Category Archives: Nepal

Nepali Soldiers

News in Review: Nepal – October 5, 2015

Last Sunday, September 20, Nepal formally adopted a constitution, a process which has been in progress for nearly a decade. The weeks preceding and following that formal adoption have been filled with unprecedented violence, particularly in the Terai which the Madhesi and Tharu indigenous groups have called home for decades. The violence started in early August when the four major Nepali political parties reached an agreement to divide the country into six provinces. This plan would connect the Madhesi region in the southern plains to the Tharu region in the far western plains, a move which the minority groups say will hinder their political bargaining power and, moreover, empower local political elites to overtake their politics and erode their rights. India quickly responded, condemning the violence and closing their border with the country, restricting Nepal’s access to food and fuel imports, while the rest of the international community has voiced continued concern over the violence.

A New Constitution

Passage of Nepal’s new constitution has alienated many of the minority groups living in the Terai including the most prominent Tharu and Madhesi people who feel marginalized and fearful of the potential consequences of this constitutional agreement.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Plan to Redraw Internal Districts in Nepal Prompts Violent Protect.” New York Times. August 10, 2015.

Haviland, Charles. “Why is Nepal’s new constitution controversial?BBC. September 19, 2015.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Amid Protests, Nepal Adopts Constitution.” New York Times. September 20, 2015.

Pokharel, Sugam  and Salim Essaid. “More than half a century in the making: Nepal enshrines new constitution.” CNN. September 21, 2015.

UN Calls for End to Violence

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concerns about the level of violence taking place in Nepal and urged stakeholders to participate in open dialogue.

UN rights office calls for end of violence and dialogue in Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. September 23, 2015.

India Seeking Constitutional Changes

India recommended seven constitutional changes to Nepal’s political leadership including “delineation of electoral constituencies based on population alone, the right to participate in state structures on the basis of principles of proportional inclusion, to allow naturalised citizens to hold highest offices both at the federal and provincial level.”

India sought changes in Nepal statute: Media.” The Kathmandu Post. September 24, 2015.

India’s “Unofficial” Blockade

Earlier this week, in response to the growing violence in Nepal, India blocked all traffic flowing across its Nepali border with officials emphasizing security concerns. While protesters are claiming responsibility for blocking some of the trade posts, India and Nepal are still debating who is at fault. India claims the problem is with instability and insecurity in Nepal and Nepal claims India is punishing the landlocked nation for passing the constitution last Sunday.

SLMM decides to block all entry points to Nepal from India.” The Kathmandu Post. September 23, 2015.

Nepali minority group blocks India-Nepal trade route.” The Himalayan Times. September 25, 2015.

Anti-India Protests

In the border town Kakadbhitta of the Jhapa district, locals protested against the ‘unofficial blockade’ imposed by India.

Border locals protest against India’s ‘undeclared blockade’.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

Nepali Government Restricts Transportation

The Nepali government has begun rationing fuel and has restricted the movement of cars to alternate days based on license plate numbers. Even with strict limits on the sale of fuel to personal cars, buses, and taxis, the Nepal Oil Corporation says the country will run out of fuel in ten days.

The Associated Press. “Nepal Restricts Driving to Head Off Fuel Shortage.” The New York Times. September 27, 2015.

Sharma, Bhadra and  Nida Najar. “Nepal Rations Fuel as Political Crisis with India Worsens.The New York Times. September 28, 2015.

Government Talks with Madhesi Leaders

Leadership in the governing parties, including Nepali Congress leader and Forest Minister Mahesh Acharya, UML Chief Whip Agni Kharel and UCPN (Maoist) senior leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha, met with Madhesi leaders including Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP) Chairman Mahantha Thakur and the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum-Democratic Chairman Bijay Kumar Gachhadar. Both leaders presented a set of pre-conditions for ending the protests, some of which the government has agreed to and is currently working on implementing.

Three-party talks team meets Thakur, Gachadar.” The Himalayan Times. September 28, 2015.

Govt initiates talks with agitating Madhesi parties.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

India’s “Communal War”

While distributing prizes to the second-level futsal championship, Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party Chair Narayan Man Bijukchhe said that India was starting a communal and ethnic war and trying to disharmonize Nepali society.

India has begun communal war with Nepal: leader Bijukchhe.” The Kathmandu Post. September 28, 2015.

Border Point Reopens

The Nepali border point at Bhairahawa reopened on Monday, September 28 letting in as many as 40 vehicles including one petrol tanker. Two days later India resumed sending food and fuel into Nepal, but many more hundreds of trucks holding food, water, fuel, and medical supplies were still sitting on the India side of the border.

