TedX Kathmandu Live Streaming and Updates

TedX Kathmandu, first TedX event in Nepal, is now live streaming. Catch them here.

At Twitter Aakar Post @ aakarpost is live tweeting the event. Follow him for more. Tag is #tedxktm.

So far, Aakar’s updates are the only chatter on Twitter about TedX Kathmandu. There seems to be some gap between the event and general audience( those not in technology). Hopefully next year there will be more discussion and enthusiasm.

I will be posting a detailed analysis of the event and audience reaction at your technology section Nepal Blogs Technologyshortly.

Update 6:24AM EST

The video streaming is not working for now, they are providing short text updates.


It is Code of Ethics, Not Censorship!

A group of Nepali bloggers got together and signed code of ethics, voluntarily, promising that they will uphold certain principles and blog responsibly. Draft of the proposed code was published at Ujjwal Acharya’s blog couple of weeks back where he solicited comments/ suggestions from fellow bloggers to improve the code and also on ways to implement it effectively. Here are my 2 cents on the proposed code.

10 bloggers have signed the pledge so far and the number could go up in coming days. Unfortunately, this effort has now turned controversial and divisive.

Any Nepali blogger can attest to the fact that our community needs to come together and establish a code of conduct, not to impose censorship but to preserve our creative integrity. In past their have been incidents of plagiarism, blatant violation of privacy and as blogging gains mainstream recognition in Nepal, the pressure of commercialization is bound to happen. Without concentrated effort by individual blogger and the community as a whole, these issues could hurt our cause.

This code of ethics is part of that effort to help the community, it is not censorship and it is not an attack on a blogger’s individual rights.  Let me go over each clause in the code, and explain my position.(The clause is in bold and my comments appear as regular text)

CODE OF ETHICS FOR BLOGGERS (Signed on July 27, 2011)

As a blogger, I would honestly:

Be fair on what I write in my blog

For literary and personal blogs, this clause could be an issue but if you are blogging on sensitive national and social issue, the reader should have the right to demand that you are being fair and are not using false information or malice.
Write things that I believe to be truth
Again, this clause is more applicable to news/commentary based blogs.
Specify my source of information – credit to offline sources and link to online sources
This absolutely necessary. There are blogs who plagiarise materials, copy and paste articles and don’t credit the source. This is about giving credit when due, and should not be controversial.
Specify clearly the use of any unconfirmed fact or information
For political/commentary based blogs, this helps in establishing credibility.
Avoid conflict of interest – clearly disclose my position including job, financial interest, affiliation and relationship if they related to the post OR maintain an detailed About Me page
For a political, financial blogs, a disclosure statement can help establish credibility and also protect the blogger from legal hassles.
Clearly differentiate between advertisements and blog content
As blogging is gaining acceptance and influence in Nepal media and advertising world, some bloggers would want to explore opportunities to generate revenue. Nothing wrong with that, but it is necessary to be honest about it so there is no misrepresentation.
Disclose clearly if an entry is posted sponsored or as advertisement or after accepting a payment or goods to write it
Admit and correct mistakes as soon as possible but only with strikethrough or editorial notes
What is wrong in admitting mistake? Keeping the original text or picture intact but adding the correction will allow readers to see the difference, it will not hurt the blogger but show their willingness to admit and learn-a plus.
Allow comments to engage audience, allow different opinions and clearly state my moderation policy if any
Hmm,this is one clause I have issue with.Sometimes a blogger may want to disable comment and it should be ok to do that. But yes, when comments are allowed, moderation policy should be clearly stated.
Show compassion for human being – be sensitive writing about or using photos of victims
Quite obvious.
Promote freedom of speech
Ok no blogger can argue against this.

As a blogger, I wouldn’t intentionally:

  1. Completely rewrite or delete an entry
  2. Threaten people and institution using the blog for personal benefits
  3. Write anything undermining nationality, national security, religious harmony and social order
  4. Give space to pornography, hate speech and crude content
  5. Publish personal and confidential information of people collected during their visit to my blog
  6. Spam, spread malware and viruses and engage in criminal activities
  7. Plagiarize – copy and paste from other sources
  8. Disclose the source of primary information without source’s consent
All of the above clauses are pretty standard and in no way stifle free speech or impose censorship or self censorship. Most of these conditions are found in majority of blogging communities, even Google Adsense program prohibits porn, gambling sites.
We need to make a distinction between personal/literary blogs and the political blog, some exceptions have to be made for personal/literary blogs, but the bottom line remains same for all. It is not censorship to REQUEST minimum standard of conduct!

