India stops the Post's newsprint


India’s bid to shut down Kantipur Publications



Indian authorities are holding 1,000 metric tonnes of newsprint imported by Kantipur Publications at Kolkata port for the last 26 days.

India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has taken control of the newsprint imported from Canada and South Korea and stopped its shipment to Nepal, saying that the 39 containers carrying the newsprint need to be “investigated.”

No investigation, however, has been carried out despite repeated requests. Nor has Kantipur Publications been given a clear explanation for the continued delay, which has meant heavy demurrage and possibility of the newsprint getting damaged.

If the shipment is not released soon, it will put the publication of The Kathmandu Post and Kantipur dailies, and Saptahik weekly in jeopardy.

Asked to explain the reason behind the delay, DRI officials in Kolkata say, “We too don’t know why. Ask Delhi.” This is the first time any newsprint meant for Nepal’s publications has been held in the Indian port for “investigation.”

According to the Nepal-Indian transit treaty, no consignment in transit can be held without explanation.

Generally, the “seal” of containers, which travel by train from Kolkata, is opened upon their arrival at the Birgunj dry port in Nepal.

Altogether, Kantipur’s three shipments have now been held in Kolkata, first of which arrived in the Indian port on May 6.

“For the last one month, we have been asking them to expedite the investigation, if you have to. Despite our repeated requests, nothing has been done to resolve the issue,” the Kantipur management said.

“We have also informed Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and the Kathmandu-based Indian Embassy. We hope the authorities concerned will take immediate measures to resolve the issue.”

Arrival in Kolkata

May 27: 11 containers arrive from Canada (275 metric tonnes)

May 29: 19 containers arrive from South Korea (475 metric tonnes)

June 12: 9 containers arrive from Canada (228 metric tones)


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Extra-judicial killings beyond justice

‘My experience tells the real problem lies with the judiciary, which fears to take decision against perpetrator when he is a senior police officer’


Sanu Sunar, 46, a labourer from Godavari-9, Lalitpur was arrested on May 23 on a charge of “robbery” from a shop in Balaju. On May 25, he was declared dead while in police custody. The details about the incident remain murky and there are various theories behind what led to his death.
Bikram Gyanmi Magar, 19, from Pranbung-4, Panchthar, was arrested on Feb. 12 for “stealing” neighbour’s construction materials in Pranbung. According to eyewitnesses and Magar’s families, he was subject to torture by both the police and the locals during interrogation and detention. He was admitted to hospital where he was declared dead on Feb. 21. The police say a case about this incident has been pending at the district court.
On Feb 13, the police in Panchthar arrested Dal Bahadur Gyanmi Magar, 42, a resident of Pranbung-4. He was accused of stealing money and gold from a villager in Pranbung. Around six hours later, Dal Bahadur was declared dead. His case too is pending at Panchthar District Court.
These stories that have come under public radar in the last six months are not new, though.  “Incidents of torture and death in torture are not new in the history of Nepal’s policing,” said National Human Rights Commission Secretary Bishal Khanal. “Though we have recommended actions against responsible officials in most torture cases, their implementations are vary rare.” Interestingly, in NHRC’s 10-year history, the government has not implemented even a single recommendation concerning involvement of government officials on serious rights violations.
The police, on the other hand, admit their “shortcomings”, though they deny that the civilian deaths mentioned above are due to torture while in detention.
 “We have investigations and court cases pending [in these reported rights abuses]. We will do the needful on time,” said Nepal Police Spokesman DIG Bigyan Raj Sharma. According to him, the police have filed court cases against three police personnel in relation to the death of Sunar in Kathmandu and two other persons in Pachthar. However, police are yet to make public the findings on these cases.
Human rights defenders claim that the three deaths are symbolic of extrajudicial killings due to torture. A preliminary investigation carried out by Advocacy Forum and Jagaran Media Centre says that Sunar’s death was due to torture during detention. “The victim was vomiting blood when his wife went to meet him at the hospital, where he was admitted after torture. He was in critical condition. Rights defenders and his wife have confirmed that she witnessed marks of torture on her husband’s hands, legs, face and other parts of the body,” said Subas Darnal, founder of JMC. “The police should come out clean on these incidents of  rights violations not only to improve the institution’s image but also to comply with the international laws which Nepal has signed.”
Weak anti-torture law
Nepal has been a party to the International Convention against Torture and International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) since May 14, 1991. Both these laws require Nepal to guarantee that torture victims get appropriate compensations and the act be criminalised. Almost 19 years after Nepal’s accession to the treaties, justice still eludes torture victims.
“The police have demonstrated significant improvement when it comes to torture, though it has not been satisfactory. My experience tells the real problem lies with the judiciary, which fears to take decision against perpetrator when he is a senior police officer,” said Madhav Bashnet, a human rights defender and advocate. 
Currently, the Torture Compensation Act 1996 is the law that deals with torture. This provision, however, has failed to deter the perpetrators. “Rs. 100,000 is the ceiling for compensation for deaths due to torture and that too comes from state coffers. The Act must be amended to keep the compensation ceiling open, among others,” said Basnet, “and there should be room for personal liabilities, not just institutional liabilities.” 
(The article under IMPUNITY WATCH series was originally published in The Kathmandu Post, June 16, 2010:

