Nepal

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The national flag of Nepal.

Nepal is a small country[1] located in the Ganges valley in Southeast Asia. The country is sandwiched between two militarily powerful countries - India to the south and China to the north. Its capital and largest city is Kathmandu. Until May 28, 2008, Nepal was a monarchy. Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (popularly known as Prachanda) led the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) which fought a civil war with the then government. It resulted in heavy loss of lives in both sides.

On 28 December 2007, the Interim Parliament passed a bill and declared Nepal to be a Federal Democratic Republic. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly officially implemented that declaration on 28 May 2008.

In the Nepalese Constituent Assembly election held in 2008, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) gained a majority on 10 April 2008. This was a milestone event in the history of Nepal and also a significant event in the history of the communist movement after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although incidents of violence occurred in the pre-electoral period, the constituent assembly election was overall peaceful.[2] The 240-year-old monarchy ceased to exist after the Maoist victory and the last king of Nepal, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, was removed from power. Prachanda was elected as the Prime Minister and Nepal transformed from a monarchy to a democratic republic. Prachanda received 464 votes in the prime ministerial election while his opponent received only 113 votes.[3]

The economy of Nepal is small and it suffers from widespread poverty and other significant problems like poor infrastructure which is a major obstacle for industrialization. Most of the people are employed in the agricultural sector. Unfortunately, human trafficking, sex slavery and child prostitution are also commonplace. Some girls are abducted by slaving gangs or tricked by promises of paid jobs, while others are sold into slavery by their poverty-stricken families. Many are sold across the border by human traffickers, ending up in red light districts of Indian cities.

Nepal is culturally a diverse nation, with numerous ethnic and religious minorities. Most people (approximately 80%) are followers of Hinduism. The second largest religion is Buddhism with around 10% followers. Other religions like Islam and Christianity have smaller numbers of adherents. Its most famous animal is the yak.

Nepal occupies a unique and time zone of UTC+05:45, fifteen minutes ahead of India. It is one of only two territories in the world to mark a 15 or 45 minute difference from standard time zones, the other being the Chatham Islands (New Zealand) at UTC+12:45.

The only thing many dumb Americans Westerners know about Nepal is that Mt Everest is there, and they think most Nepalese are Sherpas (it being an ethnic group as well as a name used for mountain guides). In fact, Sherpas make up less than 1% of the population. In addition, it is frequently portrayed as a mystic, Tibetan Buddhist mountain paradise despite its population being 85℅ Hindu. Perhaps they were thinking of Bhutan instead.

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