Based on news stories from Kathmandu English Language newspapers and other sources

Here are a few items drawn from the April edition of NEWS FROM NEPAL, an irregular publication. If you would like the fuller version and a subscription (6 issues), please send $15 to NEWS FROM NEPAL, 600 SW 10th Avenue #537, Portland, Oregon 97205 USA.



Man Mohan Adhikary Dead. On the eve of the election, one of the leading candidates is dead. Man Mohan Adhikary, 78, Nepal's first Communist prime minister and the Communist Party-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) candidate for that post in the coming May election, passed away in a Kathmandu hospital from "multiple complications." He had collapsed during a campaign meeting. A founding member of the Nepal Communist Party in 1949, he played an active part in the revolution that ended the Rana regime, and, later, in the pro-democracy movement of 1990. He became head of the UML when hard-line Communists merged with his moderate faction just before the 1991 elections. In 1994, his party won control of the government, and he became prime minister. Earlier in his career, he had been jailed for 10 years during the Panchayat regime. (Reuters, April 26; Nepal Encyclopedia)


Flu and Famine Devastate Northwest. It made its first appearance in early March as a "strange illness" that had claimed 20 lives in Jumla. Before the end of of the month, more than 800 people were dead in an epidemic that had swept through 16 districts, hitting particularly hard in northwestern Nepal. It was now identified as viral influenza, and its symptoms included fever, nausea, excess sweating, coughing and sneezing. Many sufferers died within three days of the first symptom. Its most usual victims were either children under the age of 15 or older people who, if they were not smokers, had spent most of their lives in houses without chimneys. Authorities were unprepared for the appearance and dramatic growth of the disease. In the areas most affected, there was no medicine available for its treatment. Many health posts, lacking trained personnel and medicine, had simply closed down. The district hospital in Jumla, one of the hardest-hit districts, had only one doctor, a Dr. Deepak Sigdel, to cope with a continuing stream of patients. In Rukum, there was no doctor at all. No-one seemed able to identify the particular virus that caused this influenza. Some experts thought it might have a connection with unseasonably dry weather. Others tried to relate it to an epidemic of viral flu that had taken the lives of 200 people in New Delhi. By the time the death toll had reached nearly 250, the government had swung into action. Health officials flew to the stricken areas and medicines began to reappear. A second doctor was even sent out to Jumla (in response to "media outcry") to help Dr Sigdel, who, night and day, seven days a week, had been treating the hundreds of patients who showed up with the ailment. At this time, attention in the capital turned to the possibility that the epidemic might spread to Kathmandu, where dirt and crowding would create havoc. Towards the end of the month, the number of new cases began to dwindle, but then Jumla and neighboring districts were faced with a new threat: famine. Soaring temperatures and lack of rain had dried up wheat and barley crops, forcing greater reliance on foodstores delivered from elsewhere. People were said to be waiting in lines outside of food stations for as long as 15 days for their share of the meager rations that had been delayed in delivery by a national scarcity of helicopters. For Nepal's farthest northwest district of Humla, this was the second year of food shortage. Last year, 400 people died there of starvation. (Kathmandu Post, March, and other media)

Fires Rage, Mostly in Southeast. The last few months have been unusually hot and dry in Nepal. Kathmandu had only one rainy day during the entire winter (and that only a drizzle). The northwest, where continued heat and drought have destroyed crops, is facing famine (see "Flu, Fires and Famine,") above. About the middle of March, the newspapers started reporting devastating fires, mainly in the south and east. The first was in a Bhutanese refugee camp in southeastern Nepal, where flames had destroyed 14 huts. A few days later, 650 homes were said to have burned in two separate fires in the southeastern district of Saptari, and forest fires were raging in the eastern districts of Ilam, Panchthar, and, slightly farther west, Mahottari. Later reports described fires that had left hundreds of houses and cowsheds in ashes: 106 in Dhanusha, 139 in Jhapa, 147 in Kailali, and others, uncounted, in Siraha, Sunsari, Saptari, and Sankhuwasabha - all, except Kailali, in the east, and most in the Terai. There were also reports of houses being burned in Parbat in central Nepal, and forest fires raging near Lete and Marpha in Mustang district in north central Nepal. Sixteen people were reported dead, four of them in Sankhuwasabha from one family. In mid-March, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala visited affected areas that included Sunsari, the district from which he is running in the coming election. He delivered emergency supplies and clothing, and donated Rs. 200,000 (more than US $3,000) to the District Natural Disaster Relief Committee. (Kathmandu Post, March 10-April 7)


