Wednesday, April 26, 2006

18 remaining detainees released yesterday





























Civil society leaders being released from Duwakot barrack





























Celebrating restoration of parliament












































Listening to the king's proclamation on radio













































Sunday, April 23, 2006

To the Ambassadors
Of the European Union member states,
The United States, India, China,
and the Representative of the United Nations.

23 April 2006
Duwakot, Bhaktapur District


Excellencies,

We civil society detainees, kept at the Duwakot Armed Police barrack, believe that your governments’ welcoming response to Friday’s address by King Gyanendra was based on a misperception of Nepali political reality and a misreading of the address itself. Though surely based on the best of intentions, your reaction has needlessly delayed a peaceful transition in the country at a critical hour, when millions of Nepalis are on the streets agitating for an immediate return to democracy. This show of people’s solidarity carried out massively and peacefully all over the country and in Kathmandu Valley, deserves more respect than has been accorded by the international community.

While the royal address certainly indicated a step back by the king, and it might even have been adequate sometime ago, at the given moment it was grievously misplaced in both tone and substance. In terms of tone: the king justified his 1 February 2005 coup d’etat; spoke in favour of the security forces despite their dubious record; did not acknowledge the need to engage the Maoist rebels; and ignored the incredible show of people power on the streets whose essential demand is that kingship be abolished or made absolutely powerless.

In terms of substance, the king has talked about returning power that had been given to him for ‘safekeeping’, when the fact is that the events of 4 October 2002 and 1 February 2005 represented a naked power grab. Further, the king is not the custodian of sovereignty, which is naturally inherent in the people under the constitution of 1990 and it is not up to him to hand it back to the people.

Most importantly, those who welcome the royal address seem to believe that the king has unequivocally conceded sovereignty to the Nepali people. This is not our reading. Nowhere does ‘sovereign’ or ‘sovereignty’ occur in the Nepali original, unlike in the translation, apparently provided by the royal palace, where there is reference to “source of sovereign authority”. In the Nepali original, the king refers to “state power remaining with the people” as part of listing the terms of reference of the government to be formed. This phrase is included only in passing, and does not amount to the king conceding sovereignty as residing in the people.

According to two jurists, both framers of the 1990 Constitution, who are included in our Duwakot group, ‘state power’ does not by any stretch of imagination translate as ‘sovereign authority’. We believe that there is a sleight of hand involved here, by a royal palace intent on misleading the embassies. Overall, we conclude that the king is not prepared to transfer sovereign power.

As things stand, what king Gyanendra has asked the political parties to do is to set up a government with ‘executive power’ but without legislative authority. In substance and form, this government would have the same authority, under the much-maligned Article 127 of the Constitution, as given to governments constituted thrice and disbanded as many times by the king between October 2002 and February 2005. The government would be an executive at the king’s command, meant to take responsibility for the excesses committed under the royal direct rule. It would only have the power over day-to-day administration, without authority to undo the ordinances, appointments, and other actions of the king during his period of active rule. Because the executive would act without the backing of a legislature, the king would be the authority of last resort, retaining the power of dismissing the sitting prime minister.

Given the royal palace’s record, we know that the government to be formed would be hindered at every step as the latter seeks to pursue the publicly announced seven-party roadmap for peace and democracy. Nor would this government have the authority ab initio to challenge the army’s current role and the ongoing militarisation of state and society by the royal regime. Further, the royal address seeks to retain the link of loyalty between the king and the army. This is a far cry from what is needed: a government that works on the mandate of the People’s Movement and not that of the royal palace. In sum, the king’s grudging concession does not address the great issues that cry out for resolution.

We appeal to your excellencies to also recall the many times that the royal palace has played the game of deception with you, and to introspect whether king Gyanendra, retaining all the powers as head of state not responsible to a legislature, will allow any forthcoming government to act independently. Your attitude seems to be “the king has given this much, take it and make the best of it”. Unfortunately, neither the political parties nor we here in Duwakot, are confident that the royal palace will not intervene in the workings of the executive to be formed. This would be in line with the historical record of the royal palace victimizing the people whenever there has been a move toward genuine democracy.

