online portal Onlinekhabar reports. An agreement was signed among Dr. KC, the education secretary and the newly appointed Dean of the Institute of Medicine (IoM) Dr. Rakesh Prasad Srivastav, according to The Himalayan Times.

Dr. Sudhamshu KC, a liver specialist, researcher and traveler from Kathmandu, tweeted:

Very happy to know that Dr. KC ended the fast. But the pest of TU [Tribhuvan University] is still to be killed. May the new council of ministers use effective pesticide.

Dr. KC enjoyed widespread support from the public during all of his four fasts-unto-death in 2010, August 2012, January 2014 and February 2014.

One of his fans, Manohar, a graduate of life science and biotechnology, tweeted:

Hey,
Those who say you will eat when it falls,
Those who say you will eat when it dies,
KC won’t feel tired
KC won’t retire
Your palace of black property will surely burn down
KC’s dreams will never burn down.

Popular Nepali blog Mysansar [ne] wrote about the doctor's heroics quoting an earlier write-up on him by journalist Surendra Paudel of Nagarik Daily, who has covered the KC extensively:

It’s been 17 years, he packs his bags with medicines and sets off for the remote villages in Nepal, at least twice a year. He has been to the mountains, hills and terai, to serve his countrymen, free of charge. He has served the needy of 72 districts out of the 75 districts in Nepal. And his journey is continuing.

He has not only served Nepalis but has been a helping hand to the survivors of major catastrophes in recent times. He was in Bangladesh after the devastating cyclone in 1993, in India’s Gujarat after the major earthquake, in Pakistan after the earthquake in 2005, in Myanmar in 2008 after the cyclone, and in Haiti after the disastrous earthquake in 2010. He spent several weeks in these countries treating the survivors.

While he treats, distributes medicines, he doesn’t charge anything. He does not accept donation from organisations. It’s his own hard-earned money that he spends in cure of the needy.

Screenshot from the Facebook page

Screenshot from the Facebook page “Save IOM, Save Dr. Govinda K C”

Dipak Bhattarai discussed on his blog an anecdote shared on his Facebook by Paudel:

Just after resigning from the premiership, the Maoist supremo Prachanda aka Pushpa Kamal Dahal had invited Dr KC for his health check-up. Dr KC rejected the request and said that he has never gone to anybody’s residence for the check-up due to his busy schedule treating the poor and needy at the hospital. The messenger had to give in to Dr KC’s principles. He also had to abide by the rules. Prachanda had to come to the hospital and wait in queue for the check-up. And he had to do away with his entourage of bodyguards, as suggested by Dr KC only three of them came to the hospital.

While many Nepalese were supportive of his strike, some were irritated by his fourth fast.

Jigyasu Mahesh tweeted:

Dr KC’s ways of not letting work amplifies the politics. [They are] collapsing the system.

Ramen Adhikari wrote.

To which Milan Bagale replied:

Hope the mafia loses the battle. From the deepest of my heart. Victory be with us.

With Dr KC’s ending of the fast, the medical fraternity hopes that this will mark the end of the rule of medical mafia and political interference at the IoM in Nepal.

February 09 2014

An Info-Activism Tool-Kit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tacticaal Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

Tactical Tech's Info-activism Toolkit on Women's Rights Campaigning

The Women's Rights Campaigning: Info-Activism Toolkit by Tactical Technology Collective is a new guide for women's rights activists, advocates, NGOs and community based organizations who want to use technology tools and practices in their campaigning. This has been developed in collaboration with advocacy organizations from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Egypt.

This Toolkit has been customized from an updated version of two earlier toolkits: Message in a Box and Mobiles in a Box. The website will soon be translated into Arabic, Swahili, Bengali, and Hindi.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

December 29 2013

Contemplating Nelson Mandela's Legacy in South Asia

This post is part of Global Voices special coverage Remembering Nelson Mandela.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013. Cartoon by Bryant Arnold. Free for use.

Nelson Mandela 1918-2013. Cartoon by Bryant Arnold. Free for use.

Earlier this month, Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero and first black president, died at age 95, leaving the world in mourning. People in South Asian countries also remembered the beloved statesman in their own way.