General Election Nears. May 17 is the magic date. That is when, for the third time since democracy was established in 1990, it will be the voters of Nepal rather than the politicians who will choose their government. Most of the eight governments that have followed one another in the eight years since the first general election was held have been the result of parliamentary maneuvering that has taken advantage of shifting political alliances. After the first general election in 1991, the voters have been heard only once on a nationwide basis, in 1994. This year's election will not present voters with an easy choice. The major contestants are the two parties that came together to bring democracy to Nepal in 1990. But, as nearly always in Nepal, there seems to be some cosmically-directed disintegrating force in its political life that is stronger than any integrating force. No-one was surprised that the two major partners in Nepal's "revolution," the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninists (CPN-UML) should become rivals as soon as their common goal had been achieved. But now even these are divided. The NC, which might at this point have found itself in position to become the majority party, has managed to alienate a large number of its important workers. They are upset that NC leaders did not put them on the ballot, and have thus decided to run in opposition to the official NC candidates. The CPN-UML, which earlier commanded a majority of votes in Parliament, has been torn apart in the frenzied political games of recent years, and is now severely weakened. Earlier, dissidents had formed an independent party, the Marxist-Leninist party (CPN-ML), that probably has enough support to deny the UML the winning majority it predicts for itself. Even the small Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), which, since the last election, has taken advantage of the weakness of the two major parties to form alliances first with one and then the other to exercise influence far beyond its numbers, has been split by internal dissension. There is thus the likelihood that the general election will not give any one party the 103 votes it needs to run the country without help. A survey conducted by Kathmandu Research Center gives the NC 70-80 seats, CPM-UML 65-70 seats, RPP 15 seats, CPN-ML 15 seats, smaller parties less than five seats, and independent candidates 20. If this is even an approximately accurate picture, it can only further increase what one political observer described as "the distortions and deviations" of former governments, thus "giving a big jolt to the aim of the general election." (The Independent, March 31, and other media)

Stars Reveal Bhattarai as Winner. Never mind the polls. A soothsayer in Biratnagar who claims to have accurately predicted the results of the 1995 election is convinced that Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, the Nepali Congress candidate, will be the country's next prime minister. He bases his prediction on what he considers science: his study of the position of the stars at the time of the election, and particularly the planet Jupiter. It's not all good news for Bhattarai. He warns that the former prime minister's term will last less than five years and that his principal challenge will come not from other parties but his own. (Punarjagran in Spotlight, March 5)

Maoists Scare Off Candidates. The Maoists play hard, as many prospective candidates for election to parliament from Maoist-controlled districts know. Besides instructing their followers to boycott the elections, the extremist group has tried to discourage the people they don't like from running for office by taking such steps as murdering them. In Salyan district, a Maoist stronghold in west Nepal, some candidates have declared for office but have not dared to appear publicly to campaign. They are convinced that 23 Village Development Committees (the VDCs are the most basic unit of government) are completely under Maoist control, and have no interest in exposing themselves to danger there. Yet they know that if they take along police as protection, they will become identified with establishment brutality. So they stay away. Not all Maoists will boycott the election. In Tanahu, Gorkha, and Lamjung districts in central Nepal, where they have a large influence, spokesmen for the insurgent group claim that, except for those who have gone underground or are actively involved in terrorism, all Maoist sympathizers will go to the polls. In the negative spirit that is characteristic of their movement, they will not be voting for a program but only against any candidate of either of the two major parties, Nepali Congress (NC) and United Marxist-Leninists (UML). This could well decide the election in such places as Tanahu, where it is estimated that they represent 25% of the voters. There were also worries that the Maoists might gain power through an alliance with the Communist Party-Marxist Leninists (CPN-ML). At a well-attended rally in Kathmandu on April 9, that party's leader, Bamdev Gautam, expressed sympathy with the aims and goals of the Maoists and suggested some form of cooperation with them after the election. (Kathmandu Post, March 24, 26; The Independent, April 14)


Abuse of Diplomatic Passports. According to a Home Ministry investigative report, at least 52 members of Nepal's two legislative bodies have made unauthorized use of their diplomatic ("red") passports. The passports are intended for their own official use and are supposed to be returned to the Foreign Ministry after travel has been completed. Most of these documents, however, have been kept for months or years; many are not returned at all. The investigators have discovered that besides lending red passports to relatives and friends, some lawmakers have allowed them to be used by traders and business officials, including people engaged in women-trafficking or the drug trade. The Foreign Ministry has not tried to keep track of the roughly 8,000 red passports it has issued in recent years. Although a government minister and two assistant ministers have been caught either misusing or allowing others to misuse their diplomatic passports, no action government action has been taken against them. It has, however, released the names of some 50 MPs whose passports have been or are being misused. (Kathmandu Post, January 19, 21; Kyodo News Service, February 22)

In the Soup Again. It does not matter who you are, say Kathmandu police. If you are driving under the influence of alcohol in Kathmandu at night and get caught, you pay a fine of only Rs 100 (US $1.50) and then are allowed to go on your way. The matter has come up for public discussion after Khobdari Raya, a member of the recently-dissolved parliament, was stopped by the local constabulary on February 15 somewhere near Pashupatinath, where the consumption of alcoholic beverages had been especially prohibited during the three-day Mahavashivatri festival. For Laya, this was a relatively light charge. Somewhat earlier, he had been accused of homicide. (Kathmandu Post, February 15, 16)


