It was not even a month since my return from my village, Punkag, Dolpa (the upper part), I was asked by my friend to write something for this site. Though, I wrote regularly for The Kathmandu Post in the op-ed section, I was barely interested to write something for any website. Yes, I always do look out for a reader and how many of the readers will have an access to read what I wrote? Who does not want his/her write up to be read by as many people as possible? Though there might be several ways and tutorials on how to write, but then, the hardest thing for me, at least, is an idea and its associational links that would strengthen my writing. Only then, I think about my reader. I believe compared to Daily Newspaper articles, websites have fewer audiences. Therefore, when a friend asked me to write one, I was little taken aback both by the website and also by lack of an idea. Some of you might argue that most people have an internet access but I believe that it is only in the Kathmandu valley, where you can find a better access to an internet. On the contrary, the newspaper daily is accessible to several parts of the country and you don’t really need a continuous network or an internet to support what you are reading. The best thing for Nepal and the Nepalese is that you don’t have to worry about electricity to do that.
Meanwhile, after safely securing a job as a researcher in a place where I wanted, I thought of giving a try to write something for this site. It is also a career oriented move. Then, I read some of the articles of this website, and found that most of the pieces are related to the earthquake, and how the country is in crisis, yet continues to come back, thanks to those ‘hand-some’ and generous youths. But again, some of the points on which this piece is focused will be about how the government of the country and we the citizens keep on forgetting what is Nepal? Is it only Kathmandu and Pokhara? No-doubt the domain of the country’s definition has now stretched out to comprise the places such as Sindhupalchowk (79 VDCs), Dhading, Kavre, Dolkha, Taplejung, Gorkha, and so on. I was wondering whether it would have been possible if Earthquake would not have struck Nepal; whether the youths who are brought up in Kathmandu would go miles with their relief materials to these remote places? No-doubt, I along with fellow 9-10 friends knew only about Lagarche VDC of Sindhupalchok, when the first Earthquake destroyed several houses and killed many people. When we reached there with some relief materials after walking 7 hours, some had lost their mothers, some their’ fathers, some their’s sisters, and some their daughters. While keeping that in mind, I don’t know how long will it take to fit many other remote places within that domain of Nepal? Are we still waiting for another earthquake to shake our grounds or will we ever make a move beyond this dusty bowl?
Several villagers of my village asked me that was I in the village due to the earthquake that hit Kathmandu and other several parts of the country. I simply replied that I was there to carry out a field work and to complete my study. I had gone to my village after the week of the first earthquake. This particular trip back to my village was very hard due to several things. First, I, along with other members of Students of Dolpo (the organization for the welfare of Dolpo students) started a relief program, and we were planning to visit several places, destroyed by the quake. Though, SoD succeeded to go three remote areas, I was only able to visit Sindhupalchowk with them as I had to rush back to my village. Second, it is always hard to leave own friends who are involved in a selfless action. Yet, I went back to my village and finally reached there after 17 days. For 17 days, I went to other parts of Dolpa, where I had my relatives, and where I took interviews. Though my study did not deal with earthquake, most of the interactions after the interview were on earthquake. Most of them were scared, and expressed how lucky they are to be in the safe side though they felt a ‘swing’. Amidst those fears, there were also some who saw opportunities. Some even asked me about the current price of the land in Kathmandu, and inquired with me whether the price of the land has gone down due to the people fleeing from Kathmandu. Some even prayed for died ones whilst wishing them ‘peace in a heaven.’ That’s how the pain was shared by our people when those generous youths of Kathmandu were busy in picking up the debris out of the destroyed houses, and were trying to reconstruct the environment of Kathmandu and many other places of Nepal. While most of the people saw their houses destroyed in the capital, but in the western remote places such as Dolpa, people rarely found any houses destroyed or any dead bodies. That was a big relief.
Nonetheless, the historically excluded remote and biggest district such as Dolpa, now the earthquake has stretched the exclusion further. Though, there were no casualties reported, several sites of socio-cultural and religious importance was destroyed by the quake. Many religiously significant caves were destroyed in Chharka and Mukot VDCs of Dolpa. In addition, the main north-eastern trading route between Upper and Lower parts of Dolpa was also destroyed. This route historically was used as a barter exchange between the locals of Dolpo and lower Dolpa. In these routes, they exchanged potato, barley, butter and rice. This exchange is still in use but now money has substituted trust and understanding of the people. No-doubt the historical exchange including socio-cultural aspects is further in decline, thanks to that road. This also affected the Yarsa economy as most of the locals failed to travel to uphill to collect Yarsa via that route. Even after the two months since the last quake, the route is yet to be re-built. How the people including children, women and old are affected by the quake in this part of the country is less heard. Kathmandu does not want to confront its own oppressive realities. It will maintain its silence upon its role in the exclusion but would successfully show its disappointment towards what has happened. In addition, what people in Kathmandu hear and read is rarely about what has happened in these parts of the country and how people are affected here. This also highlights that, in the contemporary situation, people responded directly towards the issue that media feeds. That grief is short lived and Kathmandu gets back to normal. And the exclusive constitution’s draft is delivered and the orchestrated exclusion continues.
So then in this context, what can be done? Personally, the problems are too complex and the solutions itself are. Nevertheless, some provisions are mandatory to attain and operationalize ‘New Nepal’. A proper inclusive and representative new constitution is a must that would celebrate diversity and marginalized people. Only after that, local elections can be planned and formulated that could cement the devolution of power. Simultaneously, the transfer of power from center to local should be done. No-doubt in these whole processes, local people including minorities and their languages cannot be left out. Every sustainable development activities should be carried out in the region only after an effective consultation with a local people and their own customary institutions. These activities should comprise the promotion of socio-cultural and political knowledge of the local people. In this programme, local youths can be mobilized properly while encouraging and empowering their leadership capabilities. The government should recognize the experiences and the socio-cultural understanding of the local people including women and elderly people. If the Federalism is institutionalized, a stronger form of communication should be established among the federal, provincial and local states that could also introduce and maintain accountability, transparency and efficiency. Only then some sort of ‘New Nepal’ is imaginable. If not, tragedy will continue and what several youths had achieved would only be a long lost memory…