NEW YORK, December 1, 2009 – “Liberty or death,” was the rallying-cry for many of the Maoists soldiers who took up arms and endured a decade-long Maoist insurgency in Nepal from 1996 to 2006, and it echoes throughout Tulsi Bhandari's film Beneath Everest: Nepal Reborn.
Filmed over four years, Beneath Everest documents some of the most critical defining moments in Nepal’s modern history and describes the turbulent transition from a monarchy-ruled Nepal to a new Federal Democratic Republic. The documentary had its New York premiere at the Asia Society headquarters in New York and was followed by a discussion with Bhandari, Nepalese social worker and human rights advocate.
In his first documentary, Bhandari documents four years of the bloody, decade–long Maoist insurgency, during which over 13,000 lives were lost and the country suffered massive damage to its infrastructure and economy. Beneath Everest: Nepal Reborn tells stories of ordinary Nepalis, who despite witnessing brutal realities of civil war share their hopes for a new, politically stable Nepal, with sustainable peace and social justice.
“Does the new Nepal offer a favorable environment for the Dalits, the untouchables—or marginalized people—to pursue their aspiration for a better life?” was the question asked by Asia Society Assistant Director for Policy Programs Sanjeev Sherchan, who moderated the event. Bhandari admitted that there is hope for a new and politically stable Nepal as long as there will be an opportunity for the new government to address human rights violations that took place during the Maoist insurgency. “Right now the government is focusing on writing the new constitution and dividing the state, but one important thing that is forgotten is what happened in the past," said Bhandari. "We need to learn lessons from the decade-long Maoist insurgency, make people accountable for their atrocities, and discourage the violence—those are the fundamental issues.”
When asked about the role of education in the rebirth of Nepal, Bhandari pointed out that his movie shows that more than 50 percent of people in Nepal are illiterate. He emphasized that although educating Nepal’s population is a crucial challenge which must be overcome, what is potentially more concerning for the rebirth of Nepal is the growing number of unemployed educated Nepalis.
Excerpt: Bhandari discusses the need to address the violence before Nepal can experience a "rebirth." (2 min., 38 sec.)
Excerpt: The issues and factors that may derail the process of building peace and stability in Nepal. (2 min., 2 sec.)
Reported by Malgorzata Juszczak-Punwaney