Amnesty International Faults Both Maoists and Government. Nobody gets good grades from Amnesty International in its recent report on "The People's War." "Human rights have been the prime casualties of the ruthless People's War and the government's heavy-handed response to it," said a spokesman as he released a report based on a November investigation. The respected monitor of international human rights blames the Maoists for taking their campaign "outside of the basic principles of humanity," and at the same time, castigates the government for trying to maintain law and order "through deliberate and arbitrary killings, arbitrary arrest and torture." It notes a dramatic increase in such arrests, torture, extrajudicial executions, and "disappearances," and is worried that this may be aggravated as the elections approach. (Kathmandu Post, March 16)


The War Goes On. Here is a sample of news of the various isolated engagements between Maoist terrorists and the police, now taking place on a regular basis. These reports are for one month, March, listed in the order they appeared in the newspapers. Readers should bear in mind that most of the news they get is from the government.

* a suspected Maoist commander died in cross-fire in a clash between Maoists and police in Chautara in Sindhupalchok district, immediately northeast of Kathmandu Valley. The terrorists also threw bombs at a police patrol team. The bombs were defective and no-one was injured. (March 5)

* seven people died in the central district of Rolpa from the "indiscriminate firing" by Maoists. Survivors say that Maoists had set fire to a house in their village. When neighbors came out of their houses, they found themselves surrounded by some 300 of the terrorists. The latter then started to fire shots randomly. These people, they say, had been under threat by the Maoists for their participation in local elections and had been taking turns to guard houses at night. Besides the seven who were killed, there are eight who were injured. (March 12)

* seven others died in the central district of Rukum in police-Maoist encounters. The details here are less clear. Four victims, described as three boys and one girl, were killed in a clash in one village at 11 am, and three others in another village that afternoon. (March 12)

* four suspected Maoists were shot dead and three policemen were injured in Kyaneshwar in the east central district of Sindhuli. According to district officials, the dead include a woman and, perhaps, a top Maoist commander, but "none of them have been identified." (March 13)

* one person was killed and his brother injured from shots fired by a group of Maoist insurgents in Balabakhar village in Janakpur district in eastern Nepal. The victim was attacked by 10 assailants "on his way home." Locals concede that the murder could be in retaliation for the victim's forcible acquisition of one of the suspect's land. They say that three persons, one each from the NC, the UML, and the RPP party have been killed here recently. (March 14)

* seven Maoists died in a police encounter at Anekot Village Development Committee in Banepa, east of Kathmandu Valley. Three policemen were injured. The Maoists, police say, were burned to death when a bomb that they were trying to throw exploded. There were enough people left to continue the cross-firing for the next two hours. (March 20)

* five Maoists were killed in an encounter with the police in Sindhuli district. Police, who declined to provide details, had retaliated after their patrol team had been attacked.

* around 300 terrorists attacked an area police post in northern Dhading district, west of Kathmandu Valley, injuring three policemen, one seriously. (March 21) (all media, March)

Baby Comes First. After marrying a Maoist guerilla leader, Satya Pahadi of Dolpa retreated with him to a jungle hideout, joining him in carrying out underground Maoist activities. The couple had a daughter. Following party orders, Satya placed the baby in the care of her husband's parents so she could continue her active role in the "People's War." But, "overcome with love and affection for her child" she realized she could not bear the separation. Pretending to be sick, she allowed herself to be taken to the Surkhet district hospital. Once there, she surrendered to police, renounced Maoism, and has been reunited with her daughter. (Kathmandu Post, April 2)///


A Nepalese View of the NATO Bombing. The Nepalese publication The Independent may not be speaking for all, or even the majority, of Nepalese people, but it is interesting to note its concern about NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia. Echoing the Nepal government's statement that the "use of force will not lead to a solution; dialogue is the best means," it suggests an alliance of India, Russia and China as "some sort of a safeguard against the dominance of militarily powerful nations," and urges the UN to take a stronger role in stopping the bombing. "It is important to ask," it says, "whether the UN Security Council lost all its credibility and moral authority to settle any international dispute when it refused to stop the bombing of Yugoslavia." (The Independent, March 31)



