Nepal Today

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

CAMPAIGN TO KEEP BAGMATI RIVER CLEAN Kathmandu, 9 May: In a campaign to help keep Bagmati river clear, Nepali film artists and advertisers will a football match at Dashtath Rnashala Rangashala Saturday with models A Bagmati cleaning campaign will follow the campaign support by government. The leaning campaign will be conducted from Guheshwari to Shinamangal. nnnn SEARCH ON FOR NEW BHAKTAPUR KUMARI Kathmandu, 9 May: Driven by their unwavering faith toward their glorious traditions, the natives of Bhaktapur are once again searching for a new living goddess. folks worship myriad gods and goddess, a practice common in any Hindu society. And, as in the historic cities of Kathmandu and Patan, they have a living goddess of their own, Om Astha Rai writes in Republica.. . With Shreya Bajracharya, worshipped as the living goddess of Bhaktapur until last week, entering normal life, the Bhaktapur locals are now in pursuit of yet another living goddess. “For the time being, we have no living goddess,” says Narendra Prasad Joshi, the main priest of Taleju Bhawani Temple situated inside Bhaktapur Durbar complex. “I hope this situation will not last long.” Joshi says they have to have a new living goddess well before this year’s Dashain festival, when the living goddess is taken to the Taleju Bhawani temple. awaits a new Kumari. (Photo: Om Astha Rai) The process of choosing new living goddess from among pre-adolescent girls belonging to either Shakya or Bajracharya families has already started. The chief caretaker of Kumari, locally known as Susare Naike, contacts the local Shakya and Bajracharya families to select the new living goddess. “In fact, I have already chosen a candidate for the new Kumari,” says Nhuchchhe Ratna Shakya, chief caretaker of the living goddess of Bhaktapur. “I will take her to the Guthi Sansthan within a couple of days.” Before the candidate for the new living goddess is registered at the Guthi Sansthan, a government body that oversees all religious and social trusts, she is taken to the main priest of the Taleju Bhawani temple. The main priest, along with three other priests of the temple, two belonging to Karmacharya clan and one from Rajopadhyay families, approves the candidate for new Kumari. Usually, the candidate selected by the chief caretaker is not disapproved by any of the four priests of the Taleju temple. “The chief caretaker consults us while selecting the candidate,” says Joshi. “So the chances of us disapproving the candidate are very slim.” The process of selecting the new living goddess is very tough and rigorous. Only a pre-adolescent Shakya or Bajracharya girl having all 32 virtues without any blemishes on her body can be anointed as the living goddess. “Having all 32 virtues is not enough, though,” says Shakya. “Only those girls who do not fall sick or feel upset when I put a flower taken out of the Taleju temple on her forehead can be the new living goddess.” Locals revere the pre-adolescent girl chosen as Kumari believing that the goddess Taleju resides inside her mortal body. Once the girl loses her teeth, has her bel-bibaha (marriage with wood-apple) or menstruates, she has to relinquish her goddess status. This is when the Bhaktpuar people have to search for a fresh mortal body in which the goddess Taleju can stay. Last week, Shreya Bajracharya had her Bel Bibaha, which indicated her reaching the age of puberty; therefore, she had to give up her status as the goddess. Legend has it that Jagat Jyoti Malla, a king of the Malla dynasty, was privileged to see, feel and talk to the goddess Taleju. But the goddess Taleju disappeared one day due to a mistake by the king. Later, after the king was remorseful of what he has done, the goddess told him in his dream that she would henceforth be found in the mortal body of a pre-adolescent girl. If the candidate for the new Kumari falls sick or feels upset when her forehead is touched with the flower taken out of the Taleju temple, the locals interpret it as a sign of rejection by the goddess. “Although we select the candidate, it is the goddess who accepts or rejects her body,” says Shakya. In the last 30 years, after the Guthi Sansthan started providing allowances for even former-Kumaris, the Bhaktapur folks have seen as many as five living goddesses. “The life-long recognition of former Kumaris has added to the charm of being living goddesses,” says Joshi. “So, unlike in the past, the process of selecting the new Kumari has become tougher as there are more candidates.” Serving for dignity Pujari Naikes (head priests) of the Taleju Bhawani temple call the shots while selecting a new living goddess. While the Karmacharya clan has two representatives as head priests at the Taleju temple, the Joshi and the Rajopadhyay families have one each. Although their roles and responsibilities are distinct from one another, they collectively approve or disapprove the candidate for the new living goddess, which is selected by the chief caretaker of Kumari. Siddhi Bir Karmcharya is one of the two head priests belonging to the Karmacharya clan. A professor at Tri Chandra College, Karmacharya has served as a head priest at the Taleju temple for the last 34 years. “When my father passed away, I filled in his shoes,” says Karmacharya. “Our family has been serving at the Taleju temple for generations. After me, my son, if he is interested, will be the head priest.” The priests of Taleju temple virtually get nothing for their services. “Instead, we used to pay Rs 150 every year to the government until the abolition of monarchy,” says Karmacharya. “It is not a big amount today. But, 100-200 years ago, it was a big amount. Our ancestors could not pay hefty annual taxes.” Karmacharya says they fulfill their duties for respect and dignity. “It is not money that keeps us motivated,” he says. “Everybody respects me as one of the head priests of the Taleju temple. Dignity is a bigger reward than money.” “When Bhim Shumsher was Prime Minister, my grandfather was a police officer. He was a priest, too. When he was accused of holding two posts, he gave up his job for an unpaid duty,” he recollects. “It tells a lot about the importance