Nepali Congress troika tests the traces, braces for August showdown

Nepali Congress 12th General Convention, August 2010


Each group has its own school of thought and followers but given the track record of skin-shedding, the possibilities of realignment before the Convention are very much on.





Nepali Congress is in a bind. Its General Convention is scheduled for August, and it has three leaders in the race for presidential supremacy, each at daggers drawn. The right-to-the-centre faction is led by stalwart Sher Bahadur Deuba, left-to-the-centre by central committee leader Narahari Acharya and the centrist faction by Acting President Sushil Koirala.

Each group has its own school of thought and followers but given the track record of skin-shedding, the possibilities of realignment before the Convention are very much on.


The Sushil faction seems the “strongest”, till date. Along with the Koiralas, leaders like Arjun Narsingh KC, Bimalendra Nidhi and Prakash Man Singh are in this group. This group harps on centrist sentiments of party members by treading a fine line between the two extremes: the right-to-the-centre and the left-to-the-centre. Supporters say that it strives to strike a balance between nationalism, democracy and socialism, the three pillars of party building put forward by BP Koirala in 1955.

Events buttress that party parliamentary party (PP) leader Ramchandra Poudel and Koirala have agreed “to work together.” Poudel received support from Sushil in the PP elections last year. Die-hard Koirala supporters are hoping the magic works.

Still, the task of rallying various forces appears daunting. Granted, this faction has leaders like Poudel, Singh, KC, not least the ambitious Koiralas themselves. But that also means stroking too many egos, assuaging various needs and making a departure from the sense of entitlement the Koiralas have thrived on.


Narahari’s group, with support from leaders like Pradip Giri and Deep Kumar Upadhyaya, has been advocating socialist politics with emphasis on “radical reform” within the party and governance structure.

This group is also known as the “republicans” and “reformists”.

Though Acharya is hailed for his integrity (alongside Singh, he was the only other NC candidate to win direct election in Kathmandu in the CA) and consistently championing the socialist school of thought in the party, he is no frontrunner. Opinion is split whether his group will contest the election or “compromise” to support some senior party leader.

Acharya’s group’s Achilles Heel is that it triggers academic debate but does not have the capacity to energize the party base. It has not penetrated the grassroots. Even so, none questions Narahari group for its “passion for reform” and this could attract reformist votes. “This faction may be the dark horse. The canvas is different since 1996. No surprise, if only 10 to 15 percent of the current CWC members are re-elected. If so, the status-quoists will be flushed away,” argued Ang Dendi Sherpa, a youth leader in NC.


To many, Deuba is Sushil’s bete noire. His group of leaders like Minendra Rijal, Prakash Sharan Mahat and Bal Krishna Khand, is more inclined to conservative politics with emphasis on “democracy and nationalism” rather than reformist agenda. It also holds historical ties with the traditional right, including the monarchists. Deuba, who worked under King Gyanendra’s patronage in 2005, enjoys strong ties with conservative forces.

Despite all, and even with a number of leaders backing it it will have to accommodate interest groups to emerge a potent functional force. Deuba may garner support from groups like those led by Govinda Raj Joshi and Khum Bahadur Khadka (known monarchists).

Though Deuba’s NC (D) represented a sizable chunk of the NC establishment (40 percent in the CWC) before the party’s merger with the NC in 2007, many NC (D) members have now joined the Sushil faction — as was evident during the PP election last year.

Still, this is a faction to contend with. “If there is a right wing upsurge in the country, and if the Joshi-Khadka group joins hands, chances are the Deuba faction will come out the winner,” says an analyst in NC.


Despite carrying separate identities and district politics, there are, however, possibilities of realignment before the August Convention.