We ask you, in the hours and days ahead, to be more alert to royal machinations and to support the political parties as they challenge the royal palace. For our part, we would hope that the political parties make a pro-active announcement and cease the moment. There is a need for such an initiative in order to prevent anarchy and dangerous collapse of state structures. For this, the political parties should unilaterally declare restoration of the Third Parliament and/or announce a parallel government. Thereafter, they should consult with the Maoist rebels who have credibly indicated their intention to enter open politics, and announce elections to an unconditional constituent assembly. We hope that the international community will come forward with immediate recognition of such a unilateral declaration, required to prevent Nepal from sinking into the pit of one kind of extremism or another. In such an evolution, we see no role for king Gyanendra other than as a mute spectator.

Please note, Excellencies, that this is the only path to stability in nepal which both the Nepali masses and the international community want so keenly. The world community, which has harboured such enormous goodwill for the Nepali people and which has been party to our nation-building and development efforts for more than five decades, must respect the maturity of the Nepali political discourse which is speeding the current, exhilarating People’s Movement. Please also note, Excellencies, the kingship is not indispensable for the maintenance of Nepali nationhood, and that it should henceforth remain, if at all, at the cognisance of Nepal’s 26 million citizens.

The latest announcement by the Indian Foreign Secretary, about respecting the will of the people of Nepal, we believe, provides a corrective to the error evident in the Indian government’s initial welcome note. The Indian corrective, we believe, should be emulated by all other international players who wish the Nepali people well.

Sincerely,

Mr. Rupak Adhikari

Mr. Anubhav Ajeet

Mr. Bimal Aryal

Mr. Laxman Prasad Aryal

Mr. Ramesh Bhattarai

Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit

Dr. Saroj Dhital

Mr. Daman Nath Dhungana

Mr. Arjun Parajuli

Mr. Bhasker Gautam

Dr. Madhu Ghimire

Dr. Mahesh Maskey

Dr. Sarad Wanta

Dr. Bidur Osti

Dr. Bharat Pradhan

Mr. Charan Prasai

Mr. Padma Ratna Tuladhar

Mr. Malla K. Sunder

Saturday, April 22, 2006

To all our International friends and well wishers

Dear friends

You have been supportive all along of the Nepali Peoples’ fight against an autocratic and ruthless regime, and we are very thankful indeed. Without your vigilance and support so far, the authorities would have trampled it under their heavy boots. You must have seen them doing this to individual demonstrators on TV, not to speak of the indiscriminate beatings, tear gassing and shootings. Not a very pretty sight for most of you from advanced democracies. In your countries the Governments immediately get to the root causes of any unrest and tackle these rather than using heavy handed suppression. This is the sensible and civilized approach towards any problem.

You have seen here however the opposite approach that the king is taking. Ruthless suppression of the people been blatant, which however has not had the desired result he expected. The movement is now a massive Pan-Nepal revolution, involving almost every district, town and village. Every sector of society is actively supporting it. Even government officials have come out in open revolt, ready to face any consequences. In the districts the Government no longer exists as such. Only the security forces stand between the wrath of people and the King. Over what or whom does the King now rule morally? The people have openly manifested their dislike and unacceptability.

With the pot of peoples’ anger boiling over, the King has now belatedly tried to tackle the root cause, but how inadequately. What should have been his response months ago instead of a show of force he now does in desperation. He suddenly, probably at your suggestion and with your support, announces that he is invoking article 35 of a now virtually dead constitution to hand back the executive powers that he usurped on February first 2005 to the people. He has accordingly asked the seven party alliance to nominate their prime ministerial candidate. He does not however talk of the Maoist problem nor the burning topic of every one’s concern, the Constituent Assembly.

Looking at it superficially, his intent seems to be very positive. It looks like a victory for the movement and I am sure you felt likewise when your Governments immediately supported the king’s move, in effect giving him strength and moral legitimacy, both of which he has lost at the ground level. With all due respects to your analysis of the situation that made you give your support, and that made you pressurize the party leaders to accept the King’s velvet glove, may I point out a few dangers in this tactic.

