Prahsant Jha raises a good point in his column, Plain Speaking (Secularism in a diverse state, # 419). But I think the French Model would be better. The government needs to stop subsidising any particular community's festival. It would have been great if those who protested raised some money and did it on their own, and in a much organised and dignified way. Nepalis need to get rid of the mentality of extracting resources from the state.
* Regarding the president attending the Hindu religious functions?what if we have a Christian president or a Muslim one? As Jha points out, secularism looked like a huge positive leap for new Nepal, but I wonder, like many other Nepalis, if the consequences would be a gift or a punishment for generations to come.
* Jha should have researched what previous governments did in the name of nationalisation and how they looted ethnic people of their rights and property. Remember, even all these national parks were once ethnic property. In the case of Indra Jatra, there was a guthi. Nevertheless, Jha raises some really good questions on secularism, religion and politics. Well done.
* Everybody will ask for their share of the pie. After all, we are about to write a new constitution and the state has already become secular. Newars don't need any state funding. Just give them back their property worth billions of rupees confiscated by the government. Do not be surprised if from now onwards Newars demand the dismantling of the Guthi Sansthan that is responsible for destroying our culture systematically.
* The riot was never about the money to sacrifice buffalo (Interesting Times, 'What a riot', #419). The government was not giving this money as a donation to the Newar community, but it is a compensation for the guthi property seized by the government. So interpreting it as a mere 'buffalo riot' shows your shallow knowledge about this issue. Newars have accepted this for a very long time and never raised their voice against it. But curtailing even that small amount is a violation of the law.
* If other ethnic communities receive special consideration in these times, then why not the Newars of Kathmandu? Have they not demonstrated sufficient restraint? What happens if the Newars of the Valley as a group feel disillusioned and decide to shut down the capital? What implications would that have? I am arguing that at a time when the discourse of this country has begun to encompass an ethnic dimension, one cannot then discriminate by asserting that these subsidies are for 'elite' activities of a certain community such as animal sacrifices during important festivals, which can be jettisoned, and that those subsidies are for more immediate and pressing concerns of another community that cannot be jettisoned.
* The riots were far more complex than just about buffalos. Still, Mallika Aryal's conclusion that we now live in a society where anyone who doesn't get their way in Kathmandu simply resorts to violence at the expense of the rest of the country is where the real point lies. Didn't it occur to the people that the Maoists are communist, and ideologically against religious tradition, when they voted for them? Was this really such a big surprise from a group that swears by the leader of a 'cultural revolution'?
* I think there is nothing wrong in cutting the budget for cultural celebrations. Otherwise, how can a poor country like Nepal afford to sponsor events of more than 100 communities? Bhattarai did a good thing by starting to cut from Jatras and other festivals.
Finally something about augmented flow (Editorial, 'Powering growth', #419) This is where it's at folks: not megawatts but in charging for additional flow of water in the winter. If we are to inundate Nepali land in order to provide increased water to India during the dry season to increase their agricultural output, India must pay for this service. It's all about the water, not the electricity. Soz is right: India cares first and foremost about the water, and power is just a bonus. If they have high demand for the irrigation rights, we must be willing to charge them for it accordingly. Nepali politicians take note: discuss how much the Indians are willing to pay per cubic metre of augmented flow of water during the dry winter season before discussing the price of electricity per kilowatt.