we give to our history and tradition.” nnnn PROBABLY WORLD’S HIGHEST GARBAGE COLLECTION CENTER Kathmandu, 9 May: The surroundings of the world's highest peak, Mt. Everest, which faced garbage management problem a few years ago, has now turned clean after efforts by the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee (SPCC) in this regard, RSS reports from Solokhumbu.. The committee has established an Office at Namche Bazaar and picked up the garbage thrown here and there around the base camp and the Khumbu region has become as clean as in the past.The SPCC collects the garbage from the region annually. RSS Nnnn DETAILS OF MAOIST CHIEF, SUSHIL KOIRALA MEET Kathmandu, 9 May : The major two political parties, Unified CPN (Maoist) and Nepali Congress (NC) held discussions to create environment for the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections with a strong determination, RSS reports.. During the discussion held at the residence of NC leader Sushil Koirala in Maharajgunj in the capital today, the leaders agreed to hold discussions with the agitating fringe political parties. The UCPN-Maoist and NC concluded that they should arrive at a certain decision if they could not forge consensus regarding the CA elections. The leaders said that they should finalize the disputed issues regarding the elections including the threshold of minimum votes to be garnered, and number of CA members, among others. NC leader Dr. Ramsharan Mahat said all political parties would make efforts from their respective places to make the environment for the election, hold discussion with the agitating fringe political parties and reach to a decision to hold the election. If the parties failed to forge consensus, the government should move ahead on its own way, added Mahat making the decisions public after the meeting. Similarly, General Secretary of the UCPN-Maoist, Post Bahadur Bogati, said the UCPN-Maoist and the NC held discussions in connection with holding bilateral discussions among the political parties. He said the parties would hold bilateral discussions with the major political parties and later they would hold multilateral discussions to create the environment for the CA elections. It is learnt that the government has also been making preparations to hold an all-party meeting to forge consensus on the legal process regarding the elections. The leaders said running away from election would have no meaning if the parties believe in democracy and that the major political parties would intensify necessary discussion among them to include the agitating political parties in the election process. "The political parties and people that believe in democracy would soon join the election process and the parties that do not believe in people would not join," NC leader Mahat summed up. nnnn NBA ASKS SC TO CORREST RULING Kathmandu, 9 May: Nepal Bar Association (NBA), the umbrella organization of lawyers across the country, has urged the Supreme Court (SC) to rectify its recent order relating to Public Interest Litigation (PIL)m Republica reports.. A special bench of justices Kalyan Shrestha, Girish Chandra Lal and Sushila Karki on December 20, 2012 had ordered that a PIL petitioner should first appeal to the authority or institution concerned to address the issue. If the issue is not addressed, the petitioner should inform the authority in question about his intention to file a writ petition. Only then can the petitioner move the court with evidence that the issue was not addressed. At a meeting with Officiating Chief Justice Damodar Prasad Sharma on Wednesday, NBA leadership stated that the apex court´s order has infringed the rights of citizens. “The SC order regarding PIL has curtailed constitutional rights of the people. So, it must be rectified through judicial procedure” said NBA Vice-president Tikaram Bhattarai, who was present at the meeting with Sharma. They also maintained that the apex court´s recent ruling would encourage dictatorship in the country. “The judiciary has turned more illiberal at a time when democracy is at peril,” Bhattarai told Sharma. According to Bhattarai, they also urged the officiating chief justice to resume PIL registration process stating that even if SC implements the recent order, it should amend the existing regulations. In response, Sharma assured them that he will take necessary steps in order to address their concerns. “The issue has already reached the bench,” Bhattarai quoted Sharma as saying. “If the issue is not addressed by the bench, I will settle it after holding consultations with NBA.” Justices Shrestha, Lal and Karki had also ordered the SC administration not to file a PIL, if the petitioner fails to clarify how an issue in question is different from the one already sub-judice in the court. SC had also stated that a single bench of justice would decide whether a petition should be registered. As of now, the SC administration decides whether a petition should be registered. The apex court´s administration on Monday had declined to register a writ petition of Advocate Om Prakash Aryal who challenged the Constitutional Council (CC)´s recommendation to the president to appoint former chief secretary Lokman Singh Karki as the chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Nnnn INTERVIEW HASTY ANNOUNCEMENT OF POLL COULD INVITE TROUBLE WARNS ELECTION CIHEF Two months into the tenure of Khil Raj Regmi as the head of the compromise election government, the date for new CA polls remains a mystery. Why the long delay in announcement of election date? How are the preparations? Biswas Baral and Gani Ansari sat down with Chief Election Commissioner Nilkantha Uprety to find out. It has been two months since the formation of the election government, but the new election date has still not been announced. Why so? There are some basics which need to be met before announcing an election date. The first of those is having election-related laws in place. Various groups have opposed our draft ordinance on amendment of the Election of Members of the Constituent Assembly Act, 2013. They believe the proposed ordinance doesn’t represent their interests and could dilute their presence in the future legislature. This issue