Please realize that Nepal has remained very unstable for over the past half century. Never could we settle down politically. This is primarily due to over ambitious monarchs wishing to wield absolute power and take their hereditary privileges to unheard of levels of opulence for a country so poor. They have kept intact their right to take absolute control of the country on the slightest pretext. In such a situation, democracy has always been the victim, the people mere servants and the finances of the state, virtual private property.

Now let us analyze the king’s invoking article 35 and floating the tender for a prime minister. Respected friends, you must know that Sher Bahadur Deuba was appointed prime minister under this same provision from which he was almost immediately shunted out with the use of article 127. He is the living example and victim of the king’s present “magnanimous gift” to the people, and just remember that he was amongst the closest to the palace. How then could you, distinguished diplomats suggest that the parties accept the king’s “gift”? Your fear seems to be more directed towards a Maoist infiltration than towards the palace’s nefarious designs. The Maoists have not secretly joined the movement but have openly claimed their rightful place in peaceful participation as Nepalis.

I am sure you realize the need to bring an end to our civil war. The political parties have very wisely managed to get the Maoists to a peaceful entry into midstream politics. Of course they can’t and won’t give up their guns just yet for fear of possible genocide by the government forces if they do so, but they have openly promised to lay down their arms before an internationally monitored ceasefire. What more can you expect of a force that controls virtually the whole country and where their writ rules large? No my friends, the political parties and the people, do not fear the Maoists breaking their pledge as much as they do the king’s breaking his pledge. The King knows well and the people know that as long as he has the army and the weak constitution to play with as he wills he can invite a hundred prime ministers and it would not make a slightest difference in his ambitions. So Honorable friends please rethink your support to the king.

If you can, force him to address the Maoist problem. Force him to see the obvious hatred that is manifest in the slogans and gestures against him on the streets. Ask him how morally he can go on ruling absolutely over a nation so opposed to him. Tell him the people will only be satisfied if he agrees to the Constituent Assembly elections by whichever means as his grandfather had agreed to do. People need to be assured that no monarch will hijack democracy and their rights time and again in the future. Yes, in the process the people may reject him as well, but this is a gamble he has to take. After all had he agreed to this just three years ago it would not have been a gamble at all. But assure him to trust in the Nepali people whose motto is “live and let live.” Indicate that people have short memories. If he takes this suggestion, he will get the safe landing he desires. Of course he has to, as a bottom line, give up his absolute control of the army to the Parliament. Without this provision his every move will always be a suspect.

So dear friends, while I appreciate your sincere desire to douse the flames of the people’s massive anger and give the king a respite, I do hope you will realize also the need to see to it that the people will never in future be denied their rights. May you continue supporting the people in this peaceful revolution as in the past. In the long run kings may come and go but the people will be there always and one has to live with reality. Thank you for bearing with me through this article.

Dr. S. M. Dixit

Chairman

Civil Society for Peace and Development

A Very Close Shave

We get to meet the inmates at Duwakot on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Since today was a visiting day, we got ready to move around mid day. However, at about 11 a.m., a curfew was announced from 12 noon to 8 pm. I got everything ready in a frenzy, the food and personal items for Kanak and decided to spend the day at the detention center. By the time I left home, it was 11:15, I thought I could be in Duwakot in 45 minutes. I did not take anyone with me because I did not want to put anyone at risk, and, anyway, who would want to spend 8 hours there?

The road was quiet except for the remains of the previous day’s demonstration. When I got to the area around Everest hotel, there three piles of items burning on the street. Most of the drivers reversed or made an about turn and returned to their point of origin. I, however, had this very important mission, I had to be in Duwakot by noon to meet the remaining Chaubises, so I could not turn back. When I forged my way though the first set of bonfire, I was stopped by some protesters. I explained to them that I was taking food and water to the prisoners and they understood and let me go, this happened again about 150 meters ahead, and again I was allowed to move ahead, and then a third time, and this time too they let me go. I met my final group of protesters at Koteswor. They were more furious than the previous three groups, and asked for a press pass from me, and that I did not have. Then they wanted to know why I was driving. Before I had the chance to explain, one of the protestors got hold of my car key and took it. I did not notice what he was like. I kept explaining for a few minutes, and then they understood what I was about to do, and told me to move ahead. It was 11:45 by then, and I could not move because I did not have the car key anymore.

