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Archive for the ‘Gurkhas’ Category

Summary: Nepalese journalist Satis Shroff wrote about a Nepalese mother who waits for her to return from the British Gurkha Army in vain. This story has affected thousands of mothers in Nepal, a poverty-stricken country where the sons join the foreign armies  to eke out a living because they have no chance to educate themselves formally, and life is hard and competitive in Nepal. Satis has written a series of articles on the Gurkhas in the media and it was only recently that the Gurkhas were granted the right to stay in Britain, educate their children and receive the benefits of the NHS. For 200 years the loyal, dedicated Gurkhas were treated as merchandise, discriminated and sent home on a hire-and-fire basis. Many Gurkhas have fought their cases against Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) in courts in London and have won in recently because they have at last broken their silence

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnNymFm3TaM

 

 

 

A GURKHA MOTHER’S TEARS  (Satis Shroff)

(Death of a Precious Jewel)

 

 

A Nepalese mother sits in front of her verandah, smokes her crude cigarette looks at the lofty Himalayan peaks and asks:

‘My Nepal, what has become of you?’

Your features have changed with time. The innocent face of the Kumari has changed to that of the blood-thirsty countenance of Kal Bhairab, from development to destruction, from bikas to binas.

‘I have lived to see a crown prince who fell in love, but couldn’t assert himself, in a palace where ancient traditions still prevail. Despite Eton college and a liberal education, he chose guns instead of rhetoric, and ended his young life, as well as those of his parents and other royal members. An aunt from London aptly remarked on Nepal TV: He was like the terminator.’

Another bloodshed in a Gorkha palace, recalling the Kot massacre under Jung Bahadur Rana.

You’re no longer the same. There’s insurrection and turmoil against the government and the police. Your sons and daughters are at war, with the Gurkhas again. Maobadis with revolutionary flair, with ideologies from across the Tibetan Plateau and Peru.Ideologies that have been discredited elsewhere, flourish in the Himalayas.

Demanding a revolutionary-tax from tourists and Nepalis with brazen, bloody attacks, fighting for their own rights and the rights of the bewildered common man.

Well-trained government troops at the orders of politicians safe in Kathmandu. Leaders, who despise talks and compromises, flex their tongues and muscles, and let the imported automatic salves speak their deaths. Ill-armed guerrillas against well-armed Royal Gurkhas in the foothills of the Himalayas. Where will this end?

Nepali children have no chance, but to take sides. To take to arms not knowing the reason and against whom. The child-soldier gets orders from grown-ups and the hapless souls open fire.

Hukum is order, the child-soldier cannot reason why.

 

Shedding precious human blood, for causes they both hold high.

 

Ach, this massacre in the shadow of the Himalayas.

We, Nepalis, look out of our ornate windows, in the west, east, north and south Nepal and think: how long will this krieg go on? How much do we have to suffer? How many money-lenders, businessmen, civil servants, khaki-clad policemen and Gurkhas do the Maobadis want to kill. Or be killed?

How many men, women, boys and girls have to be mortally injured till Kal Bhairab is pacified by the Sleeping Vishnu? How many towns and villages in the seventy five districts

Do the Maobadis want to free from capitalism? When the missionaries close their schools,

Must the Hindus and Buddhists shut their temples and shrines? Shall atheism be the order of the day? Not in Nepal.

It breaks my heart, as I hear over the radio: Nepal’s not safe for visitors. Visitors who leave their money behind, in the pockets of travel agencies, rug dealers, currency and drug dealers,

and hordes of ill-paid honest Sherpas, Thakali, Gurung and Tamang porters. Sweat beads trickling from their sun-burnt faces, in the dizzy heights of the Dolpo, Annapurna ranges and the Khumbu glaciers, eking out a living and facing the treacherous icy crevasses, snow-outs, precipices and a thousand deaths.

Beyond the beaten trekking paths live the poorer families of Nepal. No roads, no schools, sans drinking water and sans hospitals.

Where aids and children’s work prevail.

The dynasties of Lichhavis, Thakuris and Mallas have made you eternal. Man Deva inscribed his title on the pillar of Changu, after great victories over neighbouring states. Amshu Verma was a warrior and mastered the Lichhavi Code. He gave his daughter in marriage to Srong Beean Sgam Po, the ruler of Tibet, who also married a Chinese princess.

 

Jayastathi Malla ruled long and introduced the system of the caste, a system based on the family occupation, that became rigid with the tide of time.

 

Yaksha Malla the ruler of Kathmandu Valley, divided it into Kathmandu, Patan and Bhadgaon for his three sons.

It was Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha, who brought you together, as a melting pot of ethnic diversities, with Gorkha conquests that cost the motherland thousands of ears, noses and Nepali blood. The spoils of that war can be seen even today at the temple in Kirtipur.

The Ranas usurped the royal throne and put a prime minister after the other for 104 years.

104 years of a country in poverty and medieval existence. It was King Tribhuvan’s proclamation and the blood of the Nepalis, who fought against the Gorkhas under the command of the Ranas, that ended the Rana autocracy.

His son King Mahendra saw to it that he held the septre when Nepal entered the UNO. The multiparty system along with the Congress party was banned. Then came thirty years of Panchayat promises of a Hindu rule with a system based on the five village elders, like the proverbial five fingers in one’s hand, that are not alike and yet functioned in harmony.

The Panchayat government was indeed an old system, from the holy days of the Vedas, packed and sold as a new and traditional one.

A system is just as good as the people who run it. And Nepal didn’t run. It revived the age-old chakary, feudalism  with its countless spies and yes-men, middle-men who held out their hands for bribes, perks and amenities.

Poverty, caste-system with its divisions and conflicts, discrimination, injustice, bad governance became the nature of the day.

A big chasm appeared between the haves-and-have-nots. The social inequality, frustrated expectations of the poor led to a search for an alternative pole. The farmers were ignored, the forests and land confiscated, corruption, bad-governance and inefficiency became the rule of the day.

Even His Majesty’s servants went so far as to say: Raja ko kam, kahiley jahla gham.

This birthplace of the holy and enlightened Buddha and the Land of Pashupati, a land which King Birendra declared a Zone of Peace, through signatures of the world’s leaders was at war a decade long.

Bush’s government paid 24 million dollars for development aid, another 14 million dollars for insurgency relevant spendings, 5,000 M-16 rifles from the USA, 5,500 machine guns from Belgium.

Guns that were aimed at Nepali men, women and children in the mountains of Nepal. Alas, under the shade of the Himalayas, this corner of the world became volatile again.

People I knew changed sides, from Mandalay to Congress, from Congress to the Maobadis.

From Hinduism to Communism. Even Nepal’s bahuns vied with each other to become the first communists for there were important political positions to be given away to party-members. Ah, Dolpo and Silgadi, made unforgettable by Peter Mathiessen in his quest for his inner self, and his friend George Schaller’s search for the snow leopard, was where Nepali students wrote Marxist verses and acquired volumes from the embassies in Kathmandu: Kim Il Sung’s writings, Mao’s red booklet, Marx’s Das Kapital and Lenin’s works. They defended socialist ideas at His Majesty’s Central Hostel in Tahachal and elsewhere. This was the fruit of the scholarships given to Nepalese students by the Soviet government to later create a Russian-speaking elite in developing and least-developed countries, just the way the Brits had done with the Indians, Burmese, Malays and Africans in their former colonies.

I see their earnest faces, then with books in their arms, later with guns. Trigger-happy, boisterous and ready to fight to the end for a cause they cherish in their frustrated and fiery hearts: to do away with poverty, royalty, corruption, nepotism and capitalism and feudalism.

But weren’t these sons of Nepal misguided and blinded by the initially sweeping victories of socialism?

Even Gorbachov, the baldy man with a red forehead, pleaded for Peristroika, and Putin had shown his admiration for Germany, its culture and commerce.

Look at the old Soviet Union, and other East Bloc nations. They have all swapped sides and are EU and Nato members.