still awaits political understanding. But also remember that in the history of Nepal, the date of election has never been announced more than six months in advance. Thus despite differences among political forces on many election-related issues, we are confident there will soon be some kind of an understanding and an election date can be announced. How does not having a fixed election date affect poll preparations? Mainly, the Election Commission needs the requisite electoral laws to clear the hurdles towards timely polls. Such laws will help people understand the nitty-gritty of election and allow political parties to plan their electoral strategy accordingly. But by and large it does not affect the Election Commission’s poll preparations. What the announcement of a date will do is convince people that there will actually be polls and they will start preparing for it psychologically. Yet I believe that it would be wise to announce a date only after the political parties can agree on electoral laws. Announcing a poll date in haste without solid political grounding could invite more problems in the future. Why have differences emerged over electoral laws? Didn’t the Election Commission consult relevant stakeholders before proposing such laws? The 25-point ordinance to remove constitutional difficulties had stipulated 240 seats under FPTP component and 240 seats under PR component, with 11 representatives to be nominated in the new CA. The Election Commission drafted its electoral laws with this as its point of departure. But the Election Commission did propose certain improvements like a minimal threshold for representation in the CA. The other proposal was to bar those with proven criminal background from contesting election for six years. We also want the electoral expenses of the political parties to be transparent. All these proposals, each of which has strong international precedent, would strengthen the democratic process. But ultimately, it is up to the political parties to decide. How would you evaluate your preparations for new CA polls? Our preparations are in full swing. The most important task of voter list update is taking place right across the country. We hope to complete the process in all remote areas in the next two months, after which the urban hubs will be covered. At the same time, the Home Ministry has been distributing citizenship certificates in conjunction with the voter list update. The process of registration of political parties with the Election Commission has also started, with 24 parties registering so far. Do you have enough time to complete necessary preparations ahead of the November-December deadline? Yes, we do. But we cannot afford to waste time. Look what happened in the past when we kept delaying vital poll-related tasks. Election had to be postponed time and again. But we are also capable of holding free and fair polls in a very short time. In 1994, we had just 65 days to prepare for the mid-term parliamentary election, yet we managed it. But back then we had clear electoral laws and readymade electoral rolls. There was law and order and compared to now, the security situation was a lot better as well. Talking about security situation, there were obstructions in voter roll update sometime ago. What is the situation now? There were some obstructions at the start, but right now the joint citizenship-voter registration team has been carrying outs its duty unhindered. When will a new election date be announced? The announcement of a new date is the prerogative of the government. It is not for the Election Commission to decide. But haven’t you given the government some kind of a deadline? No, we haven’t. What we have been demanding are clear electoral laws. I believe that once these laws can be finalized, the election date can be settled in no time. The most time-consuming task is voter roll update, which is forging ahead full steam. I don’t believe we will be pressed for time even if there is a little delay in announcement of poll date. Having said that, I believe it is important that people are assured that there will definitely be polls within the scheduled time. Won’t the delineation of new electoral constituencies be time-consuming? I believe that this is largely a political issue. Once the political question is settled, technically, it is not time consuming at all. Even if there are changes, they will be few, and the total number of electoral constituencies will remain around 240, the number in the last CA polls. If new electoral constituencies can be delineated even two months prior to the poll date, we should not have a problem. There are rumors that the Election Commission has already reached an understanding with political parties not to change any of the important provisions in the last CA polls, including the size of the CA. There has been no such understanding. We have proposed certain amendments to existing electoral laws, which the government has been discussing with other stakeholders. There has been no final decision as of now. Certain groups have raised issues about the likelihood of their reduced representation in the new CA polls (if the one percent threshold is followed). Ultimately, it is a political decision. Our concerns as a technical body mandated to hold free and fair polls are valid today and will remain so tomorrow. Even so, if any of our proposals are unacceptable under the current circumstances, the government should say so. We should settle on what is feasible at present, and with that understanding, settle a new poll date at the earliest. The Election Commission has reportedly been talking with dissident outfits like Mohan Baidya’s CPN-Maoist directly after they refused to talk to the government. Is that the case? We have been holding discussions with all stakeholders: the political parties, civil society, those who support this government and those who oppose it. We have been trying to convince the dissenting forces that in a democratic system, there is no alternative to going to the people. For this purpose, the Election Commission is their common platform. Remember that the Election Commission can only assure free and fair election. Anything more is beyond its ambit. nnnn