Kathmandu, June 18
Under pressure from various quarters, the government today withdrew the controversial Guthi Bill.
The bill, which was registered in the National Assembly on April 30, sparked mass protests in Kathmandu valley as protesters claimed that the bill was against cultural conservation and favoured the land mafia.
Minister of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Padma Kumari Aryal informed about the bill’s withdrawal organising a press conference.
“Attempts are being made to mislead and provoke the people and spoil the peaceful environment,” she said. “Therefore, I have decided to withdraw the bill from the National Assembly after realising the need to hold additional consultations with the stakeholders concerned.”
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who had held a meeting with Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmakers from Kathmandu valley yesterday on the issue, welcomed the ministry’s decision.
“The ministry took the right decision,” said Oli at a separate press conference organised at Singha Durbar. “I strongly support the decision.”
Oli, however, added that the government had registered the bill with good intentions, but some elements were trying to fish in troubled waters by provoking and misleading the general public.
Oli said the bill’s major objective was to conserve heritage, culture and tradition. He claimed that the bill did not have any provision whereby the proposed Guthi Authority would operate guthis.
Stating that problems facing guthis in Kathmandu and outside were entirely different, he said people were being exploited in the name of guthis outside Kathmandu. “We are in favour of protecting guthis related to religion, culture, tradition and family values,” he said. “But negative publicity is being done to mislead the people.”
The prime minister urged all to stay away from elements that were trying to instigate conflict to sabotage democracy and added that there was no need to take to the streets as issues could be settled through dialogue.
Protesters, however, say the withdrawal of the bill and subsequent statement of the prime minister is far from convincing.
Ganapati Lal Shrestha, coordinator of the National Identity Protection Joint Struggle Committee, said they wanted the bill to be scrapped so that a fresh one could be drafted in consultation with guthi trustees, farmers, experts and other stakeholders from across the country. He said they would continue their protests until the government scrapped the bill. Guthi activists have planned a massive demonstration at Maitighar Mandala tomorrow.
The activists also flayed the minister and the prime minister for the language they used. “It is regretful that the minister and the prime minister termed such spontaneous protests as misled and provoked,” said Shrestha. “If the bill is not scrapped by tomorrow, we will launch a decisive protest.”
Earlier, the ministry had issued a press release stating that the bill would be revised after consultations with stakeholders, but it failed to convince protesters.
Stakeholders are against the bill’s provisions to allow anybody who has occupied guthi land to acquire ownership certificates; bring all private, public and raj guthis under the proposed Guthi Authority ending the role of existing trustees; convert private guthis into public guthis; and give sweeping powers to chief trustees (mathadheesh and pujaris).
According to Guthi Sansthan, raj guthis have an estimated 66,000 bigha land in the Tarai, and around 561,000 ropanis in the hills. There are around 2,335 registered raj guthis. Although private guthis are not registered with the Sansthaan, it estimates their number to be in excess of 5,000.
A version of this article appears in print on June 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.