Border entry point at Bhairahawa reopens, 40 vehicles enter Nepal from India.” The Himalayan Times. September 28, 2015.

Associated Press. “India resumes sending food, fuel to shortage-stricken Nepal.” The Himalayan Times. September 30, 2015.

Former PM and UCPN-Maoist Baburam Bhattarai Chased Out of Janakpur

Former Maoist prime minister of Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai, resigned from his party and parliament in an expression of disappointment over the new constitution. Following this resignation, Bhattarai went to Janakpur to address a mass assembly of largely Madhesi parties about the failures of the new constitution; however the stage was set on fire, and party leaders Ram Chandra Jha and UCPN-Maoist leader Ram Kumar Sharma were manhandled and beaten up and Bhattarai was escorted out and chased to Janakpur Airport.

Nepal’s former PM Bhattarai quits parliament, party.” The Daily Sun. September 27, 2015.

Bhaskar, C Uday. “Nepal: Will former PM’s resignation be catalyst for rethink? The South Asia Monitor. September 28, 2015.

Yadav, Brij Kumar. “Baburam Bhattarai’s stage set on fire, Ram Chandra Jha beaten up in Janakpur.The Himalayan Times. September 29, 2015.

The views expressed by Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Interns are those of the author and are not necessarily those of the IPJ or of the University of San Diego.

A Trip to Remember

From Nov. 8 to 22, 2011, IPJ Deputy Director Dee Aker and Nepal Program Officer Chris Groth traveled to Kathmandu, Birgunj and Pokhara, as part of the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. Aker and Groth were joined on this field project by Dr. Donald Gragg, a specialist in addiction medicine, who gave a training with Action for Addiction staff members of the IPJ’s local partner, Sano Paila. The IPJ team also conducted conflict resolution programs with members of civil society, the security sector and political parties. The following is a reflection from the trip by Dr. Gragg.  

It was my great privilege to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my first trekking jaunt to Nepal by accompanying Dee Aker and Chris Groth on a two-week program visit to Nepal. As we approached Kathmandu, the Himalaya Range was shown in full splendor – the best of all my flights into the area. Our arrival in Kathmandu was marked by a crowd of enthusiastic young Nepalis there to greet “Dr. Dee.” I discovered that this was to be the first of many such group greetings, some with large welcome banners greeting all three of us. This was Dee’s 20th visit to Nepal in the past 10 years.

A Maoist Constituent Assembly member presenting me with the TYA Excellence Achiever's Award

The next 12 days were filled with workshops, visits to groups and villages, TV tapings, many meals, much tea and a little sleep. I won’t try to recount all of our activities, but just describe a few of the more memorable ones.

Dee and Chris first conducted a mediation training session with young women from the armed police force, political parties and civil society before I joined them to visit the United Nations Development Program office. My impression was that of good people working hard, but unfortunately entangled in bureaucracy. Most of the next day was devoted to a visit to a college training students for work in hospitality and tourism, where Dee and I, together and separately, were interviewed for broadcast on Nepal TV. Today’s Youth Asia (TYA), a Nepali NGO and a partner in the IPJ’s Nepal project, is a multimedia training and production house. They have a regular nightly show on Nepal national TV, and our interviews were broadcast while we were in Nepal. TYA presented me with an Excellence Achiever’s Award and Chris with a Youth Leadership Award before we departed. These presentations were also slated for national TV.

Dee and I dancing with the children at Raksha Nepal’s school

One of the more unique experiences of the trip was a visit to Raksha Nepal (RN), a program for girls and women who have escaped from forced prostitution. RN has dormitory facilities, counseling programs and a school to teach basic skills and some vocational training. It also operates a school for the children of these women, and we had an opportunity to hear them sing Nepal’s new national anthem and even do a dance with them.

We took a 17-minute flight from Kathmandu south to Birgunj on the border with India (a rough 5-hour drive) where we again had a mass welcome. We drove the half-hour from the airport to our hotel in an SUV with a banner flying from the front fender like we were some major officials. We had two motorcycle escorts in front and behind us with their own banners. The banners were the flag of Sano Paila, the NGO that was hosting our visit to Birgunj and is doing some fantastic work in this depressed area. They initiated an effort along with the district police chief that resulted in many acres devoted to growing marijuana being changed to other crops such as rice, which was covered by Al Jazeera.

