Decision to designate Deukhuri as capital of Province 5 sparks protestsFourteen provincial assembly members representing the NCP wrote a ‘note of dissent’ during the parliamentary party meeting.
Members of various political parties, social organisations and the general public took to the street in several places of Rupandehi to protest the Province 5 government’s proposal to designate Deukhuri of Dang as the provincial capital.
Stating that the proposal regarding the name and capital of Province 5 was registered without discussing with other political parties at the provincial assembly, the Nepali Congress, Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal and Rastriya Janamorcha demonstrated against the proposal.
Fourteen provincial assembly members of the ruling Nepal Communist Party wrote a note of dissent during the NCP parliamentary party meeting held on Saturday. Fifty-seven out of 61 NCP provincial assembly members attended the meeting. Twenty-one among them spoke during Saturday’s meeting and 14 of them—11 members representing Rupandehi and three from neighbouring Kapilvastu—wrote the note of dissent.
Provincial Minister for Internal Affairs and Law Kul Prasad KC on Friday registered a proposal at the Provincial Assembly to name Province 5 as Lumbini and Deukhuri as its capital. The proposal was tabled after the decision of NCP chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The NCP leadership has been criticised for intervening in the constitutional rights of the provincial assembly to determine the name and capital of the province.
The main opposition Nepali Congress announced a series of protests against the government’s decision. Birendra Prasad Kanaudiya, the NC parliamentary party leader, said his party stood against the proposal and has been launching protests demanding that the decision be withdrawn.
“The government completely ignored the opposition parties and the suggestion of the expert committee due to its arrogance of the two-thirds majority. The NCP took the decision against the spirit of loktantra and federalism,” said Kanaudiya.
The NC took out torch rallies in various places of Rupandehi on Saturday evening. The party has announced a general strike across the district on Sunday. According to NC district secretary Ramkrishna Khand, the party activists will stage demonstrations in front of the houses of NCP members representing in the provincial and federal parliaments on Sunday.
Local units in Rupandehi are also protesting against the decision. Issuing a joint statement on Saturday evening, the people’s representatives of 16 local units in the district have requested the government to withdraw the decision. NCP Butwal Municipal Committee also released a public statement and demanded that the decision be taken back.
The Butwal Chamber of Commerce and Industry has warned that it would protest against the decision. The Rupandehi Business Association has also requested the government to revise the proposal. The decision is not practical and is unforesightful, according to the association.
Civil society leaders, people’s representatives and rights activists started a relay hunger strike in Taulihawa, the district headquarters of Kapilvastu, from 4 pm on Saturday.
“Kapilvastu is the only district that is fit to be the provincial headquarters,” said Raufa Ahamad Khan, adding that they started the hunger strike demanding that Kapilvastu be made the capital of Province 5.
Sudip Paudel, chairman of Kapilvastu Ward No. 1, said, “Our hunger strike will continue until our demand is addressed. We have also started a signature campaign to show solidarity in the protest.”
Meanwhile, a scooter belonging to Tilottama Municipality was torched at Horizon Chok in Butwal on Friday evening. According to Sharada Bhattarai, officer at the Education Section of the municipality, the scooter was torched by a group of 15 to 20 individuals.
“I didn’t know people were protesting against the provincial headquarters proposal. I was on my way to Tilottama from Devinagar in Butwal. The protesters in Horizon Chowk stopped me and took the scooter away to be burnt,” she said.
On Saturday, the footage of the scooter being torched went viral on social media. Pratit Singh Rathour, DSP at the Area Police Office in Butwal, said, “The scooter was destroyed in the fire. We are searching for the arsonists.”
According to Rathour, five other government vehicles were also torched in various parts of Butwal on Friday.
Amrita Anmol and Sanju Paudel contributed reporting.