Globalisation has changed the world fast, but in Nepal time stands still. The blind beggar at the New Road gate sings: lata ko desh ma, gaddha tantheri. In a land where the tongue-tied live, the deaf desire to rule.

 

Oh my Nepal, quo vadis?

The only way to peace and harmony  is by laying aside the arms forever. Let there be no more bloodshed among the Nepalese and Gurkhas, and let no Gurkha raise his khukri against another’s throat. I know it’s wishful thinking in this Kali Yuga, this Age of  Darkness. I wanted my son to be an educated person with the pension earned by my husband, but he went his own way, following others like him in their youthful, capricious manners. He became a school dropout, joined the British Gurkhas in Dharan and away he was out in the wide world, across the Black Waters, as we call the Oceans. He wrote beautiful cards from Hong Kong, the Rhine towns and London. I felt so proud to have a son who wrote such lovely cards, I a Gurkha widow, withering in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Sometimes I ask myself, can Nepal afford to be the bastion of a movement and a government

that rides rough-shod over the lives and rights of fellow Nepalis? Can’t we learn from the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq? The people in the Hindukush must be suffering since centuries. The Pathans and Pashtoon chieftains fought even in the times of Queen Victoria and even before that. The British took their Gurkha troops to fight against the Afghans. A British captain wrote home to his parents: ‘You have no idea what fine little fellows the Goorkhas are. They actually do not know what fear is.’

Yes, this fearless attitude has been a boon to the Gurkhas but also the cause of death, which has made thousands of Gurkha mothers weep dearly. I dare not think about the mothers of the soldiers slain by our Gurkhas. The Gurkhas were our sons and when they were in battle they also had fear like any other soldiers. Piles of letters written by the Gurkhas in the battlefields were confiscated, censored and not sent to families and relatives in Nepal. The Gurkhas love their legends but behind these legends there’s also another story. The story of a soldier who was discriminated by his officers, cheated by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). When a British Gurkha became an invalid or developed illness, he was shipped to Nepal as soon as possible, and didn’t enjoy the benefits of the NHS. Healthy Gurkhas were and are always good Gurkhas. The Royal Palace and the former Nepalese governments did little to assist the Gurkhas in their demands for equal pay in the British Army. In the Falkland War the Argentinians protested at the UNO that the Brits were using mercenaries to fight under the Union Jack. The British MoD replied that the Gurkhas were a part of the British Army. If they were a part of the British Army when had they been given only half the pay that a British Tommy got? Why weren’t the children of the Gurkhas given the right to learn and sit for the GCE examinations? Why were Gurkhas just sacked and sent home on the hire-and-fire principle? Perhaps because we Nepalese or Gurkhas haven’t put much emphasis on education and there are only a few Nepalese who are solicitors who can put the case of the Gurkhas forwards in the British, European or International courts.

Meanwhile, the Maobadis, as Maoists are called in Nepal, have been given a chance at the polls, like all other democratic parties, for the Maobadis are bahuns and chettris, be they Prachanda or Baburam Bhattrai, leaders who fought against monarchy and later even preferred to retain it in Nepal.

After the massacre of the Royals in the Narayanhiti Palace by Prince Dipendra, Birendra’s brother Gyanendra Shah ascended the throne in a blitz ceremony. What better chance for a constitutional monarch, a re-incarnated Vishnu, who held the executive, judiciary, legislative, spiritual and temporal powers in the shadow of the Himalayas to flourish again? The people thought otherwise, and the Nepalese Maoists marched into Kathmandu and the Valley became a scarlet sea.

 

* * *

 

 

The Gurkha with a khukri but no enemy, works not for his country but for the Queen of England since the times of Queen Victoria. Yet gets shot at in missions he doesn’t comprehend. Order is hukum, hukum is life and Johnny Gurkha still dies under foreign skies.

He never asks why, politics isn’t his style. He’s fought against all and sundry: Turks, Tibetans, Italians and Indians, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Argentinians and Vietnamese, Indonesians and Iraqis.

Loyalty to the utmost and never fearing a loss. The loss of a mother’s son from the mountains of Nepal.

My grandpa died in Burma for the glory of the British. My husband in Mesopotemia, I honestly do not know against whom for no one did tell me. My brother fell in France, against the Teutonic hordes.

I pray everyday to Shiva of the Snows for peace and my son’s safety. My joy and my hope, as I do farming on a terraced slope. A son who helped wipe my tears and ease the pain in my mother-heart. I’m his frugal mother, who lives by the seasons and peers down to the valleys, year in and year out in expectation of my dear soldier son.

One fine day, two smart Gurkhas are underway, heard from across the hill with a shout, as is the communication-custom in our hilly country:

‘It’s an officer from his battalion and an orderly.’

A letter with a scarlet seal and two poker-faces.

‘Your son died on duty,’ said the blue-eyed and red-headed British officer, ‘keeping peace for the country and Her Majesty the Queen of England.’ The Gurkha orderly near him translated into Nepali.

A world crumbled down. I couldn’t bring myself to utter even a word. Gone was my son, my precious jewel. My only insurance and sunshine in the craggy hills of Nepal. And with him my dreams. A spartan life that kills.

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Creative Writing Critique (Satis Shroff): Fire in the Blood

Creative Writing Critique (Satis Shroff): FIRE IN THE BLOOD

Review: Irene Nemirovsky Fire in the Blood, Vintage Books, London 2008,

153 pages, 7,99 Sterling Pounds (ISBN: 978-0-099-51609-5)

Denise Epstein was 13 when her mother Irene Nemirovsky was deported to Auschwitz, where she eventually died in 1942. The daughter is now an octogenarian and was instrumental in helping her mother attain her place in the world literature. Irene Nemirovsky was a writer who could look into the souls of humans and make music with words. Her masterpiece Suite francaise was published in France in 2004 and was immediately awarded the Prix Renaudot.

The characters of Fire in Blood are  drawn from a rural French town in Burgundy, a wine-growing area where people are simple and stick together, want to retain their ‘peace’ and don’t like the police and the authorities. A place where all people show conformity and keep their mouths shut. Peace is a synonym for not wanting to be involved in the affairs of other people. The author’s attitude towards the characters has a universal appeal, for it could happen anywhere in the world in a closed-circuit society where outsiders are shunned and not generally accepted. Nemirovsky shows not only what people do to others but also what the passage of time does to us all. The characters aren’t flat and every character bounds into life and you an imagine the world that she creates in her 153 page novel still goes on with its own pace without much changes. The community itself shows a predatory behaviour of extreme cunning.

The major theme of Fire in Blood is love, poverty, arranged marriages and extra-marital affairs that lead to complications and new story developments. The protagonist Sylvestre also called Silvio tells the story in the first person singular and recalls stories in front of the fireplace about his beautiful, graceful cousin Helene and her daughter Colette, Brigitte Delos and Francoise, their marriages, happiness and boredom and the seasonal changes of the Burgundy countryside. Silvio speaks about impatient young people and the perfectly balanced older people at peace with themselves and the world, despite the creeping fear of death. The book is replete with the truths, deaths, marriages, children, houses, mills, dowry, haves and have-nots, stinginess, love-affairs, hatred, deception and betrayal.  Nemirovsky is an excellent story-teller and reveals her tale of flaws and cruelties of the human heart in an intricately woven story. She builds up suspense and you feel the catharsis when an innocent-looking protagonist tells her version of how a man was murdered.

The theme is traditional and familiar and is psychologically and socially interesting in intent.

Silvio tells about his childhood and about children asking their parents how they met, fell in love and married. He also mentions past loves, former grudges, inheritances, law suits and who-married-whom and why in the French provincial setting. The story plot is slow at the beginning but gathers momentum, and the climax is not the murder but how the author unfurls the story of the confession. In the end Silvio confides to the reader how much he still loves his dear cousin Helene, who’s married to Francoise.

