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URGENT News from Nepal

Jon | 04.02.2005 12:01 | Analysis | Repression | Social Struggles | Cambridge | World

The situation in Nepal is FAR worse than previously thought, The King is conducting massive repression and there is a communication blackout - this is one of the few reports getting out of Nepal

Photo: Nepalese Soldiers in Kathmandu Feb 2
Photo: Nepalese Soldiers in Kathmandu Feb 2

This brief news digest was prepared by Sara Shneiderman and Mark Turin, researchers from Cornell and Cambridge universities, who are currently based in Nepal. Due to the ongoing communications blackout and widespread censorship in effect, little information about Nepal is getting out. We are sending this email out through a secure V-SAT link from a foreign mission in Kathmandu. Please disseminate this news digest widely to friends of Nepal, to media outlets and to politicians in your own country who may be willing to express their condemnation of the King's action. We will continue to send brief updates as often as we can until communications are restored.

Subject: news digest from Kathmandu, Friday, Feb 4, 2005, 11am

Location: Kathmandu, Nepal

Date: Friday, February 4, 2005

At 10am on Tuesday, February 1, 2005, Nepal's King Gyanendra gave a televised address in which he sacked the country's coalition government, dissolved the ministries and suspended fundamental rights under a State of Emergency. Citing Article 127 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal, 1990, the King constituted a council of ministers under his own chairmanship.

During his 40-minute speech to the nation, he heaped scorn upon Nepal's political parties for allegedly destroying the country's infrastructure. According to the King, despite having had adequate opportunities to resolve the state's ongoing conflict with Maoist insurgents, or call an election, the political parties had failed the people of Nepal. Laying claim to the glorious history of the Shah dynasty, Gyanendra stressed the age-old relationship between King and subjects and promised to restore multi-party democracy within three years.

As the speech came to a close around 10:40am, all fixed and mobile telephone lines were cut, and non-satellite internet connections were down by the end of the day. By noon, the Kathmandu Valley was effectively sealed off from the rest of Nepal and the outside world: Tribhuvan International Airport was closed, with all incoming flights diverted elsewhere, and the main road arteries out of the Valley were blocked by security forces.

Despite these draconian measures, the city was calm, with most shops remaining open through the end of the business day. There were rumours of a curfew, which sent schoolchildren scurrying home in the mid-afternoon, but these were unfounded. Armed security forces in riot gear were deployed across the city, and there was little obvious protest against the King's move.

Many citizens said they were relieved that the King had taken control, stating that there was no other way out of the political stalemate that has crippled the country for the last several months. To them, Gyanendra's move was a brave risk, which would either see the King's previously mixed reputation cleared, or destroyed once and for all. There were also many sceptical voices, who feared a return to Panchayat era secrecy and the repeal of liberties hard-won over the last fourteen years of democratic process.

By Tuesday evening, there was no sign of communications returning, and people gathered what information they could from their colleagues, neighbours and friends. In discussions with Nepali journalists and academics, foreigners in official and diplomatic positions in Kathmandu, conflict monitoring groups and the media, we learned that the leaders of major political parties, trade unions and student organisations were under house arrest or taken to one of six major detention centres around the valley. Captains and majors of the Royal Nepal Army were stationed in the editorial offices of all national dailies in order to censor the morning editions before they were put to bed.

On Wednesday, many of the foreign missions based in Kathmandu issued statements. They had been taken by surprise by the royal-military coup, and the United Nations, Unites States, United Kingdom, the Council of the European Union and India all expressed varying degrees of strongly-worded concern. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that he would not attend the SAARC summit scheduled for the coming week in Bangladesh as a vote of protest against 'political turmoil' in the region. Only China was reported to have accepted the King's power grab without critique, stating that it would not pass judgement on Nepal's internal affairs. Prachanda, Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), issued a passionate statement dated February 1 condemning the King's action and calling upon 'pro-people forces' in the country to join with the Maoists to topple the monarchy and build a republic. The Maoists reiterated their call for a three-day national strike, which had predated the royal proclamation.

Judging by the traffic on the streets on Thursday morning, the Maoist call was not heeded, which many saw as an indication of King Gyanendra's influence over the populace and iron grip over the nation's capital. Outside of Kathmandu, the Maoist strike was apparently observed. Reports started to trickle in from the rest of the country, thanks to limited road travel in private vehicles and a brief reprieve in the communications blackout (landlines were turned on for one to two hours each evening, but internet servers, cellular phones and international lines remain blocked).

Specific events reported by reliable sources include a student demonstration at Prithvi Narayan Campus in Pokhara which was fired on by a military helicopter gunship leaving several protestors badly injured if not dead; the blocking of all FM radio broadcasts outside of Kathmandu and the instruction to those broadcasting in Kathmandu to play only entertainment-oriented programmes; the BBC FM station recently established in Kathmandu being forbidden from broadcasting the news in Nepali; the closure of news stands outside of the Valley; and a 72-hour blockade on long-distance public bus travel in and out of Kathmandu.

As of writing on Friday morning, the communications network remains down. Journalists and human rights activists are concerned that they will be the next targets for arrest now that most political leaders have been muted. It remains to be seen how wide the web of detentions will be, but there is a sense of powerlessness and foreboding for the future among those who have previously expressed criticism of the state in any way.

** Please circulate this news widely to encourage international scrutiny of the repression of the Nepali people **

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Hide the following 5 comments

Nepal the Real Fact

08.02.2005 06:00

Nepal the Real Facts

Nepal has been turned to peaceful and tranquil country as it once was over night. Taking over the executive power by King Gyanendra was his ultimate Royal duty. All the citizen of Nepal are happy and pleased and are in view that King has taken up the executive power for the people and the country.