Nepal, after long years of political turmoil, has recently completed an election. But the leadership remains an apprehension for many. Satire Nepali blogger Guffadi wrote:

In the past sixty years, we have seen hundreds of clowns who have been offered opportunities to govern this country. But they all turned out to be false prophets who only enriched themselves and their families instead of helping the common folks.

How long will we have to wait for honest leaders to lead us to the Promised Land?

We are still waiting for our Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Why is it difficult for our Emperor and his courtiers to admit their crimes publicly and ask for forgiveness? Our security forces should do the same as well.

Indra highlighted Gopi Chandra Kharel's article in International Business Times, who tried to link connection of Mandela with Nepal, a country 5,725 miles away from South Africa:

Nepali leaders have a lot to learn from Mandela's statesmanship, integrity, and lack of political ambition. His ability to cooperate with even his opponents is a pointer to us during the constitution making process. – Jayaraj Acharya, Nepal's former ambassador to the United Nations

Blogger Passu from Bhutan compared Mandela to Zhabdrung Rinpoche, the founder of the Bhutanese state:

Zhabdrung lived four hundred years before Mandela yet there is something so common between the two- Zhabdrung unified Bhutan as a nation state while Mandela unified different races to make South Africa one strong nation. Zhabdrung fled to Bhutan to escape arrest in Tibet where he was supposed to be the rightful leader. But after he became powerful in Bhutan he never sought vengeance against people in Tibet who wronged him, just as Mandela reconciled with people who imprisoned him 27 years.

Today, when Mandela dies I am reminded of Zhabdrung's death.

From Sri Lanka, Asanga Welikala wrote on Groundviews:

The freedom from fear imbued Nelson Mandela’s personal conduct and political creed throughout his life, and it is the leadership attribute that ensured a plural and inclusive constitutional democracy in his motherland. It is unfortunately not an example that many Asian and African leaders have had the will, the capacity or the character to follow.

Also on Groundviews, Sunanda Deshapriya drafted an imaginary open letter to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse by Mandela of what is expected of him:

At times I wonder what do you have to learn form us when you have become a strong defender and a close friend of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who has made himself president for life, in practice. His path was completely different to ours and laden with violence. Another disappointing news is your close relationship with the king of the Swaziland, a most backward country in Africa. If you have chosen to follow the examples of Zimbabwe and Swaziland, there is nothing we can offer you.

Teeth Maestro from Pakistan thought that not many leaders can extract peace in the face of adversity:

Surprisingly as similar to Mandela being labelled by his right-wingers as Terrorist Mandela, Khan is similarly painted as Taliban Khan mostly by his opponents, predominantly settled on the left-wing. Such resistance, is in my opinion, merely because driven by his opponents who see these “peace talks” attempts to disrupt their own established control on Pakistan. The name calling will never stop true genuine leaders, in fact, it is in the face of such adversity that actually drives them harder to continue their struggle for whats best for their country – Peace

In 1990, the Indian government granted Mandela its highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India). Upon his death, India declared five days of national mourning for Mandela. He is widely revered in the country, but it seems some have never seen his photo. Poet, blogger and satirist Farrukh Hossaini tweeted:

This post is part of Global Voices special coverage Remembering Nelson Mandela.

December 27 2013

PHOTOS: Humans Of South Asia

In 2010, photographer Brandon Stanton began photographing strangers on the streets of New York, asking them a few questions, and sharing their story online. After three years, he put together the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page, and as the project grew in popularity, professional and amateur photographers across the world began to replicate the idea with blogs and Facebook pages highlighting photos and stories of people from their regions.

Take a look at how Humans of New York has inspired photographers across South Asian countries.

India

Screenshot of the Humans of India Facebook Page

Screenshot of the Humans of India Facebook Page

Since its start on June 1, 2012, the Humans of India Facebook page has attracted more than 108,700 followers and been shared by more than 17,800 people. Megha Majumder, the CEO of Humans of India Facebook page, explained in an interview to Mashable:

There's this word that I fell in love with a while back: sonder. It's the realization that every random passerby is living a life that is as vivid and intricate as your own, complete with their own thoughts, feelings and emotions. And to them, you're just a passing figure on the street, too. Sonder seized my awareness –- people were no longer just strangers

A decoration of the body, an enhancement of the soul ॐ. Image by Humans of India. Used with permission.

