A Nepali Death in the age of Twitter and Facebook (RIP #GPK)

Nepal’s top leader dies. Nepalis all over the world react hysterically on the Web.

This blog entry is a supplement to a news report that I wrote in today’s Kantipur titled: निधनको खबरले भरियो फेसबुक [Facebook filled with the news of death (of GPK)]

a nepal death on facebook Girija prasad Koirala dies
click to enlarge ठुलो पार्नेभए क्लिके हुन्छ

When Girija Prasad Koirala was born in 1925 Nepal was a closed society under autocratic oligarchy and secluded from rest of the world. There were no Twitterers and Facebookers in Nepal.

After 86 years, Nepal is now a Federal Democratic Republic with a vibrant and open society that is so much connected to the world that the news of deteriorating health and death of Koirala spread all over the world in an instant via the Internet on Saturday (20 March).

Messages like “Rest in Peace, Girija Prasad Koirala” or its shorter form “RIP GPK” and similar messages in Nepali spread like wildfire all over the web via numerous tweets and Facebook statuses. Some of those messages might have appeared slightly before the iconic leader’s death and certainly a couple of hours ahead of the official announcement by the Nepali Congress party in Kathmandu. That, in a way, reflected the aam janata (common man’s) concern and interest in Koirala’s health and life in general. Koirala died at 12:11 Nepal Standard Time yesterday. Here’s a sample of conversations that took place on Facebook walls (Sanjivan Gautam is a Nepali scholar who is now in Germany):

Sanjivan Gautam May the Ex primemisnister’s soul rest in peace Sat at 12:35pm
Manish Pradhan he is about to die. mareko chaina raicha. [Hasn’t died yet.] Sat at 12:36pm
Sanjivan Gautam ho ra dai !! galat news deliver bhayecha !! [Really, elder brother? Seems like a wrong report has been delivered.] Sat at 12:38pm
Manish Pradhan but he is very critical, may not survive more days.Sat at 12:38pm
Sagar Mohan Bhattarai aba chai bite yar…[Now, he has gone, pal.] Sat at 12:41pm
Ishwari Bhattarai 12:11 baje death bhayeko bhanera news chha ta..[There’s news report that says he did at 12:11.]
Dinesh Kafle sanjivan ji, budha gaye hamilai chodera. the nepalese democracy has lost its great defender. [Sanjivan ji, the old man has gone leaving us.]

In a way, GP Koirala is the first Nepali statesman and internationally recognized Nepali celebrity to have died in the age of Internet- Twitter and Facebook particularly. The royal palace massacre ten years ago pulled attention of the world more intensely for obvious reason and was covered widely by the international press. But Nepalis didn’t have the same level of access to the Internet at that time. The interactive Web 2.0 (that is best represented by blogs and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter) didn’t exist or was at its infancy then. The widened reach of Web 2.0 among urban Nepalis and the Nepali diaspora means they have forums to share news, discuss issues and offer condolences (and write obituaries) that wasn’t available to them until recently. This phenomenon, hundreds of thousands of Nepalis from different corners of the country coming together on a Facebook wall and talking about the same issue, is unprecedented in Nepali history. More than any other things, it appears, Nepalis are bonded by a hash tag: in this case #gpk. In some instances, like this one, the aam janata (general public), armed with rumor and Facebook account, has out-scooped the main stream media (and even the New Media) to break the news and offer analysis.

Girija Prasad Koirala is equally popular (or known, at least) among Nepal’s new net-savvy generation as he is among the older generation that is not really connected to the Internet. It is because he was the one of the most important and dominating persons in Nepali society in the past 20 years (time in which current Internet generation grew up hearing his name at least once a day in Radio Nepal or reading it on Kantipur]. It is also because Koirala had been active at the highest level of politics for the last sixty years.

There’s hardly any Nepali who hasn’t heard about GP Koirala. There are very few who are neutral about him: many either hated him or loved him. As Nrn Singh said in a tweet he sent me, GP Koirala gave Nepali people hope and dispair at the same time in his long political life (especially in the last two decades). [SinghNrn @wagle जनता दुखित भन्दा वढी चिन्तित छन् गिरिजा प्रसादको मृत्युमा ! सधै नेपाली जनतालाई आशा र पिडा एक साथ दिए । यिनको राजनितिक जीवन अवधिभर । 7:53 AM Mar 21st via web in reply to wagle] But in the past few years GPK had become become a national icon, a fatherly figure, a seemingly indispensable politician who appeared to have transcended the party politics. He seemed to have provided Nepali people a lot of hope because of his deep involvement in the peace process that ended the war in Nepal. That is why Nepalis all over the world were curious to know about this health and interested in the news about his death.

That’s the reason for Nepali people all over the world to frantically search Girija Prasad Koirala on Google yesterday. “Google Trends showed that Koirala’s full name was searched thousands of times in the US. This accounted for the ‘top search’ status of the name at around 2 p.m. NST (on Saturday).” said Bibek Poudel, an Internet media researcher, who also ascribed the heavy Internet traffic to Koirala’s “political clout”.