Only three kind of people are unhappy the Politician/ Communist Terrorist, who have been looting the public money. So called Human right Activist who have enriched themselves from ill-gotten money from donation from the INGO's and Foreign Embassies. And some Journalists/Intellectuals and Students who also were part of this lootings. All of the above people number about only five thousand. The rest of Nepal 26 Million are happy and tranquil

Avash Sharma
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Amnesty International briefing on recent situation

08.02.2005 17:37

On 1 February the King of Nepal dismissed the Government and assumed direct power. He declared a nationwide state of emergency, placed political leaders under arrest and severed all internal and external communications links. Independent Nepali media offices were closed down and according to state owned radio a number of rights, including freedom of movement and freedom of assembly, were suspended.

Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of those named above (Sindhunath Pyakurel (m) chairman of the Nepal Bar Association; Bisnhu Nisturi (m) general secretary of the Federation of Nepali Journalists; Hundreds of others including student activists and members of political parties), who have reportedly been arrested since the declaration of the state of emergency and the King's assumption of direct power.

According to reliable sources, Sindhunath Pyakurel was arrested by security forces personnel on 1 February at his office in Kathmandu. He is the former head of the Nepal Bar Association (NBA) and has made public criticisms of human rights violations by security forces. The NBA is a national assembly of lawyers that works on human rights issues. Sindhunath Pyakurel suffers from a heart complaint and it is feared that he will not recieve proper medical attention while in custody.

Bisnu Nisturi is the general secretary of the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ). He was reportedly arrested by security forces personnel on 4 February and it is feared he has been targetted because the FNJ released a statement on 2 February condemning the recent measures taken by the King supressing freedom of expression. These measures include press censorship and the presence of the army in media offices.

There have been widespread reports that the homes and offices of many human rights activists have been visited by security forces personnel. Several activists have gone into hiding fearing for their safety.

Hundreds of members of student groups and political parties have been arrested since the King took direct control. There are reports that many are being held at the headquarters of the APF in Halchowk, Kathmandu.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: The human rights situation in Nepal has deteriorated in recent months in the context of the conflict between the government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) which began in 1996. The King suspended parliament in 2002 and since that time three consecutive Prime Ministers have been appointed by the King. The most recent Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was appointed in May 2004 following protests of thousands of people calling for the re-instatement of an elected government. He has appointed a coalition government of members of mainstream political parties. However, following the King's seizure of power, She Bahadur Deuba and members of his cabinet have been put under house arrest.

During the conflict there has been a pattern of killings, detentions, abductions, torture and threats against human rights defenders by the security forces and teh CPN (Maoist). Amnesty International is concerned that following the seizure of direct control by the King, violations against human rights defenders will increase and journalists and human rights organisations will find it difficult if not impossible to operate freely.



08.02.2005 22:05

Go Maoists...kick that royal, aristocratic butt.


5000, eh? Not bloody likely.

10.02.2005 20:04

By a previous commenter:

"Nepal has been turned to peaceful and tranquil country as it once was over night. Taking over the executive power by King Gyanendra was his ultimate Royal duty. All the citizen of Nepal are happy and pleased and are in view that King has taken up the executive power for the people and the country.

Only three kind of people are unhappy the Politician/ Communist Terrorist, who have been looting the public money. So called Human right Activist who have enriched themselves from ill-gotten money from donation from the INGO's and Foreign Embassies. And some Journalists/Intellectuals and Students who also were part of this lootings. All of the above people number about only five thousand. The rest of Nepal 26 Million are happy and tranquil"

Oh, really?

The military forces led by the CPN(M) number in the tens of thousands, at least. The participation of the people through the mass organizations is exponentially higher - there are 600,000 active members of the revolutionary, pro-CPN women's mass organization alone according to Li Onesto's "Dispatches from the People's War" (and that was in the fighting's earlier stages). Combine all these mass organizations: the revolutionary unions for students and workers, village-level associations and people's governments, mass organizations for oppressed nationalities and ethnic groups... and you have ACTIVE PARTICIPATION in the People's War probably extending well into the millions, which is to say nothing of the many people who support the CPN's struggle but cannot or choose not to participate, many out of fear of persecution by the murderous, crown-controlled thugs that pass for a security force.

Add to THAT the millions of people who support or vote for the mainstream political parties like the Congress, UML, etc, and you have a sizeable chunk of the population who are very pissed off about this, if not an outright majority.

Being from a particular region where something is happening doesn't mean you know damn thing concerning what's actually going on. Don't assume you know the hearts and minds of 26 million people just because you happen to be one, especially when the facts bely your assertions. 5000 my ass..

American Comrade

military monarchical deathdictatorship natural ally in democracy's war on terror

17.02.2005 07:24

Reality? The King is massively unpopular, especially outside of the cities; is a reactionary semi-feudal monarch; has now rounded up maybe a thousand dissenters in the last few days, whose whereabouts are mostly not known; had the military take control of all television stations, radio stations and newspapers; has outlawed criticism of the king or military; and is beginning a process which he hopes will move through mass murder to the defeat of the insurgents - who currently have over half of the country, and the support of a pretty clear majority as well by most reliable accounts. The insurgents want a provisional government to oversee an elected assembly to draft a new constitution without a king ie., for a representative democracy, not one that can be abolished at will by a monarch. So naturally the big powers, India, China, the United States, are backing an unelected monarch with only the military for local support, a dictatorship increasingly turning to terrorising the population in desperate efforts to keep control: the war of democracy against terror at its finest.

This is country that still has certain forms of slavery, remember.

Benjamin R.

benjamin r.