Garbage Problems Continue. No-one likes to live near piles of garbage, and that includes the villagers of Mulpani where Kathmandu's official dump site is located. From the time that this depot was first set up with German help about a decade ago, they have resisted its presence, often by force. In an effort to make them happier about receiving the city's waste, Kathmandu Municipal Corporation (KMC) agreed in August to pay them Rs 3.5 million (US $52,500) and provide jobs to 150 of their young people. The Mulpani villagers say this has not happened; only 29 have received jobs. The other 121, or at least a large number of Mulpani's youth who claim to be the other 121, have once again used force to deny access to the facility. So once again, garbage started piling up on Kathmandu's streets at the rate of 500 cubic meters a day. KMC claims that the problem lies with the Kathmandu's mayor, who, they say, has done nothing to find an alternate site. When asked about this, the Mayor responded, "I did not have time." The fact is that an alternate site, Okharpauwa in Nuwakot district, has been designated, yet it will be at least a year before work is completed to make it ready to receive the capital's waste. (Kathmandu Post, February 6, 15; Spotlight, February 12)

Pashupatinath Monkeys Afflicted with Skin Disease. Most of the monkeys at Pashupatinath are suffering from skin disease, and it is believed that it is the polluted waters of the holy Bagmati River, which runs through the Hindu temple complex, that are responsible. During the present dry season, the almost-waterless river is filled with "thick black effluent." Bathers stay away but the monkeys do not have that choice. There are at least 12 large sewer pipes upstream from the holy site that drain untreated domestic and industrial effluent into the river. There are laws are on the books that forbid this practice, but they are not enforced. Kamal Bogati, who has lived near Pashupatinath since childhood, is worried that the problem is bigger than the health of the monkeys. "According to tradition," he says, "if we inflict pain on pigeons and monkeys - permanent inhabitants of the holy temple - catastrophes will befall us." (Kathmandu Post, March 16)


One-man Campaign to Save the Environment. Sebai Lal has been leading what is described as "a normal life" in a remote village some 40 kilometers west of Biratnagar in the southeastern district of Sunsari. But he has become more and more worried about what is happening to the environment and has decided to do something about it. He will neither bathe nor wear clothes until Sunsari (1,257 square kilometers, or 781 square miles) is covered with greenery. When a local businessman heard about his campaign, he came to his house to bring him 1,101 saplings. Now three citizen's groups are providing him with more saplings as well as a letter of commendation and support. (Kathmandu Post, February 26)

Teen-age Girls Create Phone Problem. A unidentified group of 16-to-17-year-old girls are throwing the city of Nepalgunj and other areas of Dang district into confusion with what are described as "bluff" telephone calls. They have been contacting government offices, social service organizations and businesses with phony messages, and have called out the local fire brigade on false alarms. Telephone owners who are trying to cope with "this menace" have reported that the calls are not only unwanted and can be harmfully misleading but often contain obscene language. (Kathmandu Post, April 2)


"Normal Behavior Gone Awry" - A Report from Our Man in Chitwan. Brian K. Weirum, a leading figure in the battle to save the tiger, describes an incident that took place while he was in Royal Chitwan National Park in early April. A tiger, driven by thirst and hunger, had entered Nepal across an area of dry, barren hills that once supported lush forests, into the Madi Valley, just south of Royal Chitwan National Park. There he found a few villages populated mainly by people practicing subsistence agriculture. Some time during the night of April 1, he circled a small hut in one of them in search of food. "Pug marks were found approaching the hut, and completely surrounding it; deep scratch marks were also evident on the mud walls of the building," says Weirum. There was buffalo meat inside but the door was secure. Frustrated, the tiger turned south. There, at around 3:30 in the morning in the village of Shilobas, he found 69-year-old Sheela Kumari sleeping on her porch on a cot. He dragged her some 20 feet around the corner of her house, killed her and consumed most of the body. The next evening at 6:30, her widowed husband was sitting with a friend on the same cot. "To their utter amazement, the tiger walked right past them and into the adjoining hut" where a woman was sleeping. "One can only guess what combination of shock, rage, adrenalin, and fear drove these men into action, but they went into the hut and scared the tiger away before it could inflict fatal wounds on the sleeping woman." The next day, a bull was staked in front of another hut. The animal was strong enough to drive away the tiger when it attacked, but died later of wounds. In the meanwhile, villagers had come to Tiger Tops Lodge where Weirum was staying with Chuck McDougal, Nepal's renowned tiger expert, and Sukaram Khamal, "perhaps the best tiger tracker in the world today." They went to Shilobas to check out the situation. As they were leaving the village, two Land Rovers filled with forest officials arrived, bringing with them four huge elephants, guns, and a large wooden cage. When the tiger returned that night to finish off his meal of bull-meat, he was darted with a tranquilizer gun, caged, and sent on his way to the zoo in Kathmandu. "Quite frankly," says Weirum, "I was glad I missed the carnival atmosphere of the starving, drugged, and emaciated tiger being driven in an open cage through all those villages and all the way to Kathmandu." He notes that a month earlier, a tiger had been poisoned after killing two people about 10 kilometers from Shilobas. McDougal and the Chitwan Park Warden agreed that these tigers must have come north from Valmiki Tiger Reserve in India, travelling through a degraded habitat into a land with no forest or prey to support tigers, and desperate for food and water. "Walking into a village and pulling someone out of their home is not typical of tiger behavior," says Weirum. "To return to the scene of the crime and walk into another house the very next night not only tempts fate but speaks of normal behavior gone awry." (personal communication, Brian Weirum)