A decoration of the body, an enhancement of the soul ॐ. Photo by Humans of India. Used with permission.

“I'm pretty sure that love and light have something to do with each other. That's why Diwali's cool. Lots of love in the air.” Photo by Humans of India. Used with permission

Similar initiatives were taken on by projects like Humans Of Bangalore, Humans of Mumbai, Humans of New Delhi (1, 2), Humans of Hyderabad and Humans of Lucknow. Most of these pages accept crowdsourced submissions.

Screenshot of Humans of Bangalore page

Screenshot of Humans of Bangalore page

Bangladesh

Humans of Bangladesh is a crowdsourced project that has gained more than 2,050 followers since its start on July 19, 2012.

Screenshot of Humans of Bangladesh blog

Screenshot of Humans of Bangladesh blog

There is also another new project, started in November 29, 2013, by Bangladeshi photographers also called Humans of Bangladesh, which is followed by more than 4,700 people.

Screenshot of Humans of Bangladesh by Bangladeshi photographers.

Screenshot of Humans of Bangladesh by Bangladeshi photographers.

Also available is the Humans of Dhaka page.

Maldives

The Humans of Maldives Facebook page was launched on August 10, 2013 and is followed by more than 2,300 people.

Screenshot from Humans of Maldives Facebook page

Screenshot from Humans of Maldives Facebook page

Bhutan

Inspired by Humans of New York, the Humans of Bhutan page began in September 2012 and has continued to expand its collection of photos one portrait at a time.

Screenshot of Humans of Bhutan webpage

Screenshot of Humans of Bhutan webpage

Nepal

The Humans of Nepal page, which began on June 7, 2013, celebrates the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of Nepal.

Screenshot from Humans of Nepal

Screenshot from Humans of Nepal

Pakistan

The Humans of Pakistan page was launched in July 2012, and a similar Humans of Pakistan page started on August 22, 2013. The pages are followed by a few hundred people.

screenshot of the Humans of Pakistan Facebook page

Screenshot of the Humans of Pakistan Facebook page

It seems that city pages are more popular, such as Humans of Islamabad and Rawalpindi (3,416 followers), Humans Of Kashmir (1,209 Followers), Humans of Sindh (3,521 followers), Humans of Lahore (7,057 followers), and Humans of Karachi (99,647 followers).

Letter by Sakina. Image courtesy Humans of New York and Humans of Karachi

Sakina Gheewala. Photo courtesy Humans of New York and Humans of Karachi

Sakina Gheewala wrote a letter to Humans of New York creator Brandon Stanton, which was featured in Humans of New York page, explaining how the project had touched her:

Dear Brandon,

My HONY book arrived in Pakistan today. Though it was five months late, it was my favorite birthday present of the year.

In a country where people fight for survival everyday, I'm one of the fortunate few whose biggest worry right now is getting through medical school. In my part of the world, people like me, no matter how much we try to deny it, live in a bubble. And our problems are called “first world problems.” Maybe it will surprise people to see a “Pakistani” so in touch with the Western World. To see something other than the hatred that the world seems to notice radiating from here. But in my little bubble here in Pakistan, I find inspiration in the stories shared on Humans of New York, because they depict more than what the common man perceives. Yes, Pakistan as a nation suffers more than the rest, we do have a billion and one problems, but HONY reminds me that above everything else we are individuals. That just how every Pakistani is not the same, neither is every American. It reminds me to love and respect everybody– something many people here tend to have forgotten. The pictures and stories on HONY almost always make me feel like anything is possible.

Thank you,
Sakina

November 26 2013

Uncertainty And Hope During Elections in Nepal

Supporters of different Nepali political parties outside BICC building where vote counting is continuing. Image by Kumar Shrestha. Copyright Demotix (21/11/2013)

Supporters of different Nepali political parties outside BICC building where vote counting is continuing. Image by Kumar Shrestha. Copyright Demotix (21/11/2013)

Nepal's elections to choose a new Constituent Assembly were finally held on 19 November 2013 a year to the day that they were first planned. The vote counting is ongoing, with the latest reports pegging Nepal's oldest party, the Nepali Congress, as leading the polls.