The intellectual qualities of writing of Nemirovsky are her cheerfulness, sudden twists and power of observation which flow into the story making it a delightful read. She gives you the impression that her tale is linear, only to show you that there’s a twist that takes narration in another direction. Silvio, the Ich-Erzähler, says to Colette, who wants to involve him in her family drama: ‘Tell them you have a lover and that he killed your husband.. What exactly did happen?’

wit and humour and there’s rhythm in the tale.

Nemirovsky employs the stylistic device of symbolism to characterise the farmers and their hypocritical nature, how they mob people they don’t prefer to have around them and how they indulge in backbiting. A stingy 60 year old farmer marries  a lovely 20 year old woman and the gossips begin. Silvio remembers how Colette had once told him he resembled a faun: ‘an old faun, now, who has stopped chasing nymphs and who huddles near the fireplace.’

This is the confession of a man who had once fire in blood, and a meditation on the various stages of life, the passing of time, in which youth and age are at odds. A recurring theme is the seed from which problems grow: ‘Imagine a field being saved and all the promise that’s contained in a grain of wheat, all the future harvests…well, it’s exactly the same in life.’

Nemirovsky’s use of dialogue is very effective and takes the story forward.

Her literary oeuvre ranges from an extraordinary collection of papers,  Fire in the Blood, Suite francaise, David Golder, Le Bal, the Courilof Affair, All Our Worldly Goods.

The Germany titles are: Die Hunde und die Wölfe, Feuer im Herbst, Herbstfliege, Leidenschaft, Die Familie Hardelot, Der Fall Kurilow and Irene Nemirovsky: Die Biographie.

* * *

Irene Nemirovsky: COLD BLOOD (Satis Shroff)

Subtitle: Moaning in All Eternity

Six decades ago,

My life came to an end,

In Auschwitz.

I, Irene Nemirovsky, a writer

Of Jewish-Russian descent,

Died in Auschwitz.

I live now in my books,

In my daughter’s memories,

Who’s already an octogenarian,

Still full of love and fighting spirit:

For she fights against

The injustice of those gruesome days.

I was thirty-nine,

Had asthma,

Died shortly after I landed in Auschwitz.

I died of inflammation of my lungs,

In the month of October.

That very year the Nazis deported

Michael Epstein, dear my husband,

Who’d pleaded to have me,

His wife, freed from the clutches

Of the Gestapo.

They also killed him.

My daughters Denise 13,

And Elizabeth 5,

Were saved by friends

Of the French Resistance,

Tucked away in a cloister for nuns,

Hidden in damp cellars.

They had  my suitcase with them,

Where ever they hid,

Guarding it like the Crown Jewels.

To them it was not only a book,

But my last words,

That I’d penned in Issy-l’Eveque.

I wanted to put together five manuscripts

In one: Suite Francaise,

That was my writer’s dream.

I could put only

‘Storm in July’ and ‚Dolche’

Together.

I passed away early in August 1942.

Too early.

In my two books I’ve written

About the flight of the Parisians

From the victorious Germans,

The awful situation in an occupied hamlet.

Small people and collaborators,

Who’d go to extremes

To save their skins,

Like ants in a destroyed ant-hill.

It’s sixty years hence,

But my work hasn’t lost its glow,

Like the lava from an erupting volcano.

You can feel its intensity,

When an entire nation

Was humiliated and had to capitulate,

Losing its grace, dignity and life.

I was born in Kiew,

Fled to Paris via Finnland and Sweden,

After the Russian Revolution.

I was a maniac,

When it came to reading,

Had a French governess,

Went often to the Cote d’ Azure and Biarritz.

I studied literature in Sorbonne in 1919.

Shortly thereafter,

I began to write:

About my Russian past,

My wandering years.

The colour of the literature I wrote

Is blood from an old wound.

From this wound I’ve drawn

The maladies of the society,

Human folley.

I was influenced by writers,

From Leo Tolstoi to Henrik Ibsen.

An unhappy childhood,

Is like when your soul has died,

Without a funeral:

Moaning in all eternity.

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  Im Schatten des Himalaya

von Satis Shroff

Themen der Geschichten und Gedichten sind u.a.: Kampf um Demokratie (My Nepal: Quo vadis?), Transition (Wenn die Seele sich verabschiedet), und die Stellung der Frau (Bombay Bordel, Nirmala: Zwischen Terror und Ekstase), die verführerische Bergwelt (Die Himalaya rufen, Die Sehnsucht der Himalaya), das Leben in der Fremde (Gibt es Hexen in Deutschland?), Soldatenleben und Krieg (Der Verlust einer Mutter, Die Agonie des Krieges, Kein letzte Sieg), Tod nach Tollwut (Fatale Entscheidung), Trennung und Emanzipation (Santa Fe), Migration und Fremdenhass (Mental Molotovs, Letzte Tram nach Littenweiler), Tourismus (Mein Alptraum, Die Götter sind weg), Alkoholismus (Der Professors Gattin), Gewalt (Krieg), Trennung (Die Stimme, Der Rosenkrieg), Nachbarn (Die Sommerhitze) und die Liebe (Der zerbrochene Dichter, Eine seufzende Prinzessin, Ohne Wörter), die Familie (Meine Maya), der Tod (An Carolin Walter, Wenn die Seele Abschied nimmt).

(87 Seiten) Paperback:  €11.84 Download:  €6.25

 

  Katmandu, Katmandu

von Satis Shroff

Satis Shroff’s anthology is about a poet caught between upheavals in two countries, Nepal and Germany, where maoists and skin-heads are trying to undermine democratic values, religious and cultural life. Satis Shroff writes political poetry, in German and English, about the war in Nepal (My Nepal, Quo vadis?), the sad fate of the Nepalese people (My Nightmare, Only Sagarmatha Knows), the emergence of neo-fascism in Germany (Mental Molotovs, The Last Tram to Littenweiler) and love (The Broken Poet, Without Words, About You), women’s woes (Nirmala, Bombay Brothel). His bicultural perspective makes his poems rich, full of awe and at the same time heartbreakingly sad. In writing ‘home,’ he not only returns to his country of origin time and again, he also carries the fate of his people to readers in the West, and his task of writing is a very important one in political and social terms. His true gift is to invent Nepalese metaphors and make them accessible to the West through his poetry.

(187 Seiten) Paperback:  €13.84 Download:  €6.25

 

  Through Nepalese Eyes

von Satis Shroff

‘Through Nepalese Eyes’ is about the journey of a young Nepalese woman to Germany to meet her brother, who lives with his German wife and daughter in an allemanic town named Freiburg. It is a travelogue written by a sensitive, modern British public-school educated man. He describes the two worlds: Asia and Europe and the people he meets. There is a touch of sadness when his sister returns to her home in the foothills of the Himalayas.

(205 Seiten) Paperback:  €12.00 Download

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 The British and the Gurkhas: Worlds Apart? (Satis Shroff, Freiburg)

 

Even though generations of Nepalese soldiers called the fearsome Gurkhas, have fought Britain’s colonial and other wars (Falklands, Croatia, Iraq) the Gurkhas don’t have the same rights as ordinary British citizens.