As of now, NC leaders say, while there are high chances of a merger between the Narahari and Sushil factions, “two extremes” (Narahari and Deuba) are unlikely to budge and are expected go headlong into the battle. But to some, the Narahari faction does not exist as a “group” or “faction”, but only as a “school of thought”. Sushil and Deuba factions are factions, not the Narahari group.


Beyond these three groups, many inside the party regard the group led by former Home Ministers Joshi and Khadka, generally known as the party’s “right”, as a distinct faction too.

This group advocates Nepal’s Hindu identity, unitary system of government and at times even constitutional monarchy.  For now, it has fielded NC Vice President Kul Bahadur Gurung as presidential candidate. Crowed Gurung. “Have gun, will shoot. To hell with realignment.”

The Sindhupalchowk rally prelude to the decision over Tarun Dasta and the aborted aftermath has many guessing Deuba and Khadka are in cahoots. Khadka reiterated his aversion to secularism and federalism terming them “Maoist agenda”. Sushil’s hullabaloo ended their Tarun Dasta bid. It also drove another nail in the coffin of Deuba’s differences with the Koiralas.

(The article was originally published in The Kathmandu Post, June 15:

New Delhi, Beijing bid for MRP

In a twist to
Nepal’s desire to acquire Machine Readable Passports (MRPs), India and China have recently picked up tender copies for MRP bids at a cost of Rs 10,000 each.
A Beijing-based security printing firm recently picked up the bid document. However, it is not known whether it was a government undertaking or a private company.

Meanwhile, sources said that the Government of India undertaking, Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India (SPMCI), picked the tender copy. This company was awarded the MRP contract by the incumbent government on March 19, but it was later scrapped on April 11 following directives from Public Accounts Committee and pressure from leaders of ruling and opposition parties. Besides the cost factor, the deal landed in controversy after a confidential letter written on Dec. 4, 2009 by Indian envoy Rakesh Sood to Foreign Affairs Minister Sujata Koirala was “leaked”.

In the letter, Sood had raised India’s security concerns and defended its interest in printing the MRPs.  In its deal with the Indian company, the government had agreed to buy MRP copies at a high rate ($4 per copy) ignoring cheaper offers as low as $2.9 per. A fresh bid was floated on May 18.

Companies from Canada, Malaysia and Indonesia have also picked up the tender copies. No Indian and Chinese companies took part in the earlier pre-qualification bid, which was quashed later.

Two Chinese private companies at that time had expressed interest and forwarded applications to the Foreign Ministry.

The Foreign Ministry came up with a new tender on May 18, open to all interested firms with a more “relaxed format”. The new tender paper has not barred any country from taking part in the process. “The tender is open to international security printing companies of all countries,” it reads.

“Among the India and China, other eight government and private firms have already picked the MRPs tender copies,” said sources.


Early 2009    : Govt asks MoFA to start bidding

Dec. 1, 2009    : Global bidding begins

Dec. 4, 2009    : Indian envoy writes to MoFA

Jan. 14, 2010    : Bid off for technical reasons

Jan. 16    : Indian Foreign Minister arrives

March 23    : Govt signs deal with SPMCIL

Feb. 25    : PAC orders bid resumption

March 19    : Govt gives contract to India

April 7    : SC issues stay order on deal

April 11    : Govt withdraws the deal

(Originally published at

Post-conflict issues cannot be ignored

KAMAL RAJ SIGDEL, The Kathmandu Post, MAY 30

UK Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan has said integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, disbanding of armed youth wings and addressing impunity in human rights violations during the war are some of the critical issues Nepal should address without delay for its peaceful transition.

Duncan said that though the UK has no desire to be a “bossy colonial power” it wants the Nepal government to uphold human rights and democratic values, and ensure stability.

In an exclusive interview with the Post, Duncan said that the politicians seem to have given less priority to some of the post-conflict problems, such as impunity, which if left untreated could “fester”.


Address post conflict problems with priority

Renew the term of UN rights office

Armed youth wings “dangerous elements”

UK aid to continue and increase

Some politicians, he said, are “pretending” that the post-conflict issues can be ignored but “our view is that they cannot”. “Our experience is that if you are with more post-conflict problems, the problems continue and even fester,” said Duncan, referring to the issues of impunity and former Maoist combatants.

“A lot of bad things were done, some of them you put down to the fact that they were conflict, but you cannot ignore them.”

On integration, Duncan said the combatants need to be encouraged to lead a civilian life. “The management of former combatants in the cantonments needs to be resolved. We need to get them somehow encouraged to return to civilian life.”