The elections are shrouded with uncertainty as the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has alleged vote rigging. The Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and Nepali Congress are neck-and-neck, while the Maoists face electoral defeat. 

Much rides on these elections because the new assembly will be tasked with drafting Nepal's much awaited Constitution. Not long after a decade-long civil war between the country's Maoists and government came to an end, the first Constituent Assembly was formed in 2008. But after four years it failed to write a constitution, and the country has been in political crisis since.  

The voter turnout on the day was encouraging, with a large women participation. Blogger Ushaft discussed the general mood of voters on the voting day:

People who voted for Maoists last time have turned against them now. This is the general mood one can observe in districts, villages and streets.

However, the day did not pass without violence. Journalist and blogger Deepak Adhikari blogged about an election day bomb blast that severely injured children playing in the streets. There has been an increase in election-related violence in Nepal both pre-poll and during the poll, noted by blogger Ushaft:

A series of violent explosions were reported last week. It is not clear who did them, and most blame the Dash faction. But a large number of such activities are targeted at non-Maoist candidates.

Aakar Post analyzed social media reactions regarding the elections. The pre-election buzzwords were topped by words such as “bomb”:

Analysis of pre-election keywords in Social Media. Image by Aakar Tech. Used under a CC BY-NC license

Analysis of pre-election keywords in Social Media. Image by Aakar Tech. Used under a CC BY-NC license

While the post-election buzz words were dominated by words like “win” and “boycott”.

Nepal’s Maoists are disputing the election results. Previous Prime Minister and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) urged the election commission to stop the vote counting with complaints of “conspiracy and poll-rigging.”

On Facebook, Maoists leaders and supporters – notably Prakash Dahal (Prachanda's son) – have posted series of updates regarding their allegation of irregularities. Prakash Dahal has also posted pictures which he claims prove that the pools were not free. He has posted four photos of what purportedly show an army officer standing next to voters casting ballot. Nepal deployed 62,000 army personnel in all the constituencies to provide security for the November 19 Constituent Assembly elections.

But majority of comments posted seem to indicate that the people want the Maoists to take this defeat as a lesson:

निष्पक्ष चुनाव भनेको यहि रहिछ हैन । सेना कुन घेरामा बस्ने रे । निलकण्डलगायत षडयन्त्रकारीहरु । ब्यारेकमा मतपेटिका साटेर नपुगेर सेनालाई कहां भोट हाल्ने सिकाउन लगाउन

This is free and fair election. Which boundary would the Army abide by? Nilkantha [Chief Elections Commissioner] and the other perpetrators? Not happy with changed ballot boxes in barracks, made the Army teach voters where to vote.

Blogger Ushaft quotes a citizen's statement, which expressed concern on the Maoists allegation of election irregularities and rejected demands of the Maoists to obstruct the vote tallying process.

On Twitter, the #NepalVotes hashtag was used by many commentators to write about the elections. NepalVotes.com is on the forefront of disseminating and visualizing election-related data, and a popular Nepali-language blog has coordinated coverage with them:

Screenshot o

Screenshot of the website Nepalvotes.com with graphical representation.

This election also highlighted the importance of data journalism within the Nepali context, with sites like NepalVotes.com and MySansar active in monitoring. 

Blogger and journalist Deepak Adhikari (@DeepakAdk) noted on Twitter:

Interesting to note that otherwise active Twitter user, former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai (@brb_laaldhwoj), has remained silent following the results. He tweeted just once after the polls, to thank his voters.

Paramendra Bhagat at Democracy for Nepal provides a snapshot of the latest standings as on 25 November 2013:

Image courtesy Paramendra Bhagat at Democracy for Nepal.

Image courtesy Paramendra Bhagat at Democracy for Nepal.

NepalVotes.com has the updates of results as they come in, and projections of seat count under the proportional representation as per their own analysis.

It's still not clear if these elections will result in a constitution, blogger Kaja wrote:

What I heard from some Nepali people was that for this election they hoped for a constitution. That was their biggest wish. Now only time will show what will happen.

Bhumika Ghimire also contributed to this post.