It was a magnificent scenario: the proud Royal Scouts led British cadets, Territorial Army and Gurkhas over Waverly Bridge and along Princes Street. The Gurkhas were led by a man in spotted leopard cloak beating a drum, followed by vehicles with armed Gurkhas.
Who are these Gurkhas? You might ask. They are Britain’s 3,500 elite soldiers from the small Himalayan country Nepal. These Gurkhas have fought and died with the British Armed Forces for two centuries. This year, according to the Scotsman (news.scotsman.com), Gurkhas have been dumped back in Nepal with a stipend by the thousand. This, after two centuries of fighting your wars for you.They are not, never have been, paid the same as a British soldier.
When it comes to money-matters, the Brits have always regarded the Gurkhas as cheap labourers and mercinaries that you can recruit in a matter of months, or even weeks. There are always 28,000 young Nepalese who want to join the Royal Gurkha Brigade. Only 200 are chosen annually. What happens to the others? Do they join the Maoists to get battle experience? I knew one named Kunjo Lama who didn’t make it at the recruiting depot in Dharan (Eastern Nepal) and worked as a teacher in a Nepalese village in the hills rather than face the ignominy of returning home as the laughing stock of the hamlet dwellers. Losing one’s face is something serious in the Nepalese world, and for the Nepalese psyche. But Kunjo made it at the next admissions and even took part in the Falkland War at Port Stanley against the Argentinians.He showed me a photograph from his wallet of himself and his fellow Gurkhas in front of a helicopter, armed to the teeth during the war at the Malvinas.
Sometime later during a trip to London I saw how the South Asian people were living in London’s East End, where the Cockneys use to live earlier, with its brick-houses (Monica Ali’s ‘Brick Lane’). Nay, the Gurkhas didn’t even enjoy the same status as the asylum-seekers from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Jamaica and other former colonies, settled in London’s East End or Southhall. The Gurkhas are based in Church Crookham, Hampshire, but they are lucky if they can return to their home country after fighting Britain’s wars and police missions in the British Rhine Army, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, Falklands, Lebanon, Croatia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
To think that so many ethnic Nepalese mothers have lost their sons, and so many children have lost their fathers and sisters their dear brothers fighting for the Glory of Britain, is indeed worth contemplating and discussing about in the London Parliament by the new government.
The Gurkhas, who are ruthless warriors at war, have always been obedient, loyal, disciplined and subordinate to their British officers for 200 years. Their loyalty and bravery have always been unfaltering. Had Indira Gandhi taken the Gurkhas as her personal bodyguards like the Queen of England, instead of the Sikhs, at a time when when the storming of the Golden Temple of Amritsar was a big issue in Punjab and India, I’m sure she would have lived longer.
But most South Asians think: that’s kismat. It was written that she had to die a violent death. Schicksalsdenken.
A Gurkha serves in the Army a minimum of fifteen and a maximum of thirty years after which they are discharged and obliged to leave Britain for Nepal. No, they aren’t allowed to stay on, settle down and enjoy the English countryside with their meagre pensions, as far as English lifestyles and pays-scales are concerned. The British government always uses Nepal’s pay-scales as a yardstick to pay off their loyal Gurkhas. Prior to the EU-membership of East Bloc countries, when a Polish worker came to help pluck the strawberries in the vicinity of Freiburg (Germany), they weren’t paid the actual rate for west workers in Germany either. Now that the Poles have no zlotys, and are paid in Euros in their own countries, it doesn’t seem to be lucrative to go all the way to Germany, with the result that the strawberries get overripe and go kaputt. Ethnic Germans are reluctant to do this back-breaking job under the blazing sun.
The British Army onced sacked 111 Gurkhas, and as a result the Gurkhas wrote a petition to the Queen of England to help the men who had been sent to Nepal, and to improve the treatment of the Gurkhas (who had after all fought for Britain in the Falklands) throughout the Army. The petition to Queen Elizabeth II was signed: Your Majesty’s most obedient servants. The all (sic) ranks of SP 1/7th Gurkha Rifles.
A question that vexed me is why the Gurkha children have to do the SLC (School Leaving Certificate) exams of Nepal, instead of the GCE ‘A’ levels, like all school-kids in England? The British government and the Nepalese monarchs never appreciated the importance of better, higher education for the offsprings of the Gurkhas. With British educational certificates and degrees thousands of sons and daughters of the Gurkhas would have had better chances in their lives and would be much better off than their soldiering Dads and brothers. The idea from the start was to put the Gurkhas and their families in ghettos alias barracks or lines, and no attempts were made to integrate them and their families in the British society.
If a Gurkha would join France’s Foreign Legion, they’d be taught the French language and would get a much better status in the French society than the British give to the Gurkhas. I don’t want to say alas, but Nepal just wasn’t a French colony, though the French managed to come up to an enclave named Pondicherry in India. Nepal has no special relationships with the French but with the British
There have been isolated instances of Gurkhas involved in recent courtroom skirmishes with the British Ministry of Defence to receive the same pension and conditions as other British soldiers. Whereas an ex-Gurkha received 40,000 English pounds payment from Britain after a court ruling, which was an isolated instance, another Gurkhas claim was rejected by a Nepal court. ‘Better to die than be a coward’ is the motto of the Gurkha warriors who are an integral part of the British Army. It should run ‘better to fight a battle with a good lawyer against the Ministry of Defence than against Britains foes, as we say in Germany: bis die Fronten geklärt sind.
Britain and its admirable people still have to do a bit of soul-searching on the question of their best friends-in-arms. The officers in the administration and the Defence Ministry think of the Gurkhas still as cannon-fodder and not as humans, at eye-level with the same rights and equality. They still play the game of the Raj: masters and servants. This must not be tolerated and must be put to an end by the new government at 10 Downing Street, for they have gone too far.
What is the difference between an asylum-seeker and a Gurkha in Britain? In the long run the asylum-seeker gets a British passport, British pay (if he or she’s qualified) and British rights and his or her children kindergartens,schools, colleges and universities in Britain, and become a part of the British mainstream. Not so the Gurkhas and their families.
Due to questionable ‘special relations’ between Britain and Nepal that haven’t been ratified yet, the poor Gurkha and his family have to say goodbye to Britain and head for the barren hills of Nepal. That’s the plight of what Sir Ralph Turner MC, 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, 1931 said, „ Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had a country more faithful friends than you.“
When you think of how true, loyal friends are treated for their faithfulness in even present-day Britain, you can only shake your head or hide in shame.
During the Falklands War out in the Malvinas under Margret Thatcher’s primiership, the British were put in an embarassing situation by Argentina’s UN- representative for he accused the British of having deployed ‘Gurkha mercinary’ troops. The British government demented that and said it had special relationsships with Nepal and that the Gurkhas were its own troops, belonging to and integrated in the British Army.
But the sad reality is: when a British leutenant saunters by, a Gurkha-Major is obliged to salute him! And not the other way around. This still means that all soldiers are equal in the British or Gurkha army, but some solders are more equal than the others, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which Gurkha school children learn in good English schools in India’s Darjeeling and Nepal. In this context it must be mentioned that 45,000 Gurkhas died in the two World Wars under the Union Jack and another thousand since then, even though the Gurkhas were reduced and demobilised to Brigade strength in the British and Regiment strength in the Indian Army. This was after the partition of India in 1947 after an agreement between Nepal, India and Britain, whereby four regiments from the Indian Army were transferred to the British Army, which then became the Gurkha Brigade.
It’s still the white sahib commanding the natives, despite the so-called handsome pensions that the Gurkhas receive, according to Nepalese standards. When I lecture in Switzerland I earn almost 100 Swiss Francs per hour. I think that it’s high time that the Gurkhas received the same wages as their British fellow soldiers. Please don’t come up with the Sugauli Treaty or ‘special relations crap’ that dates to the times of Queen Victoria and Junga Bahadur Rana.
I think it’s high time that the Gurkhas went to an international court in Strassburg, Belgium and received Flankenschutz from Human Rights Organisations in Britain, Britain Watch, NGOs and whatever.
If you don’t know the impact that the death of a Gurkha can have on his near and dear-ones, then please read the following lyric and think of the plight of the Gurkha mother:

 

A GURKHA MOTHER (Satis Shroff)

(Death of a Precious Jewel)

 

The gurkha with a khukri

But no enemy

Works for the British Gurkhas

And yet gets shot at

In missions he doesn’t comprehend.

Order is hukum,

Hukum is life

Johnny Gurkha still dies under foreign skies.

 

He never asks why

Politics isn’t his style

He’s fought against all and sundry:

Turks, Tibetans, Italians and Indians

Germans, Japanese, Chinese

Argentinians and Vietnamese.

Indonesians and Iraqis.

Loyalty to the utmost

Never fearing a loss.