Largest Tiger. He is known to be huge and to feed on fresh blood and raw meat, yet no human being has ever seen him. He sounds like something Nepalese mothers might have made up to scare their children into obedience, but this is a tiger. Wildlife experts in Royal Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve in the southeast corner of Nepal have discovered huge footprints and have deduced that they were made by an animal who is over 11 feet in length and who hunts his prey over a territory that extends some 35 square miles. "The biggest tiger in Nepal lives in this forest," they have concluded. They are not sure, in fact, but what he is the largest tiger ever to prowl the jungles of Nepal. It is not surprising that he should be found at Shuklaphanta, which, because it provides an abundance of the kind of food tigers like (several difference species of deer and wild boar), has the densest tiger population of any park or reserve in Nepal. Thirty-two of the 200 tigers known to be in Nepal live in the Royal Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve. (Kathmandu Post, February 11)



Wildlife Warning: Don't Fool Around With Gyanumaya. This Man-Bites-Dog story is actually about a woman and a leopard. A lady named Gyanumaya Basnet of Kilobazaar in Gorkha district in central Nepal was out cutting grass when she suddenly found herself under attack by a leopard. The unfortunate animal learned too late he had picked the wrong victim. Three swift blows to the head with her sickle ended its life. The leopard was six feet in length and four-and-a-half feet high. (Kathmandu Post, March 25)


The Continuing Troubles of RNAC. Readers may remember that, in our last episode, officials of Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation, had stepped outside of normal procedure to plunk down some $700,000 to lease an aircraft from a shady American company, Chase Air. The aircraft was never delivered nor was the money returned. They will be glad to know that Chase officials are now in jail and that, through a US court order, RNAC has recovered nearly half of what it spent. Since then, a new government has taken over and a new RNAC executive chairman appointed. Eyebrows were raised when the new team, after taking bids from several airlines for the lease, ignored all applicants and turned to China Southwest Airlines (CSWA) to complete an arrangement for leasing one aircraft (a B-757 - not the wider-bodied B-767 specified in the bid announcement) at a cost that was higher than what they had paid for their previous leased aircraft, and higher than what sources say was the Chinese Airline's original offer. Although in the past such leasing transactions have taken weeks if not months to conclude, this deal was made in a one-day visit to China by RNAC's new chief, B. K. Man Singh. It was not hasty, he told reporters. "It shows our efficiency." Others, including Royal Nepal's pilots, were inclined to regard it as possible further evidence of kickbacks to the high government and airline officials that control Royal Nepal's fortunes. The Nepal Airline Pilots Association (NAPA) went on strike in mid-March to demand that RNAC cancel its arrangement with CSWA and put out a tender for leasing a B-767 that would be operated by a Nepalese crew. As has been the case with all of RNAC's leasing arrangements in the past six years, the CSWA plane was to be operated by its own crew. The pilots also demanded that the Corporation provide compensation to one of its members who died earlier in the crash of a Twin Otter. For 11 days, all RNAC flights, both domestic and international, were grounded. When neither side seemed willing to give ground, the government stepped in to order the strikers back to work under something called The Essential Services Act. RNAC fired four senior pilots and four striking cabin crew members but also promised to go to work on processing a lease-purchase arrangement for a wide-bodied aircraft. Later, the fired employees were re-instated. The black cloud that seems to hang over the government airline had not quite dissipated. As soon as the airline granted its pilots an increase in pay and other benefits, its other employees immediate protested, demanding equal treatment. The raise and benefits were withdrawn. (Kathmandu Post, March 6-26, and other media)


Child Held Hostage for Debt. "Our child has been kidnapped," said the note that was delivered to the police in Lalitpur. It was signed by Lal Bahadur Budhathoki and his wife Sabitri, who named the kidnappers. Police went to the house of the suspects and found an ex-Gurkha and his wife holding the Budhathoki's 13-year-old son Shiva until the Budhathokis could pay them back the large sum of money they said they owed them. It turned out that they were not the only people to whom the Budhathokis owed money. In a series of transactions, the couple had apparently bamboozled dozens of women out of some Rs 210 million (more than US $3 million). Their victims were mostly the wives of ex-British Gurkhas with access to their husband's pension money, and "unsuspecting natures." The Budhathokis have now disappeared. Police have taken custody of Shiva, whose younger brother and sister are living at their school's dormitory. One woman who had given the couple Rs 5.6 million (US $84,000) to buy her a car as a surprise for her husband had complained to the police about them earlier, yet the police did nothing. Now, however, they are convinced that the Budhathokis are frauds and crooks. "If they are not," asks the police chief, "why don't they dare to come to the police office to claim their son who is innocent?" (Kathmandu Post, February 26)

