Police intervene in ‘save heritage’ rally

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Mar 29, 2018-

At least eight people were injured in the Capital on Wednesday when security personnel intervened in a rally that was taken out by the residents from different parts of Kathmandu Valley to protest what they call an illegal takeover of private properties and heritage areas by the state in the name of infrastructure development projects. 

Hundreds of people, including the residents of Khokana, had gathered at the Maitighar Mandala to protest against the proposed Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway, Outer Ring Road Development Project, Bagmati Corridor, satellite city, high-tension power line project and the ongoing road expansion in different parts of the Kathmandu Valley. After the gathering concluded at Maitighar Mandala, the crowd marched towards New Baneshwor. 

It was then when security personnel intervened to stop the rally from advancing towards the prohibited zone. Batons were swung, tear gas shells were discharged,  water canons were fired and arrests were made. Thirteen protesters were apprehended from the melee. 

The protesters later accused the state of suppressing their peaceful rally by use of excessive force.

The rally had brought together several campaigning groups from different parts of the Valley unhappy with the government’s development projects that could potentially displace many Newar families from their native land and in the process wipe out their centuries-long heritage. 

Heritage conservationists, political activists, culture experts, trade union representatives, among others, had joined the rally to express their solidarity with the cause. 

Addressing the gathering at Maitighar Mandala earlier in the day, Nepali Congress leader Tirtha Man Dongol said: “These development projects are part of a big conspiracy against the Newar community and their cultural heritages. The state is trying to displace the communities that have been already living there for centuries.”

Foreign affairs expert Hiranya Lal Shrestha said, “If development means destroying culture and heritage, then we are happy with gravel roads. Foreign tourists 

come here to see these traditions and monuments, not for the concrete buildings and shiny roads.” Locals of Khokana have long been protesting against these development projects. They say they were neither taken on board nor were paid enough compensation when the state acquired their land. Their biggest concern is the projects that could threaten many religious sites and heritages that are part of their identity. 

The protesters accused the government of spreading “Bulldozer Terror” on indigenous communities and their heritage sites.

Recently, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had also expressed its 

concern about the possible displacement of Khokana residents due to the proposed Kathmandu-Tarai Expressway project. 

It had reminded the government of the ILO Convention 169, ratified by Nepal in 2007, that essentially protects the rights of indigenous people and their heritages.

The AHRC had urged the government to consider changing the expressway alignment along the west bank of the Bagmati river to preserve the land and cultural sites. 

Published: 29-03-2018 07:30

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