That’s a quote from an article in today’s Kathmandu Post in which Keshav P. Koirala and Amish Raj Mulmi talk how intensely the cyber world reacted to Koirala’s death. Several Facebook groups offering condolence to the leader appeared in minutes after his death and many Nepali news sites went out of service unable to cope unprecedented traffic. Here’s a portion of the TKP report:

Girija Prasad Koirala’s death shook cyberspace as well, with Nepali news sites witnessing unprecedented traffic from visitors across the world. ‘Girija Prasad Koirala’ ranked second in the search-giant Google’s most searched term on Saturday, the day Koirala passed away.Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter were abuzz with Koirala’s death from Saturday onwards, with new groups and tweets arising every second.

Following news of Koirala’s critical health condition and subsequent death on Saturday, Nepali news websites were flooded with visitors, with eKantipur.com witnessing more than 200 percent rise in traffic. Some other news portals were down for hours as they failed to cope with the heavy traffic.

Here are a few Tweets that I combed from Twitter as tens of thousands of people in Kathmandu were paying their respect to the dead leader (not in any particular order):

bishalkc RIP #gpk. We lost a leader who played great role uniting all. There will be power vaccum in #nepal, and future looks uncertain for years.(link)

bigyan_adhikari #gpk The demise of Living Legend of Nepalese Politics. 😦 (link)

bigyan_adhikari RT @madhukaranand: #gpk We have lost a doyen of Nepali politics today.He will always be remembered for his role in bringing the Maoists to the talking table.(link)

aakarpost RT @UjjwalAcharya Its official now: #Girija Prasad Koirala passed away at 12:10 PM today. RIP #GPK.(link)

arbinde RIP #GPK (link)

biswas RT @jitendra_: A history has its end. RIP #GPK (link)

abishadh RIP #GPK. only rotten brats remain in nepali politics now.(link)

DharmaAdhikari Can remember the old man’s gentle pat on my back a while ago, wish progress for your soul, the grand old man#girija (link)

nepalmonitor Girija, ex pm of nepal reportedly died two hours ago, mainstream media slow to report #girija

mpoudyal RT @bibstha: Happy or Sad? in GPK’s death? [indifferent] (link)

joydeep1985 With G P Koirala’s death, I hope India and Nepal may not lose the link that had existed for centuries between them…(link)

gauravkanoongo expressing solidarity with Nepali brothers and sisters at the time of sad demise of Shri Girija Prasad Koirala, may his soul rest in peace. (link)

twilightfairy oh.. RIPnepal ex-pm koirala! was he manisha koirala’s dad? (link)

hanrsan @ Dasharath Stadium, where thousands assemble to pay last tribute to GP Koirala. RIP GPK.(link)

leoprabin Rest in peace Girija Prasad Koirala.(link)

NiksBeloved R.I.P GP Koirala:( Our country wil miss u! (link)

praveshgurung oh GP Koirala is dead? hmm can we move on? (link)

NIEL0107 former pm of nepal g.p. koirala is not p/s in b/w us..he was a gr8 guy 2 nepal & for india also….bhagwan unki aatma ko shanti de.. (link)

imranniyaz Thanx mr. koirala……. May god bless him (link)

binitprads RIP GP Koirala, its debatable whether he was a good politician or not, but i hope this means the end of the koirala influence on nepal (link)

Dipudadude: @iamsrk Manisha koirala’s father died… Did u speak 2 her for condolence ?

Sunelthapa: GPK’s demise is a great loss. My thoughts and prayers for the Koiralafamily. Hope NC will get able successor.

Ganesh_Puranik: Pioneer of Panchayati Raj System G.P. Koirala Passed Away .. May Former Nepalese Prime Minister G. P. Koirala’s soul rest in peace !

sudharsann: Hope this doesnt mean Manisha enters politics RT @W7VOA: #Nepalstate TV: Former Prime Minister Koirala has died at 85.

chhantyal: My deep condolence to late G.P. Koirala. His calm and peaceful nature was needed until the completion of Peace Process! Ahh …our fate….

siddharth76: Woke up this morning with a call from Nepal that fmr PM Koirala passed way. Iviewed him in 2001 while covering the Royal Massacre

babu_binod: I am heavily shocked by the GIRIJA PRASAD KOIRALA’S death. May his soul rest in peace in heaven.He was the real hero of nepali politics…..

samratupadhyay: Feeling sorry at the sad demise of the former prime minister of Nepal, Girija Prasad Koirala. My heartfelt… http://bit.ly/cBj0pM (expand)

bhoot: GP koirala is no more..may his soul rest in peace…

nepalmonitor: 1ST TWEET ON GIRIJA’S DEATH TODAY @MahimaHimalayaP RIP Girija Prasad Koirala….can’t believe the man i met last Friday is now dead :/

@MahimaHimalayaP RIP Girija Prasad Koirala….can’t believe the man i met last Friday is now dead :/(link) 12:03 PM Mar 20th

[Since I am accessing Twitter from New Delhi that is 15 minutes behind Kathmandu, I am not sure about the time that is displayed along with the tweets.If the above time is Nepal Standard Time then Mahima seems to have RIPed Koirala 8 minutes before his actual death. If that is the IST, she out scooped the MSM.]