Nepal vs Scotland [Live Update]

Nepal is taking on Scotland today, following their victory over Afghanistan yesterday. (ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup qualifying round being held in Dublin, Ireland)

You can follow the match at Cric Waves, although the score update does seem bit slow.

Cricket Europe is more up to the minute on score updates.

Not much chatter on Twitter about the match, weekend effect?

Nepal vs Afghanistan World Cup Qualifier[Update]

Yesterday, July 27, turned out to be a great day for Nepali sports fans. Nepal saved face by holding Jordan to a draw(goal each) in football World Cup Qualifying match played in Kathmandu. In their previous encounter just a week earlier, Jordan had trashed Nepal 9-0, in Amman.

Over in Dublin, Ireland, Nepali U-19 cricket team scored 42 run victory over Afghanistan, in their opening ICC U-19 World Cup qualifier.

Although Nepal is out of football World Cup qualifier, the U-19 cricket team could make it all the way(at least that’s what the fans are hoping for). Best of luck to the team.

At Twitter, compared to the excitement over Nepal vs Jordan football match, cricket received slightly less enthusiasm. @kakabaa live tweeted the match( from his home in Kathmandu), in Nepali. It was quite lively, especially towards the end when Nepal was inches from claiming victory.

Republica for more on the Dublin victory.

Nepal Hearts China (and India too)

Ever since the Maoists emerged as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly, the winds blowing in Kathmandu,Beijing and New Delhi have acquired strange odor. It wasn’t pleasant to begin with, “Mao” tag made it even fouler.

India is worried its backyard is being taken over by China, China wants to keep an eye on runaway Tibetans and contain’s India’s foot print; Nepal is stuck in between.

Media and think tank air heads, are not satisfied. They want Nepal squeezed and some more.Indian media has been more aggressive on this. Their reports on how a China friendly Nepal is a nightmare for India has more elements of childhood fantasy than facts in them.

Why this frenzy? Afterall Nepal has been a loyal friend of India(too loyal sometimes) for decades. The media and establishment in Delhi wasn’t too concerned about Nepal then. Our docile existence was acceptable. Now that the country wants to venture out and make new friends, suddenly New Delhi is concerned.

Just a like an ignored love, Nepal waited for India. Now she has a new suitor, India perhaps has realized her worth. But in playing with the two, is Nepal ratcheting up stakes too high?

Chinese Ambassador to Kathmandu recounted Beijing’s success in Tibet through an op-ed in Republica Daily-a sign that Kathmandu too wants the games changed. China in the town and will stay.India is also pushing for greater role. Nepal, unfortunately lacks leaders and diplomats who can delicately handle its changed position in the region. They are either too partisan in their friendship or couldn’t care less as long as their political life is safe.

Without an able handler, Nepal could be heading for a disaster in this high stakes game.

Nepal vs Jordan World Cup Qualifying Match[Updates]

At Twitter Dipak Bhattarai (@dipakbhattarai) is live tweeting Nepal vs Jordan World Cup Qualifying match (football). You can follow his tweets, in Nepali, for the latest from Dasarath Stadium, Kathmandu. ( Bhattarai later clarified that he is not at the stadium, but watching live telecast of the match.)

To watch the match live online, Aakar Post has the video embed. You need flash player for that.

Aakar Post is also tweeting the game, follow @aakarpost.

#NepalvsJordan is the tag Nepali tweeps are using for the event. Lot of excitement and enthusiasm among Nepali supporters despite 9-0 loss to Jordan in their previous meeting in Amman . Hope is, the team will have a turnaround with home turf advantage.

Meanwhile,Jordan does not seem all excited about today’s match or so it seems. Compare to front page treatment the match is getting in Nepal, Jordan’s newspapers are pre-occupied with other issues.

Front Page of Jordan Times, accessed 7:31 AM EST

So far,0-0 approaching half time.

Updated 7:10 EST

Jordan has scored match’s first goal. Nepali supporters calling for an equalizer before the buzzer goes off.