Participants in the Action for Addiction workshop

We spent one day in the remote village Nichuta outside Birgunj working with a women’s group to help them learn how to more effectively exert influence for improving their schools, roads and health care. The next day I conducted a workshop with 14 young and energetic volunteers who are developing a residential treatment program for intravenous drug abusers, while Dee and Chris worked with another group on ways to get a sugar mill back into operation to provide jobs and a market for sugar cane.

We took the short flight back to Kathmandu for an overnight at our hotel, The Malla, which is where I stayed 20 years ago. Before we left for the 5-hour drive west to Pokhara, we had breakfast at the home of a senior Nepali Congress Party official and his wife. On the way to Pokhara we stopped and visited three state schools that had libraries provided by Room to Read. It was refreshing to see these young children enthusiastically reading, particularly those at a school for the deaf who “read out loud” – signing with American Sign Language as they read.

Machapuchare (“Fish Tail”) from Pokhara

The most remarkable thing about Pokhara for me was the mountains. These were the mountains I hiked around 20 years ago, and the weather was so clear it almost seemed like you could reach out and touch them.  Unfortunately I had a cough and fever the whole time in Pokhara, but I still got to visit two village women’s savings and loan clubs.  The women deposited the equivalent of $1.25 per month and received 8 percent interest. One club with 200 members had $50,000 in equity and another with 300 members had $100,000 in equity. The money was loaned out at 14 percent interest to members to set up small businesses, such as buying a goat to sell the milk or a flock of chickens to sell the eggs.  While I ate soup and stayed in bed to attempt a recovery, Dee and Chris conducted another workshop for young leaders in the area.

Another bumpy 5-hour drive back to Kathmandu was followed by a night to repack, say goodbye to many wonderful friends and then depart on the long flight home. Antibiotics, soup and rest ultimately conquered my malady, which a subsequent x-ray showed to be pneumonia.

Talking with schoolchildren in Nichuta

There are two things that stick with me the most about the trip. The first is the enthusiastic, intelligent young people who are determined to improve life in their country. The second is the way that Dee and her program have offered help to these young people and influenced their development as leaders. The IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative has spread many seeds to prevent and/or resolve conflict. These seeds have fallen onto fertile soil in Nepal, and it is obvious that many of these seeds are prospering and having a positive influence on Nepal as it evolves into a new democratic republic.

Supporting Youth in the Terai Region of Nepal

“Dr. Dee, we must take you to Siraha. It will be a quick trip. Two hours. We will visit one village and be back in plenty of time for your flight,” said Santosh Shah, president of Today’s Youth Asia, an IPJ partner organization. Those infamous last words were spoken in January 2010 during Dee’s trip to Janakpur in the Terai region of southern Nepal. The “two-hour trip” turned into a six-hour adventure, which led to a missed flight and subsequent 10-hour overnight drive from the flat plains of the Terai, through the mountains of the Mahabharat Range back to the Kathmandu Valley.


While the numerous checkpoints, traffic accidents and mountain roads provided more than a few nervous moments, the journey was highly successful and marked a turning point for the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. It was the IPJ’s first expansion into the historically marginalized central and eastern Terai region of Nepal, as well as our first interaction with Kanchan Jha, co-founder and executive president of Sano Paila (“A Little Step”), a community-based, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization located in Birgunj, Parsa District.


Youth from Sano Paila during IPJ workshop

In the time since that initial meeting, the IPJ has developed a strong partnership with Sano Paila. We returned to Birgunj earlier this month to conduct two programs. The first – “Keys to Community Peacebuilding” – was a training workshop for 40 Sano Paila youth volunteers and members, ranging in age from 19 to 24. Kanchan and his colleagues have established a network of hundreds of youth volunteers, including many students, throughout Parsa District. The long-term goal is for these volunteers to mobilize themselves in awareness raising activities within their villages and schools. During our training, we focused on developing an “organized thinking model” to assist participants with planning and organizing in a systematic manner for future community programs, and spent time discussing communication skills, concluding the day with a simulated press conference to prepare the participants for future media outreach.


The second program – “Finding Common Ground – Building Whole Communities” – involved representatives from local government offices, the Nepal Police, the Armed Police Force, political party representatives, civil society leaders, journalists, lawyers and farmers. Participants were presented with a real-world challenge – the government’s closure of a local sugar mill and what it would take to re-open the facility.


While there is consensus among most citizens that re-opening the mill would be beneficial to the community, as its closure has caused great hardship to laborers and farmers in the region, there are widely diverging views on how to achieve this and what next steps need to be taken. While our program did not provide a quick solution, it did provide key stakeholders with the space to work together to determine the interests of key community members, share options for re-opening the mill and consider next steps moving forward.


