Nepal | October 24, 2020

Hunger strike by youth activists enters sixth day

Ujjwal Satyal
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Iih, 26, who initiated ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign demanding effective handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the government, has been on fastunto-death in a sattal (rest house) at Patan Durbar Square as his hunger strike entered the sixth day today.

Iih has been joined by three youths, who have also refrained from eating and drinking to exert pressure on the government to adopt prompt mechanism to fight the pandemic. The youths are Sudan Gurung, Subani Sijapati and Pukar Bam. Gurung and Sijapati were admitted to Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital two days ago as their health deteriorated. They have been given saline water at the hospital but have refused to eat food to continue their protest.

The youths, including Iih are a part of apolitical protest which has been supported mostly by people who would otherwise not involve in politics.

Hundreds of such people took to the street a few weeks ago, protesting the government’s lack of urgency, transparency and accountability to tackle COVID-19. The movement spread along major cities across the country. The government turned a deaf ear to their demands and used force to subdue the protesters.

Refusing to be silenced, Iih and his supporters joined satyagraha.

“Our call for truth is not only for the government but also for the general public, whom we urge to stand for their rights. They should demand proper quarantine facility, PCR tests and transparency in its work from the government,” said Iih, adding, “Our frustration is that the government still does not understand the gravity of the situation created by the pandemic. It has been handling the cases with sheer negligence and it is not sincere towards its duty.”

Dozens of supporters of the movement gathered around the satal in solidarity with the movement today. They have demanded to increase the number of polymerase chain reaction test, which is considered reliable and scrapping of the rapid diagnostic test, the result of which does not always yield exact truth about the contraction of the virus.

They have also called to change quarantine strategy by not releasing anyone from a quarantine facility without PCR test. Their other demands include preventing the spread of the disease at the community level and government’s commitment towards its work of containing the virus outbreak.

Many people expressing solidarity with the hunger strike also joined relay-hunger-strike, which has been continued for 478 hours. Dozens of people have also joined the ongoing non-stop running programme at Durbar Square as a symbolic form of protest against the government’s incompetence in handling of the disease. Former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, also a senior leader of Janta Samajbadi Party-Nepal and lawmaker Gagan Kumar Thapa visited Satyagrahis expressing solidarity with them. No government authorities have contacted the protesters till date.

Meanwhile, police arrested 15 demonstrators of the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign as they were staging a protest against the government in front of the prime minister’s official residence in Baluwatar, this evening.

 A version of this article appears in e-paper on July 2, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.


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