November 19 2013

PHOTOS: Voters Turn Out in Droves for Nepal's Constituent Assembly Elections

Voters queuing outside a polling station in Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo by anuj arora, copyright  Demotix (19/11/2013)

Voters queuing outside a polling station in Kirtipur, Kathmandu, Nepal. Photo by anuj arora. Copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Nepal went to the polls today, November 19, 2013, to vote for a second Constituent Assembly, which will be charged with writing the constitution for the nation's governance.

Despite reports of sporadic incidents of violence and concerted efforts by the dissident Communist Party of Nepal–Maoist (CPN-M) cadres throughout the country to disrupt the election process and implement their call for poll boycott (bandha) during the election period, voters in Nepal were enthusiastic and queued at polling centres in large numbers to cast their votes.

The administration, for its part, tried to ensure tight security on the election day. According to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nilkantha Uprety, the voter turnout was estimated to be a record 70 percent

Security personal patrolling Kathmandu city. Photo by  gagan_thapa thapa, copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Security personal patrolling Kathmandu city on election day in Nepal. Photo by gagan_thapa thapa. Copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Interestingly, there was a lot of participation by women voters, who turned out in large numbers to vote. Kashish Das Shrestha (@kashishds), a Kathmandu- and New York-based journalist, tweeted:

There was also a lot of enthusiasm among the elderly to cast their votes, many of them being septuagenarians and above. 110-year-old Dhan Kumari Gurung cast her vote in Sundaridanda polling centre of Kaski district.

From Lalitpur, Nepal, research scientist Sameer Mani Dixit (@sameermdixit) tweeted:

An elderly woman is assisted by her grandson as he carries from a voting centre after casting her vote in the second Constitution Assembly Election. Photo by Nabin Baral

An elderly woman being carried by her grandson from a voting centre after casting her vote in the second Constitution Assembly election. Photo by Nabin Baral. Copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Throughout the country, not only was the turnout at the polling centres encouraging, but people also expressed happiness in being able to vote and hoped that this election would deliver where the last one failed.

The first Constituent Assembly was formed in 2008, two years after a bloody decade-long civil war between the country's Maoists and government came to an end. Nepal's monarchy was abolished shortly afterward, but the assembly failed to write a constitution, and after four years it was dissolved, plunging the diverse country into political crisis. 

Nishchal Dhakal (@nishchaldhakal), a doctor based in Kathmandu, tweeted:

Sydney Based Nepalese Journalist Rishi Acharya (@rishiacharya) tweeted:

Encouraging number of female candidates

The fate of 6,128 candidates in the First Past the Post (FPTP) and around 10,700 Proportional Representative (PR) categories will be decided today. As reported by nepalvotes.com, 127 political parties are in the fray with 12,147,865 eligible voters. Out of the 6,128 FPTP candidates, 667 -or 10.88 percent- are female, and out of the 10,709 PR candidates, 5,291 candidates are female, reported setopati.com.

AFP Iraq Bureau Chief Prashant Rao (@prashantrao) tweeted an infographic on Nepal's voters: 

Confusing symbols

While voters were busy casting their precious votes, they were likely to get confused by the election symbols which are similar if not taken carefully, reported Nepaliheadlines.

Proportional representation ballot paper featuring more than 100 parties. Photo by anuj arora, copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

Proportional representation ballot paper featuring more than 100 parties. Photo by anuj arora. Copyright Demotix (19/11/2013)

UCPN-Maoist's election symbol is a sickle and hammer inside a circle, while CPN-ML and CPN-United's symbols are sickle and a star, and sickle respectively. Likewise, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum's election symbol is two hands poised for a Namaste, while Nepal Sadbhawana Party's symbol is a hand and Nepal Shanti Chhetra Parishad's symbol is two hands clapping.

Rashtriya Prajatantra Party Nepal's symbol is a cow. However, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party's symbol is oxen and the symbol of Janatantrik Terai Madhes Mukti Tigers is oxen with cart.

More confusing are the symbols of Nepal Loktantrik Samajwadi Dal, Janata Party Nepal, Terai Madhes Pahad Himal Ekata Party and Jana Unity Cooperative Party Nepal. They are a pen, a pen and an inkpot, a pencil, and a pen and a copy respectively.

Similar is the case of party symbols of Rashtrawadi Janata Party, Rashtriya Yatharthawadi Party Nepal, Nepal Samabeshi Party and Rashtrawadi Ekata Party. They are a bird, the national bird danfe, a parrot, and a pigeon.

