On 1st February 2005 at 9 a.m. a radical change of public life took place in Nepal. All of a sudden telephone connections were cut off, the King, Gyanendra, appeared on TV to inform his people that as from today onwards he would assume all power alone and for three years there would be the state of emergency. All ministers were placed under house arrest, many members of political parties were detained, he told; He the King would abolish the rampant corruption in the country. He called upon the Maoist rebels, who by now except for the Kathmandu valley are ruling almost the whole of Nepal, to come forward to negotiate.
These days, in Nepal not more than three people are allowed to gather in the streets, the right to demonstrate has been abolished as well as the possibility to express one's opinion freely. Army and police can now enter a house without any search warrant; they can grab all the money they want and arrest people arbitrarily. Suppose, in Europe for an unpredictable period of time one would have no more contact with one's family - in such a situation we people in the West would realize how lucky we are to live in countries, where we can breathe freely, though we are of course, permanently dissatisfied.
In order to prevent the rebels from blocking the Kathmandu valley, the King placed his military along all important highways of the country; because the USA and India have given him in the last years an enormous amount of weaponry, helicopters and other death machines, he decided the time was ripe for him to assume power. Most countries, including the USA, immediately condemned the monarch for his autocratic step, but the fact is that the present situation might last for quite a long time.
Telephones are functioning again, although on the morning of the coup d'état the army had destroyed all relay stations for mobile phones; cell phones are anyhow forbidden by now, because they used to be the main means for students, political parties and rebels to organise demonstrations swiftly. Parties members of all shades and in large numbers fled to India were they plan to form a united party against the king. The rebels declared that there was no necessity at all for them to negotiate, since the monarchy was anyhow nearing its end.
Regarding our project everything is running smoothly as before, but big and the small ones have to learn to be careful about what they tell in school or on phone. In the slums, the children already look much better after enjoying good food for three months; Sija is managing the project with great success. She also looks after women who are in desperate circumstances.
A large section of the men has gone to Gulf States to earn money, and many of them are never heard of again; their wives later on only learn that they now live together with cheap female workers. The men who remain in the slums are mostly drunkards and gamble away the little money they have. The daily evening-fights leave traces on some of the women's faces, and Sija has to attend to the injuries next day. In the morning she attends an express training course for nurses, she already is able to stitch wounds quite well, and we pay all medical expenses for the children.
Young Sujit, who might have to undergo a heart operation in order to stay alive, was admitted for a week to the heart centre for the preliminary examinations. On the eve of the surgery his parents "kidnapped" him because they felt that this clinic would surely mean his death. Nobody was able to convince them that by their decision they themselves pronounced the death sentence on their son.
Our "big ones" and "small ones" in the Children's home actively take part in the work in the slums and look forward to every day off when they can teach the slum-children dancing, singing and various plays. At the moment all schools in Nepal are on vacation, but Sija does not want that her children stay away from the school too long, for afterwards the entire work has to be started anew
This time the caste of the nomads camped in the vicinity of the slums; we suspected that our 17 year old Sumitra might be a member of just this caste. We found her 12 years ago on the street where her parents had left her, because a baby-girl means one extra mouth to feed. She told us then, her name was Sumitra. We allotted her the family name Pandey, for the bearers of this name are almost equal to Brahmins in the Hindu-religion.
Sumitra is a warm-hearted good girl, who suffers much to have no parents. Therefore we took her to those nomads, and they recognized her at once as a member of their community because she has a hole at both sides of her nose - a distinct feature of the nomad caste of the "Maute". We asked them about their way of living and how they feel and Sumitra presented them with fruits and pastry. In this caste marriages are arranged in the baby-age, even though the real cohabitation takes place only 20 years later. Till then the children remain with their parents and never attend any school. Sumitra was very excited about this visit and she told all her "brothers and sisters" at the daily evening-gathering, how lucky she was to have been thrown out from her community by her parents.
Unless there is one of the frequent earthquake-alarms, as it happened this time, life is quite pleasant at Children's World; we often have visits from former pupils who now live outside and are working. Two are employed as computer experts, and three girls opened a tailoring-shop. Nanu joined us with 12 years as an illiterate girl. She later on passed her higher secondary school-leaving exam and now studies in university; at the same time she directs a project financed by Swiss donors to sink wells in villages, to enable children to attend school and to improve the living-standard of villagers.
All of us, we really can be proud of having achieved so much! We cannot yet tell how far the change of the political situation will be a hindrance to our work, but we shall continue at any rate, for now the children in Nepal need our help more than ever. Our heart-felt thanks to all of you, who support us in this important activity. Soon, in August-September you will get fresh news from Kathmandu.
Till then with love and wishing you all the best!