We spent some 10 – 12 minutes looking for the key, they asked around, but no one volunteered to give. People came up with all kinds of keys to see if the car could start but of course it did not, none of the other keys worked for my little green Maruti. Frustrated, the protesters started getting angry and started threatening the person who took the key, thus I lost all chances of getting it back. At this very moment, I was happy to see Shova Gautam who was monitoring the protests. She explained to the crowd that they need to help me, as I was one among them.

What should I do now? I could not drive to Duwakot, there was no key, and there is no way I would get there before noon even if I was handed the key right then. They crowd asked me to move the car to the side. I tried but could not because the steering wheel was now locked. They then started pushing the car to the side of the road. I said that I would leave the car there and go home. However, they thought that it was not a very good idea, as it would be vandalized by other groups of demonstrators. They then decided that the car would be taken to the nearest police station, which was perhaps over 150 meters away. They then used all their energy to lift the car (to change direction), and push it, lifting and pushing, lifting and pushing we finally came to the police station. The people at the police station were very helpful and allowed us to take the car inside their compound.

I left the car there, asking the police to help themselves to the food, and walked home. The curfew had started, but there was nothing I could do but walk home. On the way home, I joined in with the demonstrators as they were moving in my direction, and then parted ways. Curfew was on, and I was asked by several armed officers where I was going, but answering to them was hardly anything compared to the adventure I had had earlier. I got home, after what it seems was a very long time, and the first thing I did was to pay respects to my father-in-law who was really worried about me and had not even taken a proper meal. It was then that I realized what a close shave it had been.

Why did I go? I wanted to have a mission accomplished, I was a bit foolish, I was a bit daring, but most importantly, I felt I belonged to this crowd and trusted myself to be able to talk my way through. I am glad for this experience as it has given me added faith in Nepalis.

Went to see Kanak after the curfew was lifted at 8:00 pm with food and personal items. This time we had a driver, and Milan joined me. I have just come back.

Shanta

Civil Society Statement from Duwakot

We are pained by the support given to King Gyanendra’s address by some members of the international community. This indicates a grave misunderstanding of the power and inclusiveness of the ongoing peaceful people’s movement. We strongly urge that the international community display complete sensitivity to the will of the Nepali people and support their clearly expressed desire for a constituent assembly, on the road to democracy and peace.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Civil society leaders call for unconditional ‘constituent assembly’

Civil society leaders being detained at the Duwakot barrack of the Armed Police Force (APF) have demanded that the seven party alliance should go for no less than the unconditional ‘constituent assembly.’

In a joint statement issued Friday, over 20 civil society leaders being detained at Duwakot said, “With the Nepali people having rebelled against the kingship, grounds for compromise are rapidly despairing. In this context, the seven party alliance should insist on nothing less than an unconditional constituent assembly to take the country forward.”

The further said, “Together with the declaration of the constituent assembly, the Royal Nepalese Army should be converted into a ‘Nepal Army’ that remains under the command of the government to be constituted as a result of the ‘People’s Movement 2006.”

Those issuing the statement include former Justice at the Supreme Court Laxman P. Aryal, former Speaker of the House of Representatives Daman Nath Dhungana, senior human rights leader Padma Ratna Tuladhar and senior journalist Kanak Mani Dixit.

They were detained while defying the curfew orders early this month 8 in Kathmandu.

from Nepalnews.com

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Story of the Chaubises

Glad to be back home this evening, but I must say that I would not have exchanged this experience for anything. Twenty of the twenty-four (Chaubise) who were taken in on the 8th of April are still in police custody in Duwakot.

Kanak and I, incensed at the imposition of the curfew on the morning of the 8th of April, decided that we had to show resistance. We picked up Kedar Sharma on the way to the Institute of Medicine where a meeting of like-minded people would take place. When we got there, it was not so clear that we were in fact going to break the curfew, as this was a very serious act of disobedience and could be life-threatening. After several hours of discussion, it was decided to we would attempt the deed, but only after giving the government a public warning (via radio) that, in essence said: unless the curfew was recalled by 4:00 p.m., it would be broken by a group of individuals including Daman Nath Dhungana, Laxman Aryal and Padma Ratna Tuladhar.

