Kathmandu, December 14
A day after Kathmandu Metropolitan City Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya said that Occupy Tundikhel campaign was a politically motivated publicity stunt, the campaigners have used excavator to clear the debris and level a portion of Khula Manch.
Locals of Kathmandu with the support of social activists and members of civil society had launched Occupy Tundikhel campaign and it has entered the sixth week today.
The campaign was launched to exert pressure on the government to stop encroachment of Khula Manch, a part of Tundikhel and allow easy access to the public to the Nepali Army’s pavilion.
KMC mayor, who is unwilling to meet the campaigners and heed their demands, said at a press meet yesterday that the campaign was a publicity stunt of a handful of people.
Khula Manch, an open area in the heart of the city, was in the past used as a major venue for all kinds of political activities. Khula Manch is also remembered for providing refuge to thousands of people during the 2015 earthquakes. But since then, one-third of the open space has been used as a bus park. Similarly, a large portion of the open space has been used to store construction materials for the under-construction Dharahara and Durbar High School. A little space remaining in the front part of Khula Manch has also been used as a parking lot with tacit permission from KMC.
Activists today, after clearing the debris from the area, said that Khula Manch should not be under KMC’s jurisdiction. Alok Siddhi Tuladhar, a heritage activist and one of the key persons of the campaign, said, “Today we have shown that it is not a big deal for the authorities to clear Khula Manch, what they lack is willingness to do so.”
According to historians, before 1950, Tundikhel covered the area ranging form Dasharath Stadium in the south to Rani Pokhari in the north. The area, which has been occupied by Nepali Army’s headquarters at present from Shahidgate in the north to Dasharath Stadium in the South was a part of Tundikhel until 1967, according to Bhimsen Das Pradhan, a lawmaker.
At present, the area of Tundikhel has shrunk to the Nepali Army’s Pavilion adjoining Khula Manch, which is not open for the public.
Similarly, Khula Manch is also not open to the general public anymore. More than two-thirds of the area is occupied by construction materials meant for different construction projects. The remaining area is used as bus park, leaving no space for the public.
A version of this article appears in print on December 15, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.