Kathmandu, June 19

Thousands of people from the Newar community gathered at Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu today to protest the government’s move to undermine Newari culture and tradition by introducing a new law on guthi. Elderly people, children, politicians, artists and people of all ages took part in the protest.

The protest was held despite the government’s withdrawal of the controversial Guthi Bill, which had courted criticism and sparked mass protests. The bill aimed to change the operation modality and ownership structure of guthis, which, many say, would pave the way for the land mafia to make hay.

Protesters warned the government against repeating the mistake of infringing upon the rights of guthis, which, they said, had played a key role in preserving the nation’s culture and tradition.

Protesters were miffed at ministers who had referred to them as ‘people hired to support feudalists’. Ministers at the receiving end of protesters outburst include Padma Kumari Aryal, minister of land management, cooperatives and poverty alleviation, who had registered the bill at the upper house of the Parliament; Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa, who allegedly allowed police to use excessive force against protesters staging peaceful rally on the first day of the protest against the Guthi Bill; and Gokul Prasad Banskota, minister of communications and information technology, who had said activities of guthis were remnants of a feudal system

“These ministers must resign,” Yadav Lal Kayastha, a cultural activist and a guthiyar, told the mass gathering.

“Newars do not have a feudal mindset. It is the government that has a feudal mindset as it used force on peaceful protesters and introduced the bill without holding consultation with stakeholders,” said Suraj Manandhar, a rights activist from Save Nepa Valley.

Many protesters are cross with the government even after withdrawal of the controversial bill because of the demeaning language used at the time of the bill’s withdrawal. The government, in a statement issued yesterday, had said it was withdrawing the Guthi Bill as “attempts were made to mislead and provoke people and spoil the peaceful environment”.

“We have not been hired as claimed by the government that wants to create a rift in our ranks. What we saw on the streets in the past few days and today was a spontaneous outpouring of people hurt by the government’s statement,” said Ganapati Lal Shrestha, coordinator of the National Identity Protection Joint Struggle Committee.

Today’s protests saw participation of Newars from around 32 major Newar settlements in the valley. Renowned singer Yogeshwor Amatya, music composer Nyuhu Bajracharya and Newars from Dhulikhel and Banepa joined the protest.