 

The loss of a mother’s son

From the mountains of Nepal.

 

Her grandpa died in Burma

For the glory of the British.

Her husband in Mesopotemia

She knows not against whom

No one did tell her.

Her brother fell in France,

Against the Teutonic hordes.

She prays to Shiva of the Snows for peace

And her son’s safety.

Her joy and her hope

Farming on a terraced slope.

 

A son who helped wipe her tears

And ease the pain in her mother’s heart.

A frugal mother who lives by the seasons

And peers down to the valleys

Year in and year out

In expectation of her soldier son.

 

A smart Gurkha is underway

Heard from across the hill with a shout

‘It’s an officer from his battalion.

A letter with a seal and a poker-face

“Your son died on duty,” he says,

“Keeping peace for Her Majesty

The Queen of England.”

 

A world crumbles down

The Nepalese mother cannot utter a word

Gone is her son,

Her precious jewel.

Her only insurance and sunshine

In the craggy hills of Nepal.

And with him her dreams

A spartan life that kills.

 

Glossary:

gurkha: soldier from Nepal

khukri: curved knife used in hand-to-hand combat

hukum: Befehl/command/order

shiva: a god in Hinduism

Cherrio for now, more in the next.
Satis

 

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 Wildlife Ecology: 

 Wildlife Versus Humans in Beautiful Nepal

The loss of wildlife habitat in the states of Nepal, India and Pakistan caused by widespread and indiscriminate destruction of forests in the foothills of the Himalayas and the Karakoram has led to an ecological crisis, resulting in floods and landslides after the torrential monsoons. When the forests recede the humans venture further into the habitats of the wild animals to cut and gather firewood.

 

Take Chitwan, the jungle in Nepal’s Terai for instance. Till 1961 organised poachers wantonly decimated the wild Rhinoceros unicornis in the jungle in order to sell the rhino-horn for a profit due to its healing properties in traditional Chinese Medicine. In February 1993 for instance, four rhinos were found dead in the Chitwan Park and the poachers had removed their hoofs and horns. In Nawalparasi there had been similar cases of rhinos being shot for their horns and hoofs a few weeks earlier.

 

To assist the helpless wardens a battalion of 8oo Royal Gurkhas had been deployed. According to the then director of the wildlife department Tirtha Man Maskey, “There are 400 rhinos in Chitwan with a reproduction rate of 2% according to research statistics.” A few days earlier 12 persons were arrested with 44 pieces of rhino hoofs and two pieces of horns. And in the Shukla Phanta three Rhino-cubs were found dead. The average life span of a rhino is 60 years. To combat the increased poaching a security committee involving the Chitwan chief district officer, forest officer, security officer along with the representatives of the various units had been formed. The point was: will poaching be stopped in the long run or only as long as the Royal Gurkhas prowl and patrol the National Park? Moreover, the Gurkhas were deployed to stop the Maoists insurgents in the past, and the poachers faced hardly any resistance and started decimating the wild animals. That also scared the tourists, and they were advised from their respective foreign departments to avoid Nepal.

 

The population of rhinoceroses has decreased the world, and four species are threatened with extinction. The Taiwanese are known to be stockpiling rhino horns as an investment. According to a World Wildlife Fund(WWF) estimate already 10 tonnes are already stored in Taiwan. In 1970 the price of a kilo African rhino horn was $30 and today more than $2,000. The Asian rhino horn, which is smaller than the African one, is worth $50,000 a kilo because the Taiwanese think it’s more potent. Even though commercial trade in rhino horn and its by-products are prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, Zimbabwe and South Africa would like to export them and use the money to support effective anti-poaching programmes. It’s a case of legal trade to stop illegal poaching.

 

But poaching is also a trade. The legal market might “jeopardise rhinos elsewhere” according to Joanna Pitmann, who thinks “Taiwanese traders see gold in stocks of rhino horn.” To think that 30 years ago there were 100,000 black rhinos in southern Africa. Now there are only 3,500, the better part of which are in Zimbabwe, which is notorious for its high poaching-rate. According to Joanna Pitmann: “An average of three rhinos are lost in Zimbabwe every week.”

 

There seems to be a lucrative market and desperate souls are out to smuggle as many rhino horns and hoofs as possible. But aside from poaching there are also other problems. Thanks to the electrification of the many lodges along the Chitwan Park border the rhinos, tigers, leopards, and other denizens of the Royal forest nowadays have started getting used to techno-sound, hip-hop, lambada, Bollywood melodies, and rock n’ roll music blaring for the delights of the jungle tourists. The noise pollution created by the industry catering to tourism, in what should be a tranquil and serene National Park, is a nuisance indeed for the denizens of forest.

 

Nepal’s Endangered Rhinos: Once a royal hunting reserve, the lowland valley of sal forest and riverine grassland has come to be known as the Royal Chitwan National Park, and is Nepal’s number one Park. Take a trip down to Chitwan and you will get what I mean.

 

The wildlife you will get to see ranges from tigers, leopards, gaurs, sloth bears, sambars, chitals, hog deer, barking deer to the noted Gangetic dolphins which are seen cavorting in the waters of the Narayani River. And if you have a crush for ornithology, you will find exotic avi-fauna. Chitwan without the great one-horned rhinoceros would be unimaginable, since the area is internationally known as the wallowing grounds of 300 to 350 rhinos, which incidentally is the second largest population in the world.

 

Back in 1975 the rhino population of Chitwan was between 200 to 250.If you are planning to make a trip to Chitwan, I would advise you to make it between January and May, because that’s when the rhinoceros concentration down there is the greatest. The lush, green grass provides high quality grazing to the rhinos. In May they begin to shun the tall grass species which are unpalatable, and that is when they make for the paddy fields of the local hamlets to pull nocturnal raids much to the consternation of the local Tharu and other Nepalese farmers. During the day you will find them wading in the shallow rivers and feeding on the aquatic plants.

 

Do the rhinos have a specific breeding season? Actually there’s no evidence. The habitat in Chitwan is such that it provides a year-round food supply, and the conditions of living are most favourable to them. During the mating season, you are likely to hear “pant squeaks” when a male is hot on the trail of a female rhino. The females emit squeaks of low intensity when the pursue the males. The highest frequency of such squeaks is heard in the month of March. The males can be seen making furrows on the earth or sand as the case may be, by dragging their stubby hind legs along on the toes, while urinating. This was a phenomenon which had been baffling a biologist from Cambridge named Andrew Laurie whom I met, and who was doing research on the ecology of the Nepalese rhinos. He’d been recording the rhino behaviour every month and felt that their urinating and furrow-making during the monsoon may have been due to the “bad conditions for track preservation” He said, “The furrows are made by male rhinos after unsuccessful attempts to mate cows or after encounters with humans”.

 

The rhino has a long period of pregnancy and the young ones take an equally long time to mature, and all this overrules the advantage of a regular breeding season. When a rhino cow has completed her period of gestation, she heads for a secluded spot. The cow disappears into the thick forest for several days before the birth. Andrew Laurie had evidence for a possible oestrus periodicity of between 34 and 44 days, which he obtained in the months of June and July. Laurie said, “I saw a bull grazing and moving with a cow and her two year old calf from the 14th to 16th June. On 15th June he mounted the cow and remained mounted for one hour, stationary in the elephant grass”.

 

One whole hour: it was unbelievable.

 

Laurie went on to say, “I didn’t see the bull again with the cow and her calf until the 19th of July, when he attacked her. It was amazing. He succeeded in turning her right over on her back by lifting from the side with his head between her front legs. And all this while the calf grunted from a distance in the tall grass.”

 

He said the cow and the bull evaded each other until the 27th of July when the cow started to follow the male around sniffing at his penis, urinating herself and uttering “squeak blows”.

