Nepal | July 08, 2020

Mass at anti-guthi Bill protests swelling

Ujjwal Satyal
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Kathmandu, June 15

With more and more people, especially from the Newar community, joining the protest against the Guthi (Trust) Bill in all three districts of Kathmandu valley, the number of demonstrators has been swelling each day.

Today, they held placards demanding withdrawal of the bill from the Parliament.

Guthi operators in Kathmandu said that if the current Guthi Bill was enacted into law, it would allow the land mafia to capture guthi land and it would also adversely impact people’s culture, tradition and religious practices.

Thousands of members of Jyapu Mahaguthi, the largest of all guthis in Kathmandu, which had maintained silence till date, joined the protest at Basantapur area today morning demanding withdrawal of the bill.

Jyapu Mahaguthi comprises Newari farmers. Large numbers of Jyapus are still farmers and are still using guthi land for agriculture purposes.

The bill registered at the National Assembly has a provision allowing people who have been cultivating guthi land for a long time to own land through tenancy rights.

Despite these incentives in the bill, people from Jyapu Mahaguthi have joined the protest.

Suraj Maharjan, a cultural activist, said, “It is not about someone’s ownership of guthi land. The government has carefully drafted the Guthi Bill so as to divide the guthiyars (trustees) and support the land mafia. We know their game. That is why we have joined hands to ensure our traditional guthi rules remain sancrosanct.”

Prior to the protest by Jyapu Mahaguthi, locals of Basantapur area marched in the morning through the road where the traditional chariot pulling ceremony of Indra Jatra is celebrated. The programme was coordinated by activists of Save Nepa Valley Campaign.

Similarly, a protest was also witnessed around the old city area of Bhaktapur. Thousands of locals from all three districts of Kathmandu valley gathered near Siddhi Pokhari. They marched through Bhaktapur Durbar Square and held a corner meeting at Dattatraya square.

In a symbolic protest against the bill, people in Kathmandu valley have started hoisting black flags on the top of houses, poles, shelter homes and public places around core Newari settlements of Patan, Basantapur and Kirtipur.

Minister of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Padma Arya refused to comment on the ongoing protests.

Meanwhile ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker from Kathmandu Constituency 7, Ramvir Manandhar today flayed the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad Baskota’s remarks that guthis were vestiges of the feudal system. He said the minister should either retract his ‘objectionable comment’ or resign from his post. “We cannot accept such insulting remarks from the spokesperson of the government. He should either resign from the post or come up with a public apology for his statement.” He also said that the government should focus on addressing the demands of locals and stop fuelling their protest.

A version of this article appears in print on June 16, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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