Locals and police clash in Pulchowk over pulling of Rato Machhindranath chariotSecurity personnel used force to disperse the crowd after people defied calls to abide by prohibitory orders to pull the chariot to the middle of the road.
Police and public clashed on Thursday afternoon in Pulchowk of Lalitpur after locals attempted the chariot procession of Rato Machhindranath.
According to Senior Superintendent Tek Prasad Rai, chief of Lalitpur Metropolitan Police Range, around 800 people had gathered in Pulchowk to pull the chariot. A clash ensued when police tried to stop them from pulling the chariot in view of the coronavirus restrictions.
“Since people had arrived in huge numbers, police alone were unable to control the crowd,” said Rai. “So we sought the help of the Nepal Army.”
Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Details were yet to arrive on injuries.
The Lalitpur District Administration Office renewed the prohibitory orders in the district on Wednesday for a week, along with the district administration offices of Kathmandu and Bhakatpur, citing the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the Valley.
All non-essential services have been banned.
According to Rai, earlier on Thursday morning, people in small numbers had gathered in Pulchowk to pull the chariot.
“Security personnel managed to turn them away. But later people gathered in huge numbers in the afternoon,” said Rai.
The Machindranath chariot procession was to start this year on April 24. It, however, could not, as the country was under lockdown since March 24 to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Then there was uncertainty if the chariot procession, known as Machhindranath jatra, would be held this year, even though
Chandra Maharjan, who coordinates the festival, said discussions were being held to decide whether to carry on with the jatra this year.
“We were in a meeting with a guthi committee in charge of the festival when we heard that people were pulling the chariot,” Maharjan told the Post. “We were not part of what happened earlier today. Today’s incident does not involve the main stakeholders and we don’t recognise those who attempted to pull the chariot.”
Lalitpur Mayor Chiribabu Maharjan said his office was awaiting the decision of the meeting of Guthi Sansthan and Jyapu Samaj.
According to Rai, the situation is now under control.
“The chariot, however, is now in the middle of the road,” said Rai. “Local authorities will decide whether to pull it back to its original location or move it forward.”