 

There is a possible peak births during July and August, which would tie in with a peak of mating activity in March and a 16 1/2 month gestation period. But Andrew was of the opinion that mating behaviour and births have been recorded throughout the year, and it was hard to detect a peak. “I’ve christened a healthy calf with the named Lickety Split,” he said with a chuckle because it seemed to dash about in the Chitwan foliage. The movements of the rhinos tend to be linked with food availability. They can be observed during the March-April feeding on the short grasses in the river banks in the blazing and forested plains located below the foothills of the Himalayas.

 

When grasses are scarce, they try aquatic plants, sedges and other coarse plants rather reluctantly. And when the grasses are burnt by the villagers of Chitwan, they immediately rush to these places to eat the charred stalks, which they relish. They return about two weeks to the same place to eat the new shoots. It’s quite intriguing to watch a rhino eat short grass. It uses its lips to bite off or pull up the shoots. The chewing is continual and often, the animal blinks and then bites off new grass with its lips again. You will discover that some roots and grass drop out by the side of the rhino’s mouth, but the animal normally has a gargantuan appetite and eats even the dead, russet and yellowed leaves on the ground.

 

And peaceful coexistence is not exactly what the villagers in the vicinity of the Royal Park believe in, at least as far as the rhinos are concerned. The Nepalese villagers have been briefed about the importance of the National Parks for the country, but not the animals. From as early as April in Katar and in the eastern parts of the Chitwan Park, the ungainly, cool and determined rhinos begin visiting the farmlands and feeding on the first rice and maize crops because they are so supple and delicious to them. Some of the rhinos tend to be neurotic and go about eating bananas, weeds and ripe wheat. And some even indulge in coprophagy. Keeping off the wildlife from the crops is indeed an eternal problem that the Nepalese farmers in the Terai face.

 

Rhino greetings: How do rhinos greet each other? They do it like the eskimos, I mean the Inuits. A young rhino approaches another slowly with its nose stretched forward. The noses come in contact gently, and often a sparring bout ensues with one’s horn circling the other’s snout. But unlike the Inuits, the horns of the rhinos sometimes clash with a great noise. A nuzzling of the side of one’s face with the other’s mouth may take place, with a view to biting each other. And sometimes, you may be able to watch a rhino down in Chitwan bob its head up and down or even grazing and sweeping its head speedily from side to side. However, the approaching rhino, after touching the newcomer’s nose or nuzzling him will graze with him peacefully. The adult cows and bulls behave differently. They avoid contacts. But when they do come in contact, they hold their heads high and snort again and again, and even bare their teeth.

 

And what do adult males do when they come face to face with each other? They either ignore each other or threaten each other. The meeting is characterised by head-on approaches at times, followed by loud shouts, squirts of urine and touching of horns, low on the ground. And one of them may even turn and flee honking. Sometimes, a fight may develop in which the tusks are used a lot.

 

Andrew said, “During a fight one November, one male lost half its horn and both rhinos were deeply gashed. One of the animals returned six miles to the south of the Rapti River the next night. He walked very slowly, dragging a back leg and fed for no less than two hours.” Eating after a good fight seems to do them good. You will find that the rhinos show the most aggressive behaviour in their wallows, where threats and fights are very common, especially during the monsoon season. Despite the existence of many wallows in Chitwan, you will find the rhinos concentrated at a few wallows, and the wallows are changed very often. Most interactions involve rhino cows and calves. The approach of another rhino to the wallow might trigger off an interaction.

 

Attacks normally take the form of a charge. I remember having read an exciting description of a charging rhino by Peter Fleming in my school days, in which he called the animal a “brute”. Well, if you had a huge rhinoceros charging at you, you wouldn’t be inclined to call it friendly or cute either I suppose.

 

The best thing to do under such conditions would be to clamber up a thick tree. But the tourists in Chitwan are mostly on elephant-back and hence such situations hardly arise. When a rhino charges, the head is held low, mouth open, tusks bared and the charge is accompanied by a loud roar. The rhinos stop facing each other at a distance of one to two feet. The charge is ritually repeated. Or one of the animals might turn and disappear into the jungle: a loser. Each attack results in the loser having to divert to another place in the wallow, or even away from the wallow all together. A banishment and the winner takes it all.

 

Approaching rhinos sometimes turn and go on quite oblivious of the snorts. Others don’t even bother to take notice and walk right in. Even between the same rhinos in similar situation, the results of encounters are different on different occasions, and not stereotyped, according to Laurie.

 

“One cow and calf” he said,” always occupied the same position in a wallow no matter which rhinos were present. They never took part in aggressive interaction rituals.” But the normally playful rhino-calves are involved in the interactions.” In one case,” said Andrew, “a two month old calf attacked an adult female after she had chased off his mother. The cow in turned chased him in the opposite direction, but the spirited calf charged twice again. The cow stopped in front of him each time with her tusks bared, roaring loudly. Eventually the calf’s grunts were answered by soft squeaks blown from his mother, who had returned to fetch him.”

 

Interestingly enough, dung-piles are used by all members of the rhino population. And when a rhino comes across fresh dung, it serves as a signal for him to defecate. Calves invariably defecate after their mothers. And the dung-piles are developed in areas frequented by rhinos especially along paths and near wallows, and they are often 20 feet in diameter. A most remarkable thing about rhinos is that they defecate after an encounter with either another rhino, elephant or humans. So if a rhino defecates after he or she sees you don’t feel insulted. It’s the done thing in the world of the rhinoceros. One would not like to pass judgement, but the rhinos of Chitwan seem to have an entirely different opinion about us humans.

 

Besides the defecation, urination is also another important communication signal for the rhinos. A rhino squirts urine during or after encounters with fellow rhinos, elephants or humans, especially while walking away. It also urinates while on leaving a forest or grassland, a ditch, a field or road edge. The rhinos, while urinating, are known to scrape and drag their feet. The marking behaviour of the rhinos form a sort of communication system between individuals. The olfactory signals are recognised by other fellow rhinos.

 

The dung-heap for instance stimulates the rhino to defecate, and the furrows created by them after defecation and urination serve as visual and scent marks. And what’s remarkable is that the only permanent association among the rhinos happens to be the cow and her calves. The adult males are solitary, egoistic and do not tolerate the presence of other rhinos. Physical contact is very important in the cow-calf relationship, and wallowing cows and calves often lie touching each other. The small and chubby calves are very playful and spend long periods rubbing their heads and flanks along their mother’s huge body.

 

Mating among the rhinos takes place when the calf is about two years old. The calf is driven away usually by the male at the time of courtship. Both male and female follow each other’s tracks in Chitwan or for that matter in Kaziranga or elsewhere, when they have lost contact and greet each other by touching noses. The behaviour patterns change as the animal matures from a baby to a calf, and from a sub-adult to a full grown, breeding adult. Forty years go, most of the rhinos in Chitwan lived in the ideal, wild environment with very few people and extremely low amount of cultivation.

 

The only deadly enemies were the stately princes and maharajas from Kathmandu or their royal guests from Great Britain, who took pride in wantonly shooting animals after driving them and trapping them through the use of hundreds of villagers who encircled them with endless white sheets of cloth, and the beating of drums, tin-cans to create a great clamour and frightening noise in the otherwise serene jungle in the Terai.

 

Royal Hunts: The royal shikaris sat on perches called machans or on the backs of tamed elephants and shot the animals, birds and reptiles. Not because they had hunger as is in nature among the denizens of the jungle, but because it was chic and was supposed to be a sport ever since the gun was invented. The idea was not to stalk an animal alone in the ratio of one against one, with the undercover of the jungle as part of the game, and to kill a wild animal to feed the starving wife and children. Agriculture and transportation problems were already solved and hunting and killing helpless animals living in the jungles and forests came in vogue, to be documented for posterity in front of ‘fierce’ animals, not realising that the fiercest and wildest animal was the human himself armed with a gun and lethal cartridges.