Interesting candidates

While the political parties are competing with each other in the electoral constituencies, the candidates of Bibeksheel Party (Sensible Party) are in the fray along with the political bigwigs in the four major constituencies of Kathmandu. Interestingly, they have selected a dog (Kukur in Nepali) as their election symbol.

According to The Kathmandu Post, “all of the four candidates from Bibeksheel hail from impressive entrepreneurial and educational backgrounds”. It is a tech-savvy group that has been making wide use of social media to engage the people, especially youth. In the past, the Bibeksheel group has played active role in organizing popular social campaigns like Occupy Baluwatar (a peaceful protest movement calling on the Nepali state to better address the widespread problem of impunity and gender-based violence), Entrepreneurs for Nepal, Nepal Unites and Die Banda Die (to end the ‘bandh’ or shutdown culture in Nepal) etc.

For the elections, the one-year-old Bibeksheel party used many innovative campaigning techniques, smileys, rickshaws with flags and of course a lot of social media. There has been a lot of discussion about this group online, but it remains to be seen if these would have an actual impact on the voters and translated into votes.

Blogger Nepalikukur wrote in the online magazine La.Lit. that voting for the kukur (dog) symbol would be akin to registering a protest vote, but that it could also mark the beginning of a “genuine party of the people”.

Nepalis have given chances to Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist each to rule the country. However, none of them have been successful in satisfying the expectations of general public. This time round, the Nepalis hope to elect a stable government who can draft a constitution and lead the country to prosperity.

Now begins the wait for the winners and, more importantly, the constitution.

November 04 2013

Abuse of Workers and Our Daughter From Nepal

Indian blogger Kiran Kumar Karlapu tells a real life story of the plights of a Nepali girl, who was pushed back by her employer from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She was left stranded in Mumbai airport with not enough money to buy ticket to go back to home and some fellow passengers helped her secure a ticket.

October 18 2013

Property Bubble In Kathmandu

Chandan Sapkota reports that the rise in the cost of housing in Kathmandu has made them beyond the reach of most of the Nepalese people. Easy bank credits to developers and prospective buyers have possibly triggered the bubble.

October 17 2013

#Humanrights On Blog Action Day: The Ignored Issue Of Disappearance In Nepal

The National Network of Families of Disappeared and Missing Nepal claims that more than 1,400 people were forcibly disappeared during a decade long (1996-2006) civil war. Siromani Dhungana at ‘United We Blog! for a Democratic Nepal’ reports that the issue of disappearance has not been addressed properly by the state and the political parties.

October 14 2013

Nepali Journalist Arrested For Sharing News On Facebook

Aakar Anil reports that Dinesh Acharya, the Editor of Nepali business weekly Share Bazaar, has been arrested on 30th September 2013 in Kathmandu, Nepal on charges of sharing a news article on a Facebook page. He was detained on charges of violating the controversial clause 47 of the Electronic Transaction Act based on a complaint filed by an industrialist.

October 13 2013

Screening Of Critic Sri Lankan Movie Forcefully Stopped In Nepal

Sunanda Deshapriya at Freedom Of Expression Sri Lanka reports that the international screening of No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka has been stopped in Nepal due to the pressure of Sri Lankan government. Earlier, the investigative documentary about the final weeks of the Sri Lankan Civil War was also banned in Malaysia.

September 21 2013

Online Application For Nepali Passports Required

Hira B Thapa describes the current long and complicated process of applying and issuance of machine readable passports in Nepal. The blogger opines that a proposed online application system will ease and shorten the process.

September 05 2013

South Asia Shining in Some Ways, Suffering in Others

The countries in South Asia may be thriving economically, but the region must work together to tackle the problems of poverty, gender inequality and climate change, according to experts at the recent South Asia Economic Summit (SAES).

The SAES is an initiative of the premier civil society think-tanks in South Asia. This year's event was held in Sri Lanka from 2nd to 4th September 2013 hosted by the island's leading economic policy think tank, the Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka (IPS). Since 2008, the SAES is hosted in a different South Asian country annually.