A Dumb Crook Story (Kidnappers' Division). Sher Bahadur Shrestha and his friend Som Bahadur Shrestha, both of the remote village of Nirmalbasti in Parsa district in the Terai, had gone to India to attend a fair in a village just over the border. As they were returning home, they were stopped by a gang of toughs. The hoodlums beat Som Bahadur and sent him on his way. Sher Bahadur, on the other hand, was seized for ransom. It did not take extraordinary sleuthing techniques for the police to track down the kidnappers. The latter had provided their return address on their ransom note. Nepalese police passed it over to their Indian counterparts, who went to the address, found and arrested the kidnappers and released Sher Bahadur. (Kathmandu Post, February 11)

Disco Owners Claim Police Mistreatment. The police admit that the operators of Moon Sun Disco have every right, under their license, to sell liquor until midnight in their place of business. But what is against the law, they insist, is for the disco to keep its doors open after 10 pm. The disco's owner and staff do not understand how it is possible for them to continue selling drinks for two hours after their bar is closed and have ignored the order. The police retaliated by arresting Netra Rai, executive chairman of the disco, and Ram Krishna Pahadi, its bouncer. The two are not only upset about being arrested but about their life in jail. They have presented a petition under Nepal's Compensation for Torture Act claiming that they have been mistreated by the police. Rai, they say, was grievously hurt and unable to stand up after his interrogation. Doctors at Bir Hospital agreed that "he had a bleeding wound on the right chin, bruises over both orbits and injuries at thighs and arms." A CT scan showed that a skull injury to Pahadi was not a fracture. The Superintendent of Police denies any charge of torture. "We have not touched them since taking them into custody," he says, adding that any injury must have occured in the scuffle leading to their arrest. (Kathmandu Post, March 7)

Suspected Witch Stoned to Death. When Karna Bahadur Gurung's water buffalo died in Hile Taksar Village Development Committee in Lamjung district northeast of Pokhara, he suspected foul play. Specifically, he suspected his neighbor, Mangali Bishwakarma, of practicing witchcraft on the animal. He found the 62-year-old woman working in her garden and pelted her so vigorously with rocks that when police arrived on the scene, her body was virtuall y unrecognizable. The murderer disappeared. There have been at least five women killed on the suspicion of being witches during the last five years. (Kathmandu Post, February 6)


The Would-be Youngest. Arbin Timilsina is not a Sherpa but that has not stopped the 15-year-old from wanting to be the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest. King Birendra, who granted him a 15-minute audience before his departure for the mountain, has given the enterprise his blessing, and the government has waived the $70,000 in fees normally required of Everest expeditions. The Pokhara 9th-grader has been dreaming about making the ascent for almost a third of his lifetime. He was inspired by by the successful climb (but subsequent death) of Pasang Lhamu, the first Nepalese woman to achieve this feat, when he was 10 years old. He knows that he has to act soon if he is to claim the record. "Since the time is limited, I can't go on trying my luck with other, lesser-height peaks," he admits. "To set a record, I have no other choice than Everest." The current holder of the Youngest Climber record is Shambu Tamang, another non-Sherpa, who, in 1973, reached the summit at the age of 17, (Spotlight, March 12; Kathmandu Post, March 14; The Independent, March 24)

The Would-be First Overnighter. Babu Chiring Sherpa has reached the summit of Mt. Everest seven times since his first ascent in 1990. Like most climbers, he has spent only a few minutes there before descending because of high winds and generally inhospitable conditions but now he is planning a much longer stay. He wants to be the first person to spend the night on the summit, and to accomplish this feat without oxygen. "The most difficult time would be around midnight," says Babu, whose wife and six daughters will be anxiously awaiting his safe return. "That is when the winds pick up speed and I would have to face harsh weather conditions." An American company is furnishing him with a tent that has special aerodynamic qualities that will help deflect the unbelievably strong winds that sweep the summit. (The Independent, March 24)

Four Peaks to Go. Alan Hinkes is back. The 44-year-old mountain guide from Yorkshire was in Nepal earlier on his campaign for reaching the summit of all of the world's mountains of 8,000 meters (around 26,250 feet) or more. Then he climbed Mt. Everest and Lhotse, as well as other high peaks in Nepal, but he was twice turned back on Makalu. "The third time could be lucky for me," he said as he took off on his way to base camp for a spring ascent. He plans to knock off the remaining high mountains on his list - Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, and Annapurna - during the fall climbing season. Hinkes has set a time limit for this achievement. He wants to get the job done before the next millenium. (Kathmandu Post, March 31)

