Protest against naming of Koshi Province intensifiesOn Tuesday, 25 people were injured when protesters clashed with the police in Biratnagar.
Deo Narayan Sah
There is no sign of abatement of the protests against the naming of ‘Koshi’ Province. The activists advocating identity-based nomenclature have intensified agitation against the provincial assembly’s decision to name the far-eastern province of Nepal as Koshi.
Violent clashes ensued in Biratnagar, the provincial headquarters of Koshi, on Tuesday in which 25 people were injured, some seriously. Security personnel used water cannons and lobbed 36 teargas canisters to disperse the protesters.
Chief of Morang District Police Deepak Pokharel said the clash ensued when the protesters attempted to breach the security barricades. The policemen were compelled to use force after the protesters started pelting them with stones, claimed Pokharel.
The protest, by the Province 1 Renaming Joint Struggle Committee, was staged outside Big Hotel at Roadshesh Chowk of Biratnagar where the provincial lawmakers were scheduled to attend an interaction on the Resource Management for Achieving Sustainable Development Goals. The event was called off due to the protest.
According to the District Police Office, 19 protesters and six security personnel sustained injuries in the sporadic clashes. Chief District Officer Tirtharaj Bhattari said the protesters sustained minor injuries in the incident and they are now in normal health conditions.
Some political parties that lobby for identity-based politics, ethnic and cultural organisations called the protest demanding renaming of the province to reflect ethnic identity. Kirat Yakthung Chumlung, Kirat Rai Yayokkha and the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities have been coordinating the protest.
Meanwhile, the protesters have expanded their agitation in various districts of the province. Some agitators manhandled the ward chairman of Urlabari Municipality-6. Ward chief Chintamani Paudel was injured in the incident that took place as the protesters attempted to padlock the ward office. Paudel lodged a complaint at the Area Police Office in Urlabari demanding action against the assailants. The struggle committee also padlocked the office of Urlabari Municipality.
In Panchthar, the activists padlocked the office of Phalelung Rural Municipality on Tuesday. They locked the offices of chief administrative officer, account branch and administration branch. The struggle committee wrote letters to all the local units in Koshi Province asking them to close their offices from March 28 to 31.
The number of participants in favour of renaming the province has increased mainly after the death of a protester on March 24. The police allegedly baton-charged protesters, during which one Padam Limbu Lajehang had sustained serious head injuries in Biratnagar on March 19. He succumbed to the injuries while undergoing treatment after five days. Lajehang, 42, of Dharan-15 was the central co-commander of the Limbuwan Volunteer affiliated to Sanghiya Loktantrik Rastriya Manch led by Kumar Lingden.
The federal government formed a six-member committee headed by joint secretary of the Home Ministry Ram Bandhu Subedi to probe into the death. The committee is yet to submit its report.
Dakendra Singh Limbu, member of the struggle committee and chairman of Kirat Dharma Tatha Sahitya Utthan Sangh, said that they would continue to protest unless the province was named again based on identity. The protest will be further intensified, he warned.