KMC to discuss squatter problem with government agencies and stakeholdersMunicipal police has charged 18 people from Thapathali squatter settlement with assault after staff injuries Monday.
The Kathmandu Metropolitan City, which on Monday tried to forcefully evict squatters from their settlement on the banks of the Bagmati river in Thapathali, has since softened on its approach. The city office has said that it would now be consulting with other government agencies for a solution.
On Monday, Raju Nath Panday, chief of the city police, and a large number of city police personnel under the command of Mayor Balendra Shah had reached the settlement in Thapathali with two excavators. But as soon as they reached the settlement, they faced aggressive retaliation from the squatters, resulting in violent clashes between the two sides.
Panday and over a dozen city police were injured as squatters attacked them with stones and brickbats. Three of them had to be admitted to the Intensive Care Centre in Norvic Hospital. The city police has lodged a First Information Report (FIR) at the District Police Range, Teku against 18 people who live in the settlement.
Mayor Shah, who was praised by a section of the people for demolishing the illegally built structures, deployed the city police at the squatter settlement after the High Powered Committee for Integrated Development of Bagmati Civilisation (HPCIDBC) sought KMC’s support in clearing the encroachments. He allegedly didn’t consult other concerned bodies.
The Committee had issued a notice to the squatters for a third time on November 11 to vacate the settlement by November 20.
Because of the eviction notice, more than 900 squatters around the Thapathali settlement have been living in constant fear of being attacked by the city police. They chanted slogans against Mayor Shah and home minister Bal Krishna Khad. Since the clashes, the squatters have been protesting against the City.
The committee's report shows that at present, as many as 34,096 squatter families are living on the banks of the Bagmati river.
Meanwhile, in an executive meeting of the City held on Wednesday, many ward representatives questioned Mayor Shah’s ‘immature’ decision and the consequences faced by the city police. They also sought the reasons behind a lack of cooperation among the security agencies.
“The city has cooperated with HPCIDBC and is in a drive to remove the illegal structures, that’s why we reached the settlement,” said Bhoop Dev Shah, secretary to Mayor Shah.
He said that the city will now go ahead consulting with the Urban Development Ministry, National Land Commission, Kathmandu Valley Development Authority (KVDA), HPCIDBC, National Land Commission, respective ward committees, representatives of squatters and other stakeholders.
Two days after the clashes between the City and squatters, the KVDA, on Wednesday, issued a 35-day notice to remove illegal structures constructed on encroached public lands. The authority has even warned of charging the costs incurred on the demolition drive from the concerned individuals or organisations if they didn’t remove such structures on their own.
“Sooner or later, we will regain the public land and no one will be allowed to encroach any public land,” said Shah, the mayor’s secretary.
The KMC officials also expressed their dissatisfaction with the security agencies for not giving their full support to the city police.
In Monday’s clashes, the squatters attacked the city police with stones, bricks and sharp weapons. They accused the Nepal Police and Armed Police Force who were deployed there in large numbers of remaining meek spectators to the violence in the area.
“The Home Ministry should either support the KMC or should clearly tell us that they can’t give us security,” Shah said. “If that’s the case, we would move on our own.”
Since Monday’s incident, the general public seems to be sharply divided. Some have applauded Mayor Shah, saying that he had taken the right decision to regain the public land by removing illegal settlers. Others, however, accused him of being ‘inhuman’, taking “immature steps without doing a proper study on issues like identifying the genuine squatters and the fake ones.”
Earlier, in May 2012, the Baburam Bhattarai-led government had demolished 251 squatter huts at the same settlement by deploying over 1,000 security personnel. To relocate the squatters, the government had then built a settlement at Ichangu Narayan in Nagarjun hills, spending Rs230 million. The buildings have remained unused since the squatters have refused to relocate.