 

In one big game expedition alone, the Nepalese Royalty Jung Bahadur Rana shot 21 elephants, 31 tigers, 7stags, 1 rhinoceros, 1 boa constrictor, 11 wild buffaloes, 10 boars, 1 crocodile, 4 bears, 20 deer, 6 pheasants and 3 leopards. Three successive generations of British monarchs have done game-hunting in the Nepalese Terai jungle. In 1886 when King Edward VII visited Nawalpur he is said to have bagged 23 tigers, 1 leopard and 1 bear. His son King George V shot “in one day in Chitwan” 10 tigers, 1 rhino and 1 bear. That was in 1911.

 

In 1921, the Duke of Windsor, when he was the Prince of Wales, visited Bhikhana in the Nawalpur district and took part in a shikar (hunt)and was presented the following animals and birds by the Maharaja Chandra Shumsher Rana as a present for the London Zoological Gardens:1 baby elephant,2 rhinos,2 leopards,2 Himalayan black bears,2 leopard cats,1 black leopard,1 tiger,1 Tibetan fox,1 mountain fox,2 sambhurs,1 thar,1 unicorn sheep,3 musk deer,1 four-horned sheep,1 one-horned Tibetan shawl goat,2 Tibetan mastiff puppies,1 monitor and 1 python.For the ornithological collection there were: 4 Nepalese kalij, 1 white crested kalig-pheasant, 4 cheer-pheasants, 2 koklass-pheasants, 4 chukor-patridges, 4 swamp-patridges, 2 green-pigeons, 10 bronze-winged doves, 3 Great Indian Adjutants (L. dubius), 1 hawk, 1 peafowl (P. cristatus). That was just the list of the animals presented by the Nepalese Maharaja.

 

In the course of the shikar, the Prince of Wales shot 17 tigers, 10 rhinos, 2 leopards, 1 bear, 7 jungle-fowls, 2 partridges, 15 snipes, 1 peacock and a hamadryas (Naja bungarus).

 

“How long did it take to shoot all these animals?” you might ask.

 

Just eight days.

 

Today, the animals in the jungles of Chitwan, as elsewhere in the world, have to coexist with more people in the areas due to the increase in human population and migration of people from the mountains of Nepal under the resettlement programme of the Nepalese government. Much of the mixed forest and grassland areas which are good rhino habitat have been destroyed, giving way to settlements and cultivated fields.

 

The Nepalese population in 1974 was 12 million and in 1996 it is almost 18 million. Now it is 27 million. The humans multiply despite the so-called family-planning programmes that are publicised in Radio Nepal and Nepal Television, in the Gorkhapatra and The Rising Nepal. The movements of the rhinos and other animals in their original home grounds of the Terai (lowlands) have been restricted, so that they move after dark: stealthily, warily, over areas which used to be previously grassland and dense jungle. Nevertheless, there’s one thing that gladdens all conservationists and animal lovers alike, is that the Nepalese rhinos are opportunists and surprisingly adaptable, utilising a wide range of food.

 

With proper wildlife management, the rhinos of Chitwan have increased in number. And rhinoceroses have also been translocated from the Chitwan Valley to the Royal Bardiya Wildlife Reserve. In order to reintroduce a part of the endangered species in another part of the country and to provide them with an alternate habitat, and as an insurance against any unforseen catastrophe that could infect the rhino population in any particular area. The translocation might also help reduce the conflicts between the need for protecting the endangered species(and their gene pool)and the Nepalese villagers living in the periphery of the Nationalal Parks.It took 16 hours to bring the rhinos from Chitwan to Bardiya, and was a major success. The WWF(USA) gave a helping hand to the Nepalese, and tranquillising equipment and other support were provided by the Smithsonian Institute.

 

But there’s no need to be complacent, since the rhinos may succumb if disease broke out among them, for despite their thick armour, they are just as fragile as humans inside, as far as immunity is concerned. The most appropriate measure would be to move the villages from the Park area and to compensate the Nepalese villagers adequately through organisations like the WWF, World Bank or whatever, so that the wildlife may not have to encroach upon paddy fields at night. After all it is the human beings who have been encroaching upon the territory of the ‘wild’ animals, and not the other way round. The rhinos move in relation to the food, and when there is a stiff competition for food from wildlife, domesticated animals and the local people, migration to another territory is inevitable. The National Parks and Wildlife Office and the KMTNC need to be more vigilant in preventing human encroachment and poaching for furs and aphrodisiacs at the cost of rare animals which are a natural heritage, worth preserving.

 

On the one hand you have the government and conservationists passing laws that the Chitwan jungle be declared a National Park, so the dollar-paying tourists can stay in so-called jungle-lodges and go on photo-safaris on the backs of elephants through the thick elephant grass and drink campari or bourbon-on-the-rocks. And on the other hand, you have the farmers and villagers of the Chitwan area, who are endangered by the wild animals of the National Parks, because the wild animals (elephants, rhinos, tigers, leopards) not only come at night looking for fodder (rice, bananas, maize) and easy prey in the form of domestic animals, but also enjoy the protection of the National Park Rangers and, therefore, of the government.

 

The Chitwan Park covers 93,200 hectares and comprises also the flood plains of the Rapti, Reu and Narayani Rivers. The confrontation between the wildlife and humans in the jungle areas is pre-programmed. In 1974 there were approximately 400 rhinoceros and 70 tigers in Chitwan Park. According to a recent report published in July 31, 2006 the population of the endangered one-horned rhino in Chitwan has dropped from more than 500 six years ago to around 370. Three one-horned rhinos were killed and one wounded by poachers in around Chitwan National Park in south-western Nepal in the last week of July 2006.

 

It can only be hoped that the Nepal Terai Ecology Project’s attempts to make solar-powered electrical fences to keep the rhinoceros out of the farm lands will be a help, though prowling big cats don’t make much of such man-made hinderances.

 

Wildlife versus Humans: The KMTNC has in the past also initiated a grassland Ecology and Human Use project in collaboration with the International Institute of Environment and Development (USA). An American biologist named John Lemkhul made an in-depth study of the grassland ecosystem in Nepal, and the project proposed to develop a management scheme for the thatch grass that is vital for local human needs.

 

A Nepali grassland expert Keshav Rajbhandari from the Department of Botany also took part as a consultant. The study revealed that the Chitwan Park was providing over 15 million rupees indirectly to the village economy by permitting the local villagers to cut grass in the park for two weeks every year. It was found that 90,000 Nepalese enter the park during the two week season. The cutters are legally allowed to cut khar, kharai, bayo and smiti. The villagers walked up to 3km to get to the park and up to four members of a family helped to cut the grass. Even the Nepalese villagers need an entry permit to cut grass.

 

But at night, when the wild animals start plundering the crops, the farmers become angry, and try to drive them away. Moreover, there have been tragic episodes enough to fill volumes, whereby the village children and women have been attacked by the wild animals. The Rising Nepal and the Gorkhapatra, two Kathmandu-based governmental English and Nepali dailies, bring out such tragic news often enough. The humans living in the vicinity of the National Parks, that goes not only for Chitwan but also Langtang, Bardia, Rara, Sagarmatha (Everest) National Parks, are tempted to go to the Parks with their lush green grass and vegetation to gather firewood and fodder for their domestic animals. This phenomenon is also evident in the Darjeeling area, despite the forest-officers on duty. Where there’s poverty and an acute dearth of firewood, there’s always a way out of the desperate situation, mostly through illegal means.

 

It’s not uncommon to read in the pages of The Rising Nepal about the call to “Propagate the Nature Conservation Message” and about the heavy responsibilities of the wardens in the preservation and effective management of Nepal’s national parks and wildlife reserves. And in the same daily you have the story of how wild elephants terrorised and destroyed some thatched houses and saplings in Morang district, and how a village assembly member named Khadga Bahadur Ale was crushed to death while travelling from Letang to Kane through a forest.Or the story of a four year old girl named Sita Devi Paudel of a village in Dhikurpokhari who had been suffering from diarrhoea and was carried away by a tiger around 8:30pm and the next day only some part of the girl’s body were found in the nearby jungle.