Similarly, the armed youth wings, he said, are “unacceptable and are dangerous elements in the country” and those have to be addressed “if Nepal is going to take on the character of a more democratic country.”

In reference to the ongoing constitution-writing process, Duncan said it was a very challenging task when the country has to start from the scratch. “If you are a country with a blank sheet of paper, it is very difficult to know where to start.”

Asked how stability is guaranteed in Britain where there is no “written constitution”, Duncan said, “Britain does have a constitution but it’s not like the American one, it has emerged over 350 years.” Stability, he said, results from people’s involvement. “The people need to be able to choose the government. It’s a great opportunity for Nepal to design the rules by which that can happen.”

On UK aid, Duncan said there would be no change in the UK policy to Nepal, but with the new coalition government committing to meeting the target of spending 0.7 percent of GDP (from current 0.5 percent) on overseas aid by 2013, the spending in countries like Nepal could increase.

The UK government through DFID is spending about £56 millions in Nepal’s peace process and development.

Asked whether the aid would be contingent on any condition, the minister said that the UK does not like to use the aid budget as a “weapon” and be a “bossy colonial power”, but wants to encourage the government to respect human rights, take steps towards making it stable and more democratic. 

“We want to see the UN human rights office renewed. For countries like Nepal, human rights issues are very important. It’s not just the military phenomenon, but also treatment of women and other minorities which we will continue to press, as we do throughout the world, for high standards.”

(Originally published at The Kathmandu Post, May 30, 2010:

IMPUNITY WATCH: Deaths during the CA election remain a mystery



Post Investigation Team



On the dead of the night of April 9, 2008 -- a day before the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections -- a bomb went off in a house at Farhadawa-4, Rautahat while some hired craftsmen were preparing ammunition, allegedly aimed at capturing polling booths the next day.


The story that was doing the rounds locally the next day went this way. At least three people -- Trilok Pratap Singh, 22; Basi Akthar Miya Kawadi, 23; and an unidentified Indian national -- had died while more than a dozen others had sustained serious injuries. Singh and Kawadi were locals from Rautahat district while the Indian national was reportedly hired to prepare low-intensity bombs, which proliferate the Tarai district during elections. 


The story behind the circumstances that led to the deaths were left pretty much unchallenged until some human rights workers decided to visit the village.


Twenty days after the incident, a group of national and international rights observers managed to get access to the incident site. According to eyewitness accounts, at least two of the three men said to have been killed in the incident were forcibly thrown into a nearby burning brick kiln.


“The two were locals from Rautahat who had seen the hired goons from India make bombs and they had to be exterminated,” says a human rights activist. “An eyewitness confirmed that the two were crying out for help while they were dragged to the brick kiln -- all in the presence of the police,” says Krishna Gautam, INSEC’s Central Regional Coordinator, a member in the study team.


The victims’ families, despite threats from the perpetrators, had registered an FIR at the Rauthat District Police Office on April 30, 2008 against four persons, including newly appointed Labour and Transport Minister Mohammad Aftab Alam, an elected Nepali Congress CA member from Rauthat-2. However, according to the Rautahat district police office, the case was dropped shortly after it was registered “due to lack of sufficient testimonials.”


Last year, human rights organizations, including National Human Rights Commission had recommended that the government probe into the case. NHRC Spokesman Gauri Pradhan told the Post that the government had not implemented NHRC’s recommendation to investigate the incident.


Very little progress has been made on the case, as with most other human rights violations.


“It seems that the leaders here are free to kill people. The man who burnt people alive has been made a minister. Now, who can go against him?” says Sri Narayan Singh, father of Trilok.


Minister Alam dismisses the charge labeled against him. “No such incident had occurred in the village and the blame [that I am involved] is baseless. The case has already been closed,” said Alam on Tuesday.


But the bereaved father claims that Alam had approached Singh on April 1, 2008, requesting him to allow his son Trilok to give him a helping hand in his election campaign. According to him, on April 2, 2008, Alam’s supporters took away Trilok despite the father’s refusal. That was the last he saw of his son. “Till date neither have I got my son’s corpse, nor the culprit has been punished,” says Singh.


Ruksana Khatun, mother of another casualty Basi Akhtar, said she “was now tired of running from pillar to post for justice. It’s painful, this bereavement. Who is there to feel our pain though?” said Khatun, her eyes wet. (The report was published originally in The Kathmandu Post.)

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