A woman receives medical care at Sano Paila's "May Day Program"

During our stay in Birgunj, we witnessed the second annual Sano Paila “May Day Program,” which included a free health camp staffed by local doctors and nurses who volunteered their time; no-cost medications; the distribution of drinking water to members of the community; and an information campaign, including a “street drama” performance by Sano Paila volunteers, designed to increase community awareness about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. The members and volunteers of Sano Paila are an inspiration with their motivation, commitment, energy and desire to change things for the better in their community, and we wish them continued success with their ongoing projects.



Dee Aker is deputy director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) and Chris Groth is interim program officer for the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. They were in Nepal from April 24 to May 6, 2011.


For more information on the IPJ’s work in Nepal, please visit:


Civil-Security Sector Engagement in Kathmandu

Although the IPJ has been working in Nepal since 2001, each trip is unique, and this most recent journey was no exception. While the number of bandhs (strikes) in Nepal has reduced dramatically over the past several years, there has been a recent increase as various groups try to pressure the political parties to move forward on the drafting of a new constitution, currently scheduled to be completed on May 28 (although the deadline will almost certainly be missed).


During our first full day on the ground, we were greeted with shuttered stores and quiet streets as the Newa-Tamsaling Joint Struggle Committee enforced a one-day bandh across the Kathmandu Valley. While the situation paled in comparison to the conditions on the streets in the mid-2000s, the threat of physical assault from protesters if citizens ventured into the streets still existed, and it was enough to restrict nearly all vehicle traffic – a strange site for the normally bustling and overcrowded streets of Kathmandu.


APF escort Eric Henry safely to the hotel

One of our colleagues, Eric Henry (managing partner, CMPartners, CMP), arrived that afternoon and needed to travel from the airport to our hotel. Although tourist buses are usually allowed safe passage around the protests, this can be a slow process. Our colleagues from the Nepal Armed Police Force (APF), who we worked with closely on this trip, offered their assistance and a memorable escort for Eric and our local partner, Santosh Shah (president, Today’s Youth Asia).


While the armed escort was a first, our partnership with the APF began several years prior, and during a meeting in November 2010, the IPJ received an invitation from Additional Inspector General of Police (AIG) Shailendra Kumar Shrestha to train a group of senior APF officers in communication techniques in an effort to deepen collaboration and build trust with members of the community. (The AIG is ranked second in the APF hierarchy.) The IPJ and CMP conducted a two-day program – “Advancing Security Interests – Gaining Community Trust” – that provided negotiation skills training for senior command staff.


APF officers practicing negotiation techniques

AIG Shrestha selected the participants – which included deputy inspector generals – based on their ability to train other officers in the negotiation techniques. The program focused on improving the “soft skills” of policing – negotiation and the power of language and persuasion – while emphasizing the use of force as a last resort. The IPJ/CMP team shared skills and international best practices while also engaging the participants in participatory exercises.


An additional request from AIG Shrestha was to include APF women officers in the programs. With the support of our local partner, Women for Peace and Democracy – Nepal, we conducted a one-day program – “Women Collaborating for Security and Peacebuilding” – with a diverse group of women leaders including 10 APF officers, 10 Nepal Police officers, 10 leaders from civil society, and 8 representatives from 4 different political parties.


Women leaders discuss common concerns during the program

This marked the first instance where women officers from the Nepal Police and APF were involved in these programs, and it was the first time that the security sector represented half of all participants at an “IPJ Women, Politics and Peace: Working for a Just Society Series” program. For most civil society and political sector participants, this was their first chance to have an extended interaction with officers, and vice versa. The program allowed the participants to not only work across sectors to explore solutions to a crisis simulation, but also for the women to discover that they shared common concerns – whether it be their own personal security, that of their children/family, or the completion of the new constitution – regardless of what sector they represented.


Dee Aker is deputy director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) and Chris Groth is interim program officer for the IPJ’s Nepal Peacebuilding Initiative. They were in Nepal from April 24 to May 6, 2011.

For more information on the IPJ’s work in Nepal, please visit:

Reaching Stable Peace

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Elections are one step in a long-term peace process. Two years ago, Jana Anadolan II set the foundation for this change. With a new leadership, what role will Nepali people play in the determining the future of the democratic transition of the nation? The IPJ and MSBK-Nepal (see below) roundtable “Reaching Stable Peace: Roundtable on Reconciliation” held in Pokhara encouraged participants to identify and articulate some of the key challenges still facing their respective sectors.