Updated 7:33 AM EST

Nepal has scored!! Jordan 1 Nepal 1.

Updated 7:43 AM EST

The match has concluded in a draw. Nepal 1 Jordan 1. Still a respectable showing by Nepal, considering the drubbing they received in Amman. Congratulations!

Reconstituting Nepal

By Martin Searle

September 29, 2010

Policy Innovations

In Thamel, the tourist centre of Kathmandu, haggling is a production on par with the imitation Bollywood climaxes of Nepal’s stunted film industry. It pays to show some local knowledge while negotiating for a yak-bone statuette, or an authentic pashmina woven from the hair of the changthangi. Right now the street hawkers are mostly interested in pouring scorn on politicians as they fail again and again to elect a new prime minister.

Nepal’s three major parties can agree on very little, but theNepali Congress Party and theCommunist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) accord on at least one issue: keeping the Maoists away from power. As parties with core constituencies among the social and economic elite, Congress and the UML fret over the Maoist plan to redistribute land. Somewhat paradoxically, the Maoists intend the redistribution to transform Nepal’s feudal economy into a capitalist one—it is only after a prolonged period of capitalism that they will progress down Marx’s historical continuum to their “communist utopia.” Furthermore, Congress and the UML are worried about the continued existence of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army—a legacy from the recent civil war.

According to the stipulations of Nepal’s interim constitution, Congress and the UML have the ability to block the Maoists from forming a government; alone, however, they remain unable to form a workable administration capable of achieving the task for which the public elected them: drafting a new constitution. This can only happen with Maoist support as it is the largest party in the Constituent Assembly, Nepal’s interim parliament.

Similarly the Maoists need the support of the other parties to make progress writing the constitution; yet they continue to alienate Congress and the UML by denouncing their opponents’ “feudal tendencies,” and by proposing unworkable rights, such as a right to basic health care when Nepal has only 1,300 doctors in the public system. Seven attempts have been made to elect a new prime minister in the last three months. The people grow ever more frustrated.

Nepal has had six constitutions over the last six decades. Its latest attempt to reconstitute itself follows a civil war that lasted from 1996 to 2006 between the Maoists and the state. During this time, the Maoists took over effective control of vast swaths of the country, expelling the state and administering government themselves. Despite the end of hostilities and entry of the Maoists into mainstream politics in the 2008 election (in which they gained an overwhelming majority), the ineffectiveness of the state is still manifested in many areas.

The UN’s chosen proxy for state reach—the presence of Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries—shows that as of December 2009 only 42 percent of VDCs have a full-time VDC secretary present in the duty station, and 39 percent of VDC secretaries are either partially present or providing services from district headquarters. As such, the state is inadequately represented, or completely unrepresented, in over half of the country.

Furthermore, even where there are normal functioning VDCs—the lowest level of the state edifice—they remain irrelevant to the daily life of most Nepalese people. Village government generally consists of informal groups organised by villagers themselves, often along caste or gender lines. In Mattikhan Village, just outside Nepal’s economic second city of Pokhara, Brahmin and Dalit women’s groups take turns tidying the village; men’s groups have implemented savings cooperatives to provide some social security; a school is being built, and teachers recruited, with no state involvement; families all organize employment for their sons abroad. In short, people routinely have very little interaction with the state.

This situation is familiar for Nepal. The Nepalese state has probably never wielded the exclusive sovereignty and authority that Max Weber required of modern states: it has never successfully “nationalized” the use of violence or political administration. For most of its history, what we now call Nepal was a network of kingdoms, fiefdoms, and city-states inhabited by peoples of a variety of cultures, and often with quite different histories and religions. Due to the mountainous terrain, even groups that lived in close proximity often had comparatively little contact with one another and evolved remarkably independently over expansive periods of time.

From 1744–1769, these distinct entities were conquered one by one by Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Hindu King of Gorkha, and united into a single state. For approximately 100 bloody years the kingship was earned through intrigue and ruthless murder within the royal family, rather than inherited through direct lineage. Ultimately, the office of king was usurped by that of prime minister when Jung Bahadur Rana seized the latter position, declared it hereditary, and took de facto power. In this way, the monarchy was made purely ceremonial, ending the Shah reign and ushering in the Rana dynasty. But crucially, perhaps in acknowledgment of the huge cultural diversity that was carried over into the young state (or because its central concern was simple allegiance rather than governance), the Rana regime happily continued the subcontracting of critical state functions such as levying taxes or administering justice to local agents.

