Newars join stir demanding ethnic autonomy

Kathmandu, April 18:

The Newars, the indigenous people of Kathmandu Valley, have, though late, shown their solidarity with the ongoing movement for the restoration of democracy, while at the same time demanded ethnic autonomy of the Valley.

For the past three days, the core areas of Kathmandu and some parts of Patan and Bhaktapur have witnessed anti-King slogans, protest rallies and various other form of protests. As part of their strategy, the locals come out on the streets in low numbers and hold sporadic and simultaneous protest rallies. And everyday, core areas of Kathmandu darken after blackout. In similar vein, a lamp rally was taken around Itumbahal today.

There have been suggestions in political circles that the Newars, who played a decisive role in overthrowing the Panchayati system, are yet to come out in support of the ongoing movement. Newars have now taken to the street, but they are also demanding ethnic autonomy.

Among other indigenous people, activists of Loktantrik Newaa Sangharsha Samiti can now be seen on the streets with their own 12-point charter of demands. The body is an informal network of organisations led by activist Padma Ratna Tuladhar, who is presently in detention.

Talking to The Himalayan Times, Dr Mahesh Man Shrestha, the chairman of Newaa Rashtiraya Andonal, said: “The Newars have not been seen in the frontline this time around as they have had bitter experiences in the past. They are unable to repair leaking roofs while the erstwhile penniless leaders now possess property worth billions.”

Editor of Newari daily Sandhya Times, Suresh Kiran Manadhar, said: “Our main concern is ethnic autonomy. We were looking for it during the 1990 movement but failed to get it. We may get autonomy under monarchy if there is political will. And even under a republican set up, we might not meet our goals if people in power are not willing to listen to our voice,” he said.

On the other hand, addressing a programme organised by the SAP Nepal on the issue of participation of Valley residents in the agitation, Naresh Bir Shakya, general Secretary of Nepalbhasha Mankaa Khalaa, said the Newars were in the frontline of this movement as well.