Fourteen representatives of three political parties, eight civil society organizations and five security sector bodies contributed to the two-hour dialogue on their concerns about the peace process and the challenges and issues for those they represent, namely socio-economic development, rule of law, impunity, ending corruption and accountability of elected officials.

With a vision for the long-term nature of peacebuilding, one political representative stated: “Although there may be many disturbances along the way that act as hurdles, the main concern is in the process of establishing a republic. The second challenge is the social economic disparity that the country is now facing; there isn’t a lot of work being done to empower the people economically. If this feudal system ends, in 10 years time, then this period is an opportunity, and it will be possible for the resources to be distributed to the citizens and the power will be disseminated to the people.” “The most important thing is to maintain law and order,” another expressed. Adding to the discussion on rule of law, one participant stated: “I want to raise an issue related to the security field, there is a great challenge in the integration of the Maoist army and the National Army; there is little consensus on how to integrate the forces.” In addition, “everyone is talking about a federal system, but as we the security personnel see, no one is talking about the framework of the security personnel in that system and how that will be addressed.” Restructuring of the existing forces and incorporation into the evolving government structures were key concerns raised during the discussion.

One of the threats to ending impunity is the politicization of the security sector and the silencing of the victims and their families. “There are weak sanctions. Sometimes we [state security personnel] bring in the culprits, only to have pressure of the political parties to release them. The new constitution will have to have strict laws so Nepal is a more secure place and it is easier for us to work.” “No one discusses the disappeared and the murdered,” shared a civil society representative. Another cited lack of criminal investigations as one of the challenges; “compensation may be given to the victim’s families in some cases, but the investigation is not done.” One advocate concluded, “the real conflict is over, but the consequences of conflict still remain, like the conflict victims. There needs to be more policies to give attention to the conflict victims” and reminded the group of the provision for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Interim Constitution.

“One of the most dangerous things in Nepal is corruption and bureaucracy and until that is changed, people will not feel peace.” While corruption is rampant throughout Nepal, in the political realm, the “administration and bureaucracy only serve the parties, and the people are still suffering. The parties’ only agenda has become the political agenda, but we must focus on human dignity to reach sustainable peace and development.” A political party representative noted, “in the drafting of the constitution, 26 seats were reserved for intellectuals. Those seats have been mis-used; the parties have divided the seats among themselves, trying to make themselves stronger, rather than focusing on the people’s needs. Thus, there are no independent candidates that are fighting for the people’s needs in the cabinet. In the very first stage of the drafting of the constitutions, [the major parties] are making it about getting power.” One method to curb corruption is increased accountability of the political parties to those that they represent. As voters, “we have influence on the elected member, but the question is whether those people elected will be ultimately by influenced by the people or the party? If the party influences more than the people, then it’s no use.” The fact that many members of the CA are new, and perhaps less experienced, was seen as a two-edged sword: they might be more susceptible to pressure to follow the party line, or they might be more open to listen to the people’s concerns if they were voiced clearly. “In spite of political connections, there are still people [in the CA] who represent castes and other areas.”

Another aspect of accountability raised was the decentralization of power. While there was a heated debate on the value and practicality of federalism, there was consensus that the people of Nepal “are expecting decentralization. They want skills training in decision making to be enhanced so that they can make their decisions for themselves.” Regardless of the divisions designed in the new constitution, one step is to “empower the existing system of the government such as the mayors, village development committees (VDCs) and district development committees (DDCs).” Despite the many challenges addressed during the roundtable, participants reaffirmed their commitment to work for peace and security in Nepal. They emphasized the importance of working across party lines, as well as among the diverse sectors represented in the room, to achieve their vision for sustainable peace.

Manabiya Srot Bikas Kendra Nepal (MSBK-Nepal) is an NGO working in Nepal with the vision of ideal society building with effective mechanism to bring up human potentialities. Its main objective is to enhance capacities of the grass root NGOs and communities for the empowerment of disadvantaged section of the society. Currently MSBK-Nepal is working in 10 districts of Western Development Region in the areas of education, good governance, peace building, youth leadership development, ICT and capacity building.

Joining Aker and Taylor in facilitating the dialogue was Upendra Malla Tara, member secretary / director of MSBK-Nepal, who has worked in the field of development since last eight year. Upendra has served in Western Development Region in areas of good governance, peace building, education development and capacity building in partnership with various reputed NGOs and INGOs. As a coordinator, he has worked for peace radio project in 10 communities from 5 districts of Western Development Region in partnership with IPJ. The project was focused on facilitating community discussions on radio episodes broadcasted by Equal Access Nepal for peace building process.