This year’s SAES discussed regional issues like harnessing human capital, managing water, food security and climate change, and sought for more regional cooperation. One hundred and twenty renowned socio-economic experts gathered in Colombo for the summit, whose theme was “Towards a Stronger, Dynamic and Inclusive South Asia”, to debate and discuss over the course of the three days.

An important feature of this event was the active debates on the conference theme by participants and followers in social media. The conference blog was very active as well as the Facebook, Flickr and Twitter channels. The event was live webcast.

Tahmina Shafique, a blogger and an Youth Delegate from Bangladesh, wrote about the scope of the summit and challenges of the participating countries:

The summit has brought together a wide range of stakeholders from the eight SAARC countries. The stakeholders consist of representatives from key think tanks, academic institutions, policy institutes, and international agencies. Perhaps the key highlight of this summit is the inclusion of a group of young leaders who will be engaged in analysis and dissemination of the key discussions. This is certainly a move away from the traditional closed-door civil society talks and opens up the platform for engagement of young leaders in these cooperation initiatives.

The summit is most relevant at a time when there is an urgent need for increased synergies among the South Asian countries. A region that is thriving and growing at the back drop of its rich culture, traditions, economic activities and overall increased growth, faces numerous challenges. Arenas such as poverty, gender parity, food security, climate change, and various other factors remain to be areas that need to be focused upon in a more strategic and sustained manner.

Photographs from South Asian countries compiled by Easa Samih. CC BY (Click on the image for info on photographers)

Photographs from South Asian countries compiled by Easa Samih. CC BY (Click on the image for detailed info on photographers)

Abdul Halik Azeez, blogger and an youth delegate from Sri Lanka, started with the changing weather in Colombo and what it means for the region:

The unpredictability of monsoons, while mildly inconveniencing the city’s cubicle warriors with cumbersome umbrellas, plays havoc in the region’s agricultural sector, the rise in sea level threatens low lying islands, the melting of ice caps in the Himalayas threatens norms of water flow and while Colombo may have been benefited with a welcome bout of cooler weather other parts of the region have faced extended spells of debilitating heat. Besides, of the sea level rises that stroll along Galle Face could soon turn into a wade. All these changes affect millions of lives and threaten the already struggling development processes of the region.

Blogger Aarya Nijat, an youth delegate from Afghanistan, mentioned that politics is the game changer:

The Afghan-French author of The Patience Stone Atiq Rahimi wrote: “…in Iran just as well as in Afghanistan (and perhaps South Asia) words defy tyranny… the existential problem isn’t “to be or not to be …” but to say or not to say… Thus, any act becomes political. Even silence. Even lies… The problem lies in each of us, because our hearts are sealed… So should we still doubt the political dimension of literature? I’d say NO, because literature is a fight against all political systems. It is the power of words against the words of power.”

In a post on the last day of the summit, Nijat asked ”Are We Discussing the Real Questions?”:

Is the public and private sectors pursue similar interests or goals, if you will? What is it that the two share in terms of their sense of purpose, upon which a potential partnership can be built? Why don’t we talk about this?

Nandish Kenia, youth delegate from India, discussed whether the private sector can bring the change:

One of the arguments that persists is that why is it wrong to trade if the farmer is getting a huge lump sum of money for his small piece of land by an industrialist? Is he responsible for moving away from green revolution?

Trisha Rana, youth delegate from Nepal, commented that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), an organization of South Asian nations established in 1985 for the promotion of economic and social progress, cultural development, friendship and cooperation within the South Asia region, has failed to make an impact among the South Asian countries:

How can we move ahead with a coming together of South Asian hearts, even as we have failed to merge our practical, finance heads?

There were also discussions in Twitter:

Pakistani economist Nadeem Haque (@nadeemhaque) wrote:

Top Google executive Ann Lavin spoke at the event. Abdul Halik Azeez (@HalikAzeez) from Sri Lanka wrote:

September 02 2013

Protests Rock Nepal as Dispute Over Buddha Statue Continues

Protests once again erupted in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley 29 August, 2013 demanding the installation of a 17-foot statue of Buddha in Kakrebihar, a Hindu-Buddhist temple near the city of Birendranagar.

This time, the protests were peaceful. Last month when the protests began, 17 people including four police officers were wounded during clashes over the statue. Not long after, the anger over the statue's removal escalated into a national issue, but the matter had appeared to have settled down until now.