Searching Everest for a Missing Camera. A team of mostly American mountaineers is headed for Mt. Everest to look for a camera. It is led by Eric Simonson and includes Graham Holyland whose great uncle was T. H. Somervell, a member xxx leader, of the 1924 expedition on which George Mallory and Andrew Irvine vanished somewhere near the summit. The 1999 team will be searching for a Kodak camera that Mallory was known to be carrying in his knapsack when he disappeared. The people at Kodak say that cold weather may well have kept the film intact these many years. If so, it may contain pictures that will prove that the duo reached the summit and thus deserve the honor of being the first to do so, almost 30 years before Hillary and Tenzing. In order to find the camera, the Simonson team will first have to find the body of Mallory. Many people have searched for it in the 75 years since the climbers disappeared, but without success. In 1933, an ice axe turned up that was believed to be theirs, and in 1975, a now-deceased Chinese climber reported seeing "old English dead." Simonson, who is impressed by Mallory and Irvine's achievement in getting within a few hundred feet of the summit (where they were last sighted) "wearing tweed clothing and using extremely heavy and primitive oxygen" will not feel that his expedition has failed even if it finds nothing. Apart from its central mission, it "in a way is a homage to those guys and to all the climbers who have gone before us." (Kathmandu Post, March 3 and 24)

A Return to Everest - This Time to Help. Goran Kropp's climb of Mt. Everest in 1996 went almost un-noticed as the world focused its attention on the struggles and deaths of the members of two commercially-organized climbing groups - not to mention, somewhat later, the efforts of another set of climbers depicted in an expensively-produced and widely-viewed film, Everest, that recorded an ascent that took place shortly after this disaster. Kropp probably did not worry about the lack of publicity. He had reached the mountain from Sweden on a bicycle, and after a solo climb that was sandwiched into the middle of the larger and more dramatic events on the mountain, got back on his bike and returned to Sweden. Now he is back, although this is not the first time since his climb; in fact, he has made visits to Nepal every year since 1994. On this visit, he wants to help clean up the mess that earlier climbers have left on the world's highest mountain and to spend some time at the school he earlier founded in Solukhumbu district to "give something in return" to the people of Nepal for their kindness and help to him. He will not arrive on a bicycle since, among other things, he is bringing with him more than 500 pounds of books, toys, games and stationery as a contribution to the school. He will also bring Renata Chlumska, his companion on the bicycle part of the 1996 trip. Goran is no longer interested in climbing ("I want to do other things now") but Renata hopes to duplicate her friend's earlier climb with a solo ascent of Mt. Everest without oxygen. She has been training for four and a half years and is the first Swedish woman to have climbed above 8,000 meters (on a mountain in Tibet). She feels she has done everything she can to prepare herself for the climb. "It's up to the gods if they will let me up there." (The Independent, April 7)


New Website for Eastern Nepal. We of course want you, dear reader, to keep reading (and subscribing to) News from Nepal, but it is also proper that we should point out the possibilities for direct access to Nepal and its news through the internet. Kathmandu Post has a website at Rising Nepal's website is www.south Now eastern Nepal is opening its own new website at According to the two companies that have joined to set it up, you should be able to use it to find government and tourist information for the area, as well as phone numbers, emergency facilities, and biographies of noted personalities - submitted by the personalities themselves. If you are looking for a wife or husband from eastern Nepal, you may want to consult a section that contains photographs and biographical information about boys and girls seeking marriage partners. (Kathmandu Post, January 21)


Young People Honor Shiva. One of the things that the Lord Shiva is remembered for was his habit of consuming cannabis, or as we Americans might put it, "smoking pot." Among the the many worshippers of Shiva who come to the Pashupatinath temple complex on Shivaratri, Lord Shiva's special day, February 14, are hundreds of youths who hope to share cannabis with some of the sadhus who are special worshippers of Shiva and openly smoke the weed. This year, however, increased police control limited the sale and distribution of the drug. (Prakash in Spotlight, February 26)

Back-Yard Easter. Although no-one knows for sure, it is believed that there are around 400,000 Christians in Nepal. Some of them had planned to celebrate Easter on open ground in front of the Jawalakhal Zoo in Lalitpur (Patan), then moving the ceremony to Lagankhel football ground, but city police, acting on orders of the Lalitpur District Administration, forbade this. The Christians were forced to celebrate this important Christian holiday in what was decribed as "the backyard of a church" at the Himalayan Center for World Mission, a private compound. (Kathmandu Post, April 3)


A Ban on Foreign Movies. There is something called the National People's Movement Coordination Committee (NPMCC) that has ordered Nepalese theaters to show only Nepalese films during a four-month period that started March 14. Theater owners, who have to pay an entertainment tax no matter how many people come to see their movies, are unhappy. Almost overnight, their audiences have dwindled to a small percentage of their former size. The NPMCC, which is described as pro-Maoist, insists that it is interested only in promoting indigenous art and culture. It has the support of the local film industry, whose products are normally vastly overshadowed at the box office by Indian films. "We don't fear competing with Indian movies," stated Shambhujit Baskota, a musician of renown. "We have to give priority to Nepali films even though they are less attractive than the Hindi movies." In the face of loud criticism, the NPMCC seemed to be backing away from its ban. It was only a suggestion, said one of its members. "Theater owners need not abide by it." (Kathmandu Post, March 17)

