Khokana residents blame govt for displacing NewarsWhat should have been the reason for celebration for locals of Khokana in Lalitpur, the site for numerous major development projects, has become rather the source of trouble for residents as they have come out strongly protesting against these projects.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
What should have been the reason for celebration for locals of Khokana in Lalitpur, the site for numerous major development projects, has become rather the source of trouble for residents as they have come out strongly protesting against these projects.
The voices of objection against these projects have been growing louder since the Nepal Army, on last Saturday, reached the project site of the Kathmandu-Tarai Express-way and started setting up temporary camps.
A group of conservationists, cultural experts, campaigners and environmentalists, on Saturday, came together in solidarity with locals of Khokana, protesting long for various projects intersecting in their locality.
Khokana has five key development projects—the Expressway, the Outer Ring Road Development Project, the Bagmati Corridor, a Satellite City, and a high-tension power line.
Residents of Khokana, a traditional Newari settlement in Southern Lalitpur, blame the government for launching attack on their religious heritages, livelihood and their indigenous identity as a whole through these impending projects without caring about their concerns.
According to Nepal Sanskritik Punarjaagaran Abhiyan central member Ashoj Kumar Maharjan these development projects threaten century-long civilisation of the Newar community, and their other significant socio-cultural heritage sites.
“All these projects will come here as proposed; they will badly affect our archaeological sites like Ku-Dey, which is related to the origin of Khokana. They will encroach Sikali, the site of annual jatra celebration Sikali, and the temple of Pigha, ancestral deity of the locals,” said Maharjan, criticising Nepal Army for reaching the project site while locals have already put forth their reservations.
Locals have also been critical of Nepal Army, which is constructing the Expressway, for moving ahead with the work while discussions regarding locals’ concerns were still underway.
“Does the Nepal Army that goes out on peace-keeping missions not have to abide by international laws protecting indigenous communities? Rather than stopping compensation distribution for now, as we have requested, they have come to the site with bulldozers and setting up tents. How can they even build camp on land belonging to locals?” asked Maharjan.
Locals have been infuriated with the proposal that NA was seeking more lands for logistic and camp arrangements in Khokana, where nearly 60 per cent of its total land area would go into all the projects, said Maharjan.
According to locals, a series of meetings between affected locals, concerned agencies including NA, and political parties were held in order to address the concerns raised by locals. A meeting held at the on August 10, 2017 at the District Administration Office had decided to go with the land pooling model for three projects—Outer Ring Road, high-tension power line and Bagmati Corridor—which would require less areas of land of locals.
Another meeting held in the presence of Pampha Bhushal, the elected Member of Parliament from Lalitpur 3 constituency, concluded that the alignment of the Expressway project could be changed to protect their
cultural heritage sites, which would otherwise be submerged in the land retained for the 76.2 km track.
Another meeting on January 22, 2018 proposed a new survey and timely
revision of compensation for land acquisition, another major demand of protesting locals. They have urged the concerned agencies for abiding by the decisions agreed during these discussions.
Besides the Expressway, conservationists have also voiced their dissatisfaction over the proposed Outer Ring Road Project, a 72-km stretch, which will pass through the core of Newari settlements, displacing them from their own native land.
“Outer ring road project alignment will directly hit
traditional Newari settlements like Tokha, Thankot, Bungmati, Khokana and Harisiddhi. This is like ethnic cleansing of Newars in the name of development,” said Suraj Maharjan, campaigner from Save Nepa Valley.
Environmentalist Bhushan Tuladhar said such development projects should be designed keeping people in mind. Without taking locals on board, they would not benefit anyone.
“We are destroying these living heritages at the cost of national pride projects. Isn’t the rich civilisation of Khokana the real national pride of the country rather than those development projects? How can we look out for pride in infrastructure projects at the cost of damaging what we already have?” asked Tuladhar.