Twenty-four people, including the three leaders were to go on the protest rally. Students from the Institution of Medicine could follow if they wanted. At 10 minutes to four, we arranged our placement and walked out into the street. As it was decided that the three leaders should not be leading the rally, I found myself, with three other hardliners, in the frontline. I will not say that I was not afraid, but at the same time, I felt a wonderful sense of calm and a sense of purpose to accomplish what we had set out to do. We forged ahead negotiating with the police, pushing them back ever so slightly. When we came to a reasonable marker on the street, we all squatted on the asphalt and started clapping. We were there for less than 10 minutes when additional police force overpowered us and literally carried each one into the police van.

Once in the van, we started chanting pro-loktantra slogans and against the monarch and monarchy. It helped that some members of the group were proficient at this. The van made a big round of Katmandu, giving us ample opportunity to chant. We were finally arrived at Mahendra Police club where we spent our first night.

The scene at the Police Club was quite chaotic. Lots and lots of young boys, most of whom had nothing to do with the movement, were brought in. Many were convinced that this was Kamal Thapa’s ploy to prove that Maoists had infiltrated the movement. Many of these were innocent kids barely in their teens, and what Mr. Thapa’s intrigue ensured was that these youngsters would, once out, become vigilant street fighters against this present government, if they did not actually become Maoists.

We were taken to Duwakot the next day. All of us were totally apprehensive about leaving Kathmandu and resisted going, but there was no choice. Orders had come from “above”, and there was no negotiating. We had to go. We did, and we are glad we did.

Duwakot police facility is situated in a sand dune of the Manohara plains with a view of the mountains. It is commanded by a Superintendent of Police, this is also a venue to hold short term (three month) training professional recruits into the police force. We were able to witness the training of one such cohort. As we arrived on 9th of April, the barrack housed, in addition to its own staff and trainees, about 100 young boys who were brought in from the street demonstrations, about 40 political activists from the UML and Congress parties who had been arrested from their residence before dawn 4-5 April, and the 24 of us (Chaubise) who had broken the curfew the previous day. In addition, among us was a nine year old girl, Pratigya Gurung, because the police commander, to a query while picking up her uncle, a UML cadre, had replied “bring them all in”.

The barrack did not have a budget for housing the “guests” for days and months on end. They had to adjust from their existing funds. The police shared with us their rice, dal, tarkari and achar every morning and evening, gave us black tea two times a day. They also gave roti to those who did not want rice, and all this from their own meager ration. They shared with us their facilities that are not geared to keep hundreds of prisoners. We thank them for it.

However, the same facilities were not afforded to the 100 young boys who were also in custody with us. The water there was not of drinking quality, and while our groups managed with water from home and that provided by the Bar Association, the young boys had no choice. Even in police custody, there was multiple layer of treatment to the inmates. The rights of some groups were seen to be greater than that of others.

Besides having to share their resources to all the civilians in their custody, these policemen have yet another story to tell. They do not get any food or drink when they are out on duty controlling the riots. They can be on duty anywhere from 2- 18 hours. Some of them leave at five in the morning and are back at seven in the evening, and will not have eaten or had anything to drink for the whole period. It is time that human rights activists looked into the rights of the police force, too.

Being there as a group of Chaubise was enlightening and sobering at the same time. It was enlightening because we had the opportunity to share ideas and discuss burning current political issues with the most seasoned people of Nepal. Sobering, because we were all came with our limitations as well as our baggage and biases. Many contributed much, and some of us learnt a lot. We got the opportunity to listen to people from differing political viewpoint, and tried to appreciate where they were coming from.

Each individual had their endearing characteristics as well as their idiosyncrasies, and that was what made the group interesting and appealing. However, the one thing that made the Chaubises most special was their serious commitment to ensuring a full democracy with people’s supremacy in Nepal.

