Nepal | September 24, 2020

Peaceful protesters beaten up

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Police personnel today baton-charged and sprayed water on hundreds of youths who were peacefully protesting in front of the prime minister’s residence in Baluwatar.

Demonstrators were protesting the government’s lack of insight in imposing the nationwide lockdown which has not only crippled businesses, but proved to be ineffective in curbing the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which has spread to 72 districts.

The demonstrators were particularly irked by the government’s directive to businesses and the public to clear their tax dues at a time when most businesses were shut due to the nationwide lockdown.

The protest was peaceful until police suddenly pounced on demonstrators with batons and water cannon.

“Everything was peaceful and we were cordially talking to police personnel. But, as soon as a high-level police officer came to the area, he ordered his subordinates to clear the path,” Dinesh Wagle, who was among protesters, told THT over the phone. “Many of us were chased for more than 500 metres up to Bhatbhateni, while others were chased down the narrow lanes,” said another protester Rohit Shrestha.

Demonstrators were also protesting the government’s recently-issued COVID testing guidelines that allow asymptomatic patients to be discharged from hospitals.

This particular guideline is likely to result in a large number of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients getting discharged and spreading the virus.

Protesters were also demanding that the polymerase chain reaction tests, which are considered largely reliable, be increased and sought the scrapping of the rapid diagnostic tests, which do not always give the correct diagnosis.

They were also protesting against the government’s lack of transparency about its expenditure on fighting the deadly virus in the last two months. The government has claimed that it had spent a whopping Rs 10 billion in its bid to check the spread.

Protesters were displaying placards with slogans such as ‘Kharcha hoina Upalabdhi Dekhau’ (show us results, not expenditure), ‘Down with Government’s Incompetence’, ‘Time to Sanitise Our Government’ and ‘Expand PCR Testing’.

Seven protesters were arrested, but were released later in the day.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on June 10, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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