Kathmandu, June 17
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli today met Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmakers from Kathmandu valley to dwell on the Guthi Bill and told them that he would take a call on the issue after holding discussion in the Cabinet.
NCP lawmaker from Kathmandu Constituency No 8 Jeevan Ram Shrestha told the PM that the best option for the government would be to withdraw the bill as it attempted to treat all guthis — private and public — in the same manner.
Shrestha said he told the PM that outside Kathmandu valley farmers might have reason to claim tenancy right on guthi land, “but in Kathmandu, guthis have become an integral part of Newar community’s social life. Guthis play vital role in promoting and protecting Newar culture.” He said if the bill was passed in the current form, it could destroy the Newar community’s culture and traditions.
He said he told the PM that the government should withdraw the current Guthi Bill and start the process afresh proposing different solutions for different kinds of guthis.
NCP lawmaker Krishna Lal Maharjan, who represents the party in the House of Representatives from Lalitpur Constituency No 2, said almost all the lawmakers who spoke during consultations urged the PM to withdraw the bill. “Almost all the speakers told the PM that the bill had both positive and negative aspects, but since protest is growing day by day against the bill, it will be better if the government withdraws the bill now,” Maharjan said. He added that although the PM did not assure them that he would withdraw the bill, he was hopeful that the PM would act as per the suggestions of the lawmakers.
Prime Minister’s Press Adviser Kundan Aryal said the PM told lawmakers that the government would take a decision on the bill as per their views.
Among those consulted by the PM included House of Representatives members Krishna Lal Maharjan, Krishna Gopal Shrestha, Pampha Bhusal, Province 3 assembly members Ajay Kranti Shakya and Basant Prasad Manandhar and Mayor of Kathmandu metropolis Bidya Sundar Shakya.
The PM’s Private Secretariat issued a press release stating that the PM told party lawmakers that he had been holding consultations on the bill and would soon take an appropriate decision on it.
Before consulting lawmakers, the PM had consulted Minister of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Padma Kumari Aryal on the bill. Aryal declined to divulge the details of what she told the PM. When asked whether as line minister she was ready to withdraw the bill, Aryal said, “Some rumours are being spread against the bill and the government has a duty to dispel doubts about the bill’s provisions. But the government is ready to revise the bill if any provision of the bill or its phraseology adversely impacts people’s religion and culture,” she said. Aryal added that the PM’s statement delivered after his return from Europe tour echoed her feelings.
Prior to meeting the PM, ruling party lawmakers representing Kathmandu valley also met senior NCP leader and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to express their concerns.
Maharjan said party lawmakers told Nepal that withdrawing the Guthi Bill would best serve the party’s interests in the face of growing protest against the bill. Nepal said he supported their stance on the bill.
Party lawmakers had told Nepal to convey their concerns to the PM, but since the PM wanted to hear lawmakers’ grievances directly from them, Nepal did not say anything to the PM today, according to Maharjan.
Meanwhile, stakeholders and guthi operators continued their protest against the bill today. Protesters took to the streets in Basantpur, Thecho and Bangemuda. Locals are preparing to protest against the bill in Banepa of Kavrepalanchowk district tomorrow. Member of Save Nepa Valley Suraj Maharjan said they were preparing to hold a large rally in Kathmandu on June 19 in which people from Newar community from Kathmandu valley would come to Maitighar Mandala to protest the bill.
A version of this article appears in print on June 18, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.