What became clear to me as the days passed is that this country is ours to make what we want of it. We must stop playing the blame game because we were as much to blame for not protecting our fledgling democracy as were the politicians. The politicians were so busy trying to unravel the demands of running a democratic system that they noticed neither the Maoists nor the Royal Regime’s encroachment until it was too late.

However, now that we are in this fight onto the end, and the end is surely visible, we need to be ever more vigilant. We do not have the luxury to relax after the current gridlock is solved, because otherwise our hard-won democracy will again be dismantled. We have to help put structures in place and help create an environment where people will be less selfish and work for the greater good.

The last 16 years have given Nepalis ample experience and exercise in articulating what we want. The next decade should be spent in materializing what we now are able to articulate so well.

Shanta Dixit (out of Duwakot on 15th April 2006)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Statement from Detention

From detention at the Duwakot Armed Police Force (APF) Barracks, on the occasion of the Nepali New Year 2063, we salute all citizens demonstrating against the illegal royal regime, on the path to establishing a free, democratic system of government in the country. The moment to make the final strike to achieve the goals of the movement has arrived, and we are confident that citizens will emerge from each and every dwelling to join the demonstrators on the streets.

In his New Year’s message this morning, King Gyanendra yet again irresponsibly sought to denigrate the people’s high ideals and expectations. Merely repeating once again the empty call for dialogue will do nothing to resolve the political problems of today. We declare that King Gyanendra has lost the moral right even to utter henceforth the sacrosanct terms, ‘democracy’, ‘rule of law’ and ‘constitutionalism’.

Today, the royal regime is conducting a macabre exercise to crush the People’s Movement. In order to discourage the suppressive instincts of this regime, and to prevent the attempt at violently thwarting the people’s will, we call on the international community, including the United Nations and all countries which wish the Nepali people peace and progress, to respond positively and appropriately in our hour of need.

Signed by 24 prisoners of conscience at the Duwakot Armed Police Barracks, including Daman Nath Dhungana, Padma Ratna Tuladhar and Laxman Aryal.

Members of the Chaubise group

Mr. Anubhav Ajeet

Mr. Arjun Praajuli

Dr. Bharat Pradhan

Mr. Bhasker Gautam

Dr. Bidur Wosti

Mr. Bimal Aryal

Mr. Charan Prasai

Mr. Daman Nath Dhungana

Mr. Ishwar Koirala

Mr. Laxman Aryal

Mr. Kanak Mani Dixit

Mr. Kapil Shrestha

Mr. Kedar Sharma

Dr. Madhu Ghimire

Dr. Mahesh Maskey

Mr. Malla K. Sunder

Mr. Padma Ratna Tuladhar

Mr. Ramesh Bhattarai

Dr. Roshan Kumar Jha

Mr. Rupak Adhikari

Dr. Sarad Wanta

Dr. Saroj Dhital

Dr. Shanta Dixit

Dr. Sundar Mani Dixit
















Mr. Aryal and Mr. Dhungana in their cell















Mr. Tuladhar on his bed















Dr. Ghimire taking copious notes















Doctors, all.
Back row: Onta, Ghimire, Dixit, Maskey, Pradhan
Front row: Jha, Dhital, Wasti















Mr. Dixit

















Dr. Pradhan, Mr. Parajuli, Mr. Bhattarai, Mr. Rijal, Dr. Dhital, Dr. Wosti















Mr Adhikari, Mr Ajeet















... Mr. Sharma, Dr. Maskey, Mr. Dhungana















Mr. Sunder, Dr. Shanta Dixit, Mr. Dhungana, Mr. Sharma, Mr. Parajuli















Mr. Shrestha, Mr. Koirala, Dr. Pradhan, Mr. Parajuli, Mr. Bhattarai, Mr. Rijal















(l to r) Dr. Dixit, Mr. Sunder, Mr. Prasai, ...















Group celebrates Baishakh ek gate















Barishta members pose















Mr. Bhattarai and Mr. Parajuli















Ek gate sanjh batti at Duwakot (1269 people died in the violence of the past year)















Mr. Parajuli entertains group with andolankari poems


















Duwakot detention centre