A popular movement ended the Rana dynasty in 1951 and installed a short-lived democratic system. The democracy’s failure to function adequately moved the people to accept the old monarchy’s return to power in 1960. This heralded the beginning of a one-party system known as the Panchayat regime, which thoroughly subscribed to modernization theory and sought to shape Nepal accordingly. In its quest for development, the Panchayat regime proceeded to deny Nepal’s cultural diversity by suppressing what came to be constructed as the “indigenous peoples.” They did this by imposing a unitary “Nepali” identity modeled on the identity of the high-caste Hindu elite, labeling other value systems and other ways of life as backward. Thus the high-caste Hindus were advantaged considerably, and this legacy persists today.

While it is certainly true that many economic indicators improved somewhat during this period, the extension and centralization of the state remained incomplete. For example, while a nationwide courts system was introduced, justice often remained within the purview of local communities and was realized in line with customary norms and practices. Once again the state did not wield extensive sovereignty. Indeed, with the official suppression of cultural difference, the propensity to enforce local values was arguably enhanced and even performed as a demonstration of resistance. The popularity of the Maoist insurgency, which grew despite the return of democracy to Nepal in 1991, and which was compounded by King Gyanendra’s seizure of absolute power in 2002, was due in large part to this suppression and elite dominance.

Given these historical and contemporary vacuums of state power, the Nepalese people have become accustomed to functioning with insufficient or absent state government, and imperfect but effective non-state methods of government have become entrenched. Some villages largely govern themselves, and the state’s inability to provide regular policing and security in parts of the country has prompted other organizations, predominantly political parties, to fill the gap. The Young Communist League (YCL), the youth wing of the Maoist party, more or less is the police force in Maoist strongholds. In such jurisdictions the public largely ignores the regular police and instead approaches the YCL directly to report crimes. For example, the YCL violently punished a number of Kirat Janabadi Workers Party agents for extorting local businessmen in Bhojpur. The UML has now created its own “Youth Front” for a similar “policing” purpose, and Congress is seemingly on the verge of doing the same.

These observations are crucial, as they provide a context to which the future state institutions must be sensitive. If and when Nepal does finally promulgate its constitution, the newly constructed institutions could potentially be in competition with these non-state service providers. The state is at a sizable disadvantage in this contest. First, it has been irrelevant to the lives of many people and these alternative governance mechanisms appear well entrenched. Second, where the state’s presence has been felt, it remains tainted by the legacy of the homogeneous identity it imposed, and by atrocities it committed during the decade-long civil war. Consequently, communities continue to be alienated from it. Third, if the Nepalese state seeks to monopolize the provision of security, in the short term it will risk undermining the effectiveness currently provided by non-state groups. If this happens, the state will be held responsible by the public for undermining service provision. As such, it will likely lose legitimacy while seeking to overcome these parallel state structures.

As such, any attempt to extend the state runs the risk of provoking fierce resistance. This needs to be kept in mind as the drafters of Nepal’s constitution, and any development experts guiding them, shape the new state. While the existence of parallel state structures might be considered destabilizing (and provoke alarm given the potential of Maoist ideology to produce totalitarian regimes), there may be little alternative, at least in the short term.

Thus Nepal’s experience leads us to challenge the straightforward transplant approach to state reconstruction: The dynamics of legitimacy prevent a simple recreation of a Western state structure in a recipient country from scratch. This is a common lesson from the globalization of ideas: Context is important. But in Nepal, contextual sensitivity is forcing us to countenance a further concern. Successful state-building in Nepal—an ethical demand in itself—may require the state to coexist in the short term (and possibly beyond) with morally arbitrary (or even clearly immoral) non-state service-providers. This poses an ethical dilemma that demands a political solution.

Yet Nepal’s politicians continue to take their cue from the country’s street traders and haggle unreasonably over the position of prime minister. If progress is not made soon, these concerns over state structuring, and others like them, may be decided through more violent means.

Originally published at Policy Innovations. Shared here under Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons License.