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Residents criticise decision to ban rallies at Maitighar

- Anup Ojha, Kathmandu

Apr 17, 2018-Many residents on Monday criticised the government’s decision to ban demonstrations at Maitighar Mandala on social media forums. Most people said the ban is anti democracy and ‘against people’s right to demonstrate peacefully’.

In his tweet, Nimesh Dhungana describes the government’s decision as ‘unjust’ and ‘curtailing’ people’s fundamental democratic rights. “An unjustified move to curtail people’s fundamental democratic right to organise, protest and demonstrate at the place of their choosing.”

The Maitighar Mandala, across the road in southern part of Singha Durbar, in the past one decade has become the site for public demonstrations. General public, representatives from civil societies, forums, workers’ and students’ unions often gather here to amplify their grievances and demands to the government.

The Chief District Administration Office Kathmandu on Sunday banned demonstrations at Maitighar Mandala following the Ministry of Home Affairs directive. The ministry has listed seven locations to hold processions and demonstrations April 29 onwards.

“How will protesting, for example, against CIAA in Pepsicola be effective? Peaceful protest at the door is allowed in almost every democratic country. You can protest at Penn Avenue and Downing Street, but doing so at Maitighar Mandala is anarchy”, Tweets Acharya Anurag.

Maitighar Mandala remained the rallying centre for student union-led demonstrations to compel political parties to pass the impeachment motion against former CIAA Chief Commissioner Lokman Singh Karki. Various student groups and people from civil societies protested at Maitighar Mandala to put pressure on former Chief Justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli. The site has also seen the rise of activist Dr Govinda KC. He has raised public awareness in his fight against ‘mafia in medical college’.

Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s former Mayor Keshav Stapit had demolished illegally built private buildings that encroached on public land to establish Maitighar Mandala in 2002.

Talking to the Post, Stapit said, he is against the government’s new rule. “My vision was to make Maitighar Mandal a gathering place for peaceful demonstration, so that ministers in Singha Durbar and judges of the Supreme Court could see it and solve people’s problem,” said Stapit.

As per the government’s new rule, protesters can demonstrate at the Khullamanch, Tinkune, Bhuinkhel Chaur, Bagwanpau; Pepsicola Ground, Sano Gaucharan Ground and the vacant spaces at Lainchaur and Siphal Chaur. Another historic place Khullamanch (open air theatre), which is synonymous for public demonstration and a place that generally saw mass political assemblies in the past two years now has developed into public bus park and parking area for private vehicles.

Half of the 48-ropani land in Khulamanch functions as temporary bus terminus since 2016. The authorities have temporarily shifted the Purano Bus Park to the Khulamanch to construct the 12-storey Kathmandu View Tower. KMC uses the remaining portion of the land to extend free parking to private vehicles.

“What is the purpose of protesting in Kalanki or any other corner, in a democratic nation people can protest anywhere but without harming other or making traffic jam” said Stapit.

When the Post contacted Kedarnath Sharma, he said, the restriction is valid. “We have restricted Maitighar Mandala for protest as, it hampers the beautification work in the area and creates traffic nuisance. The government has already announced the places.  No doubt, the government will hear people’s voice protesting anywhere,” said Sharma.

The constitution (2072) gives Nepali citizens the right to conduct peaceful demonstrations. A section of civil society says the new rule is the first restriction on peaceful demonstration after the People’s Movement 1990 (end of Panchyat regime in the country). They accused the government of turning towards totalitarian regime.

Published: 17-04-2018 08:28

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