Available for Hire: a Dancer who Eats Light Bulbs. Shambhu Varma, whose normal work is dancing, is out of a job. His dance routine includes chewing and swallowing light bulbs, rolling in broken glass, and dancing ablaze after lighting himself on fire. "I am normally injured in such acts," he admits, "but since I have a long practice, I don't feel the pain." He now is able to chew up three or four tubelights at a time and digest them. He does however take occasional anti-tetanus injections. If Varma, who has performed before the Royal Nepal Academy as well as in films and television, is out of work, it may be partly because of what appears to be a prickly personality. "There is no-one who recognizes my talent," he claims. "I can proudly say that I have talent but I have been compelled to kill it." (Kathmandu Post, March 16)


Happy Birthday, Maoists! In many parts of the world, February 14 is Valentine's Day, a time for lovers to celebrate their love. Maoists in Nepal were celebrating it and the day following as the third anniversary of the start of a brutal terrorist movement that they call "The People's War," designed to reclaim the country for what they consider to be "the people." Their observance of the event did not involve sending each other gooey messages. In Rolpa district in central Nepal, they set off a bomb that killed two children and seriously injured two others. In Taplejung in eastern Nepal, the historic moment was marked by the throwing of a hand grenade into a police station, the first such violence by Maoists in this community. Also reported were bomb attacks in Bhairahawa in central southern Nepal, and also in the far southwestern district of Mahendranagar (where a planted bomb did not go off). (Kathmandu Post, February 16)


More of a Man Than They Had Realized. Nearly everyone has heard of Time magazine's "Man of the Year" award. Another "Man of the Year" award, that of the American Biographical Institute, is less well-known. Dr. Govinda Tandon, an archaeologist living in Kathmandu, was at first pleased to have been selected for the honor, but when he unwrapped the beautiful wooden plaque that came with it, he discovered that the award was for "Woman of the Year." In a separate letter, the Institute explained that it had chosen him in the course of its "effort to recognize a small select group of outstanding women achievers throughout the world." Dr. Tandon, asking himself, "how can I accept an award from an institute that can't even determine whether I'm a man or a woman?," returned the plaque, thereby saving himself the Rs 20,000 (US $300) that the Institute said it needed from him to pay for entering his name in their directory. (Kathmandu Post, February 27)



America's First Sherpa Restaurant. Up until about two months ago, if you wanted a Sherpa meal in the US, you would either have to wait to be invited to dinner by a Sherpa or go to Nepal. Now you can save yourself a trans-Pacific trip (or a long wait for an invitation) by going to Seattle to HIMALAYAN SHERPA RESTAURANT, the first Sherpa restaurant in this country and first Nepalese restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. It was started by Ang Tsering Sherpa, who, in his eight years in the US, has had experience at Four Seasons in Seattle and at the Hilton Hotel in Hawaii. You do not need to worry about authenticity. The Sherpa restaurant's cooks are Nepalese. It specializes in Sherpa dishes but it also serves traditional Nepalese, Bhutanese, and Tibetan dishes. The chang is made by Ang Tsering himself according to a family recipe. You can also order Iceberg Beer, bottled in Nepal. The restaurant is in the University District, two blocks west of the University Bookstore at 4214 University Way NE.

Millenium Trek to Mt. Kailas. What better time to make a pilgrimage to the center of the universe than the year of the Millenium? Nima Gyalgen Sherpa will be taking a small group to Mt. Kailas, the most sacred mountain in Asia - if not the world - in August 1999. For centuries, Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Bonpo pilgrims have been travelling to this holy place that they regard as the center of the universe, often on foot, from many hundreds of miles away, to circle the mountain. In recent years, Westerners have been allowed to join them. It is an amazing place. The mountain itself is dramatically beautiful, and it is hard not to be moved by the intense but joyful spirituality that is communicated by fellow pilgrims as you circumambulate the mountain. (If there is no other reason for making this trip, one kora, or circumambulation, erases the sins of a lifetime.) People who have made this journey with Nima before say it has been the experience of a lifetime. Included is a trek through the little-visited but spectacular northwest corner of Nepal (to get from Nepal's nearest airfield at Simikot to the Tibetan border); and a return drive across the beautiful and spacious high plateau of central Tibet, sparsely peopled by nomads in colorful costumes with their horses and yaks. The trip ends with a visit to Lhasa and a flight over the mountains back to Kathmandu. This will be a small group but there are still openings. If you are interested you should get in touch with Nima at Himalayan Discovery Inc., 4127 SW Orchard St., Seattle, WA 98136 (phone 206/935-3139; fax 206/935-0862; e-mail; internet



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