@MahimaHimalayaP Whats wrong with Kantipur Tv?!!! He’s dead already! and they’re still praying for his better health!?! wtf?12:42 PM Mar 20th

Here are some Facebook Statuses (and reactions)

Anuj Tiwari Great loss for Nepalese politics…now peace process is really in peril..RIP Dear leader.Sami Kunwarkaam aaune bho Conflict Specialist ko

Anuj Tiwari khoi yaar..aba timi banne ho ki leader.

Kaushal Aryal RIP MR.Girija Prasad Koirala!!

Sabina Nepal girija died…………….Prabin Pathak good news

Simi Ranabhat may his soul rest in peace!

Anjan Niru Nepalko Rajanitika Honhar Yodda Comred Girija Prasad Koiralalai Hardik sardinjali !!!!!!!!!!!!

Narayan Timilsina uhalai Comred bhanna ali namila ki?

Prakash Koirala शान्ति र लोकतन्त्र का महानायक ,श्रदेय गिरिजा प्रसाद कोइराला को आत्मा ले शान्ति पावोस/अलबिदा गिरिजा बाबु ////

Sabita Rijal: Girija p. koirala’s death……… The country, political parties and the Nepalese people will surely miss himRaju Rijal: I”m not going to miss him.. Why to miss” brainles”s so called politican…

Ashutosh Shrivastav: With the fall of a towering personality, let’s hope Nepal gets a new and fair leadership! Har Har Mahadev!!

Nabin Luitel: grijha ko nidhan prati hami sradhinjali arpan gardachau ?

Ashes Pokhrel Girija prasad koirala,our morang tiger is dead!!end of political career for morang catwomen sujata!!विधान दाहाल the beginning of sushil koirala’s ….and the bunjee-jumping of santiprakriyaa..

Ashes Pokhrel Hudai na testo,,aayle,bartamaan awasthama girija ko k nai po role thiyo ra santi prakriya ma testo khaas??south block aayle ni santi prakriya lai stagit garne mood ma 6aina na ta mao ni!!nepal jo aaye ni jo gaye ni chalnu nai 6!!birendra ko pala ko vrasta gpk gyane ko pala ko peace leader va ra niskiyo koi ta niski hal 6 ni,bas india ra us ko aasirbad kasle pau6 herna baki 6!may b madhav nepal,in my view!!

विधान दाहाल haha ..tyo ta ho .. tara sathi aba thaa hunchha girija ko k role thyo bhanni barema …kunai jawana ma jati bhrasta bhayeni natabaad kripabaad ko jug basauni naike bhayeni …maobaadi lai sangai liyera jana ni sakne ani inidia lai fakaifulai garna pani sakne ek matra character bhaneka uni nai thiye …aba k haalat hunchha herana deshko…kaangress… afai futna ber chaina ..aru kaa ta kurai choddim na ..aba party-party beech ko rustataa jhan jhan baddai janchha ..uchha stariya samyantra dissolve hunchha…desh ma griha-yuddha suru hunchha…ani sambidhan-sabha bighatan bhanda pani bhayanak aru rajnitik daupech kaa fohori namuna dekhesi haami billa-raam hunchhau!ani sambidhan -sambidhan baal…jholaa-jhamtaa uthau ..bhudi ra budi bachau abhiyaan ma laagnu parchha sarba-haaraa barga..haha

Ashes Pokhrel Malai chi girija ko political vaccancy 40 din vanda badi kasai le feel garla jasto lagdai na!everything will be alright soon!

विधान दाहाल everybody shud hope so….dont know which one of the rest will grow up faster tho…

Arpan Koiralaprachanda last khusi bha hola aaja …

विधान दाहाल on the contrary..prachanda ko kaal suru bhayo …..girjau ko dar le nidayekaa kaal bhairab haru ko haali-muhali hune waalaa chha cangress maa…

Sachid Mani Kafle हार्दिक समवेदना सारा शोक्मग्न नेपालीहरुलाई

Sanjay Panthi गिरिजाप्रसाद कोइराला इतिहासका साच्चिकै महानायक हुन् ।

Koirala Kishor Of course bro he is legend, he is great and the perfect leader, he deserve Salam

Koirala Kishor Prachanda ko kan samaune uth bas garaune girija nei ho, aru koi cha, kunei ko bau AMA le chora chori janmayeko cha, prachanda ko pani leader bau girija

Shova Acharya we miss u girija babu