The demonstrations began at the statue's short-lived unveiling on May 11, 2013 on the occasion of Buddha Purnima, the birthday of Buddha. It had already been erected under a tree at the temple Kakrebihar, with the cloth that had covered its face removed after performing religious rituals and worship, when local government officials arrived and intervened, stating that the statue was against forestry policy. After a violent fracas, the officials along with the help of police uninstalled the statue and took it to the district police office where it was discarded in a corner. Photos of the incident are available on Nepali blog Mysansar.

Pragya Ghimirey uploaded a video to YouTube which shows the situation getting out of hand as locals chasing police and then trying to install the statue:

The district administration in consultation with Department of Archaeology had originally given permission to the Buddhist Monasaery Establishment and Conservation Committee to establish the Buddha statue on 24 February, 2008, according to the Mysansar.

The protests grew so large that the Surkhet Valley was closed for an indefinite period by the agitated group. The movement took a decisive turn when the Buddhists staged a protest in front of Singha Durbar, the administrative helm of the country on 30 July 2013. The traffic in the Kathmandu Valley came to a halt due to the demonstrations.

The government called protesters in for a dialogue, but the talks ended without any agreement. However, the protesters continued with their demands, reported online portals Setopati [ne] and Hamrakura [ne]. Some Buddhists started a fast unto death program demanding an idol of the Lord Buddha be installed at Kakrebihar, which is in Surkhet district.

Meanwhile, a group claiming to be a joint committee of different ethnicities and religions issued a press release on 31 July, 2013 and organized a rally on the following Friday evening to put pressure on protesters not to install the Buddha statue in Kakrebihar. The group organised a strike on 3 August, 2013, stating that in order to keep the communal harmony intact the demand of Buddha statue installation should be withdrawn. They have also filed a petition to the court.

Historic Buddhist site

Situated in the south of Birendranagar Municipality of Surkhet district in mid-western Nepal, Kakrebihar takes its name from its shape like a cucumber seed in Nepali language (kakro), according to locals, and the Sanskrit or Pali word for Buddhist monastery (vihara).

Once a sprawling centre of religious activities, the area is in dire straits with priceless ancient sculptures lying around in ruins. The standing structures are adorned with love-lorn messages and mindless graffiti in spite of a caretaker who makes the visitors sign a log book at the entrance of the main site.

Kakre Bihar, near Surkhet. Image from Flickr by The Great Himalaya Trail. CC NY-ND 2.0

Kakre Bihar, near Surkhet. Image from Flickr by The Great Himalaya Trail. CC NY-ND 2.0

In a research note (PDF), Dilli Raj Sharma noted:

The historic site of Kakrebihar offers a marvellous collection of monumental art comparable in the whole region, which confirms the fact that the region has a higher advancement of the Buddhist Mahayana tradition that might have been under the inspiration of western part of India particularly of Gujarat during the medieval period. The Mahayana knowledge in practice might have been blended with Hindu ideology and popularized it as a social harmony of the region.

Don't choose war in the name of Buddha”

The incident has hit hard the social media platforms and the walls of Facebook and Twitter users were awash with the discussion on Kakrebihar incident.

Milan Bagale (@Sabdachitra) tweeted:

Kakrebihar Buddha statue: Buddhas, chose greater peace over peace. Don't chose war in the name of Buddha. Long live Buddha. War be defeated

Former Nepalese Ambassador to Japan Dr. Bishnu Hari Nepal (@drbishnuhnepal) wrote:

Toronto-based Nepali photographer Surendra Lawoti (@SurendraLawoti) reported:

Buddha, the light of Asia, preached peace all his life. Let his followers not choose war over peace.

August 10 2013

Is ‘Free Tibet Movement’ Dying?

Is it any wonder that many Tibetans are now losing hope?

Neapali blog Blogdai criticizes the failures of the ‘Free Tibet Movement’ for not being effective enough to reduce Tibetan suffering.

July 11 2013

The Impact of Depreciation of The Nepali Currency

Nepali Rupee has recently weakened against the US Dollar. Economic blogger Chandan Sapkota analyses the causes and impacts of the depreciation of the Nepali currency.

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