Government shows caution ahead of Prasai’s planned demonstrationKathmandu and Lalitpur declare no-go areas. CPN-UML and Durga Prasai shown different venues to stage protests.
The Lalitpur District Administration on Tuesday issued a prohibitory order banning demonstrations, mass meetings, protests and gatherings in the Pulchowk area for six months.
The ban covers areas like the residences of ministers, the UN building, the National Human Rights Commission and the areas adjoining the major establishments.
The move comes a day after the Kathmandu District Administration Office issued a similar order banning protests and demonstrations along the Maitighar-New Baneshwar road in view of possible clashes between the supporters of controversial businessman Durga Prasai and the UML on Thursday. The UML has timed its demonstration to coincide with Prasai’s demonstration. Protests and demonstrations are also banned around the President's Office and the prime minister’s residence in Baluwatar.
In the wake of the announcement of a demonstration by Prasai, who now advocates the restoration of Hindu state and monarchy, calling for public participation purportedly to overthrow the current republican regime, the government appears set on averting a clash by imposing the restrictions.
A senior home ministry official told the Post that the government will spare no effort to prevent a clash between UML cadres and Prasai supporters. A detailed security arrangement is being planned involving the Nepal Army. “Since we received intelligence that Prasai and his supporters are descending on Kathmandu in large numbers and will stage demonstrations for a week, we are geared to quell any clashes if they happen.”
The home ministry, through the local administration, has designated two different places for the UML and Prasai to demonstrate on Thursday. The UML has been asked to hold its protest at Tinkune in Kathmandu while Prasai and his supporters have been asked to stage their show at Balkhu.
But why is the government so anxious and announced the back-to-back prohibitory orders in Kathmandu and Lalitpur? Does Prasai really pose a threat to the current regime, republicanism, and secularism?
“No, there is no such threat to the present political system, but it seems some forces are trying to challenge the system,” said Pradeep Gyawali, UML’s deputy general secretary, adding, “we sense some elements are working behind the curtain, but we cannot say for sure who they are.”
Prasai has formed “Rastra, Rastriyata, Dharma-Sanskriti and Nagarik Bachau Andolan” (citizen’s movement for the protection of nation, nationalism, religion and culture) and is urging people to come to Kathmandu for a decisive movement. It has set up the movement’s office at Parisdanda in Kathmandu.
But the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which also advocates the restoration of the Hindu state and monarchy, has not extended support to Prasai’s movement.
RPP leaders said there are two different lines in the party on whether to support Prasai’s campaign and movement.
“It is the government’s duty to maintain law and order to quell the possible demonstration. But politically speaking, parties like the RPP are not supporting Prasai’s movement. Second, Prasai does not have any base or support from the public. He is just trying to capitalise on public frustration against the government,” said Gyawali.
Security agencies are also trying to figure out possible external and internal connections to Prasai’s movement, which appears to be gathering momentum.
“We are looking at all possible angles, but have not found any clue yet,” a senior security official said.
“I am also surprised why the government is so nervous and scared with the protests called by one individual,” said former home secretary Chandi Shrestha. “Everyone has the right to speak, organise demonstrations and raise their voices against public suffering.”
Sources said that Nepal Police Inspector General Basanta Kunwar also met Prasai and asked him to either stop the demonstration or not create disturbance in Kathmandu, but Prasai reportedly refused to stop the planned demonstration.
“Should our political leadership not pay serious attention to bad governance that led people like Prasai to command the mass and garner support overnight? How has this situation come about?” said Shrestha.
A Nepali Congress leader said that the government cannot fulfill Prasai's demands. “He threatened to receive affiliation for his Jhapa-based hospital to run the higher medical education, which is not possible. Second, it is also impossible to waive his loans totalling billions of rupees taken from different banks and financial institutions,” the leader said.
But Congress’ head of the publicity department, Min Bishwakarma said the government might take some measures to provide relief to thousands of people who were victimised by cooperatives and microfinance companies.
“The government should take ownership of those who were duped and become the victims of cooperatives and microfinance firms that have been unable to return the deposits of thousands of people. The remaining political issues will be dealt with accordingly,” Bishowkarma said.
One of the reasons behind banning TikTok and issuing the social media directive by the government was to quell the negative publicity and propaganda against the government and not give space and platforms like Prasai, said officials.
But the ban has had little impact on social media users as many are using VPN apps to access TikTok. Prasai is popular on social media sites like TikTok and his videos, interviews, and public speech are immensely popular on platforms like TikTok.
Prasai neither has a party, nor organisation nor basis nor ideology, said Ganesh Adhikari, former head of the Department of Intelligence. “But why the government and leaders of major political parties are scared so much is curious.
“I am also surprised why the UML is railing against Prasai.”
Adhikari said the government and major political parties should focus on delivery, governance and system.