 

Meanwhile, there was another story about wild elephants on the rampage from the Sunsari district, where they’d destroyed the thatched huts of 12 families in the Baraha Chetra villege. And in the hamlet of Bishnu Paduka four cows and two domestic swines had been killed and some goats injured by the wild elephants. Another caption tells the story of how the man-eater leopard which had attacked many children in the Kaski district was killed by a single bullet fired by Ram Bahadur Tamang, a resident of Chapakot village in Lalitpur district. The leopard was 4.5 feet long, and had been terrorising the children belonging to the hamlets of Hemaja, Dhita, Kaskikot, Dhikurpokhari, Bhadauremagi and Sarankot.

 

The story reminded me of the German TV film entitled “Danger in the Rapti” by Max Rehbein, who’s protagonist was Hemanta Mishra, a Nepalese wildlife expert, who likes to hear Beatles songs, in the role of a swashbuckling local Jungle Jim, in which he shot a man-eater and smoked a cigarette with the thankful village headman, for want of a peace-pipe. Hemanta Mishra used to work in the wildlife office in the early 1970s and ran the King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation, and was awarded the J. Paul Getty Prize for Natural Protection. He worked for the UNO later in New York.

 

Another story deals with a leopard which killed ten children, aged 3 to 13, in the hamlets of Dhimal, Bhadaure, Tamagi and Sarankot. A small 3 year old girl named Maya Adhikari of Malang village in the Sarankot district was snatched away from her mother as she was being washed in front of her house at 7pm on a Sunday. No wonder that the local people living in the vicinity of the National Parks feel insecure and few villagers venture out of their homes after sunset. The tigers turn into man-eaters only when then become old, are injured or have lost their habitat. The question is: Do the tigers encroach into the habitats of the Nepalese villagers or is it the other way around? To date there are 13 national protected areas comprising more than 9% of the total land area in Nepal. According to the Save the Tiger Fund report, the situation of the tiger in Chitwan is optimistic and their numbers are increasing and their habitats are improving. The number of elephants are also on the rise and provided that poaching is curbed, the numbers of rhinos will definitely increase in the future in Nepal.

 

The situation may take a positive trend if the Nepalese farmers plant trees, for only a fourth of the forest wealth of Nepal has remained intact. The reason is that in the year 1967, the then Nepalese government nationalised vast forest areas in the country. And after that the Nepalese farmers didn’t feel obliged and responsible for the forests and started cutting down trees without second thoughts. In order to combat this, the Nepalese government introduced in 1979 the village-forest, the state-forest and the so-called protected-forest.

 

Old eco-song & dwindling habitats: “Nepal’s wealth is the forest, said our ancestors” runs an eco-melody over Radio Nepal, but the vast tracts of forests have been encroached upon by people looking for agricultural-land. With the Nepalese forests dwindling, there is an increasing pressure in the remaining forests which have been declared National Parks, and are protected by the government.

 

There’s no denying that there’s a struggle for habitats between the wildlife and the humans in the vicinity of the National Parks of Nepal, as elsewhere in the world. As long as the Nepalese government and its apparatus, the wildlife offices, are active and educate and warn the people and nab the poachers, there might be hope for Nepal’s wildlife. But can more wardens and wildlife management help in a country where the population has been steadily increasing, and where there’s a dearth of arable land, and thus the competition and habitat encroachment on the part of the wildlife as well as humans in the limited living space in Nepal?

 

The 104 year old misrule in the past under the Rana heredity Prime Ministers, and the defunct Panchayat government, and the later administrative mistakes on the part of different governments, have led to the reduction in the number of flora and fauna in Nepal, not to speak of the forests which were prized for trees like the karma for furniture, sal in the foothills of the Churai chain for construction purposes. And sadly enough, Nepal needs 7.5 million tons of newly planted trees per annum if it is to avoid shortages.

 

At this stage I shall have to tell the story of a big game hunter-turned-conservationist. He came to Nepal in 1960,when there were a lot of tigers and no tourists. The tigers were shot till they became almost rare.

 

Today there are a little more than 60 tigers at Chitwan Park. Some In the year 1999 the number of tourists who visited Nepal were registered as 492,000 but due to the decade of armed conflict between the government troops and the Maoists some 13,000 Nepalese, mostly civilians, died. The tourists were advised not to go to Nepal and the number of visitors sank to 277,000 in 2005. The tourists were obliged to pay a “tax” to the Maoists.

 

Although over 15,000 tourists come each year to the Terai, the tiger population has nevertheless increased since then. The British banker named Jim Edwards (Tiger Tops) is supposed to have brought about this wonder. He organised jungle tours, wild water trips and trekking in the Himalayas, complete with climbing equipment: all for dollars naturally, because you cannot live in the Himalayas without money, and he has a beautiful residence in Kathmandu, a luxury apartment in London, and a domicile in posh St. Moritz. And till 1960 he was busy making money by organising big game Safaris. And since a couple of decades it’s been ecology and tourism.

 

Protected Wildlife: The growth of the population in the Terai area and elsewhere in the Middle mountains of Nepal, which shows an increment of 2.6 per cent does and will exert a lasting pressure upon the wildlife and vegetation of Nepal in the long run. And these are the questions that will pose serious problems for the country in the future. For with the construction of new roads, establishment of new industries and lodges and hotels for the foreign tourists, the country expects an industrial and tourist-boom that might disturb the ecological balance of this beautiful biotope that is Nepal, with its diverse flora, fauna, landscapes and ethno-cultural rarities.

 

Meanwhile, the protected wildlife of Nepal has been divided into 38 species falling under the three classes of mammals, birds and reptiles. The National Park and Wildlife Conservation Act has put 26 species of mammals, 9 species of birds and three species of reptiles in the wildlife protection list (1993). The protected mammals are: the red monkey, hispid rabbit, wolf, red panda, hyena, lynx, tiger, wild elephant, small boar, stags, yak-nak, “napon”, “salak”, “sonru”, the Himlayan red bear, “lingsang”, “charibagh”, leopard, the snow leopard, the rhinoceros, the musk deer, gaurigai, wild buffalo, “chiru” and “chapeka”.

 

The birds in the protected list are: the stork, orane, Lopophorus impejanus (Nepal’s national bird), “garmujur”, the great pelican, the white stork, “chir”, the munal pheasant and the “sano swar mujur”(peacock with the small voice). The list of protected reptiles include: the python,”sungohari” and the gharial.

 

After the establishments of National Parks in Nepal a number of projects were started: the Nepal Terai Ecology Project, the Snow Leopard Project, the Barun Valley Project, the Annapurna Project, International Workshops on the National Parks, Rhino translocation to India, the Nepal National Conservation Strategy, the Gharial Conservation project to name a few. The Smithsonian Institute (USA) helped start the Nepal Tiger Ecology Project in the 1974 and then decided to change the name of the project to “Nepal Terai Ecology Project” and expand the research activities “beyond the tiger.”

 

One can only hope that the delicate balance between the Maoists and government troops will be set aside, and the poaching will be curbed in due time in one of the most beautiful National Parks of the world. For Nepal’s National Parks are worth a visit. The romantic sunsets, the cries of the wild in the jungle nearby, the adventurous hotels and modern amenities for the visitors from abroad, and the friendliness of the Nepalese people from different ethnic backgrounds.

 

I still hear the frivolous melody Resam piriri played by a Nepali boy with a flute in the Terai, Nepal’s lowland, and it reminds me of the wonderful people I met during my sojourn in my Himalayan country, be they Tharus, Rais, Magars, Gurungs, Tamangs, Chettris and Bahuns or Newars. I still see their smiling faces and their kind words, despite the decade of hardships, terror, intimidation and uncertainty. I admire their inborn desire to survive all these human-made obstacles and misery, to keep a stiff upper lip, and the hope and faith that they have in the Gods and Goddesses of Kathmandu, and Nepal in general.

 

In diesem Sinne: Jai Nepal, Waldmannsheil, Namaste from the Black Forest!

 

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