Protests continue in Butwal against provincial government’s decision to designate Deukhuri as provincial capitalThe district administration has enforced a four-day-long prohibitory order in major places of Butwal starting Sunday morning.
Protests against Province 5 government’s decision to name Deukhuri in Dang as the provincial capital continued in some of the major cities in the province on Sunday.
Members of the business community, political parties, various social organisations and the locals staged demonstrations in Butwal on Sunday, defying the prohibitory order enforced by the District Administration Office in Rupandehi. The protesters demanded that Butwal in Rupandehi be declared the capital of Province 5.
Butwal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Rupandehi Industry Association, Rupandehi Trade Association and other organisations of hotel, restaurant and transportation entrepreneurs had formed a joint struggle committee on Saturday. The meeting of the committee had decided to launch protests on Sunday.
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 district administration on Saturday enforced a four-day-long prohibitory order in major places of Butwal starting Sunday morning. However, demonstrators took out a protest rally from Chauraha in Butwal that converged into a corner meeting at Traffic Chowk after moving around the city. The protesters chanted anti-government slogans and warned the leaders to respect people’s sentiments.
Addressing the corner meeting, Khim Bahadur Hamal, the chairman of the joint struggle committee, said that the government has decided to shift the provincial capital from Butwal by ignoring the contributions of the private sectors.
Butwal is the temporary capital of the province.
“The business community even provided their private buildings to the government. We will not accept the government’s decision at any cost,” he said.
The main opposition, Nepali Congress, called a general strike in Rupandehi on Sunday as a protest to the government's decision. NC activists took to the streets and burnt tyres in several places of the district. According to the Area Police Office in Butwal, the strike enforcers vandalised a vehicle for defying the strike at Debinagar.
Cadres of the NC and its sister organisations staged demonstrations at Pushpalal Park, Traffic Chowk, Laxminagar, Bidhyut Chowk and Golpark, among other places of Butwal; Devkota Chowk and Buddha Chowk of Siddharthanagar; Manigram, Shankarnagar and Yogikuti of Tilottama; Saljhandi of Sainamaina and Khaireni Chowk of Devdaha. Vehicular movement came to a halt while marketplaces and factories remained shut in these areas due to the strike.
The NC supporters also burnt tyres in front of the house of Lila Giri, the provincial Minister for Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment, in Butwal.
Meanwhile, the Kapilvastu district committee of the Nepali Congress has demanded that Kapilvastu be declared as the capital of Province 5.
“We will launch protest programmes from Monday to pressurise the government to address our demand,” said NC district president Surendra Acharya.
On Sunday evening, demonstrators hurled stones at Chief Minister Shankar Pokharel’s vehicle near Milanchowk in Butwal.
Bhumishwor Dhakal, chief whip of the Nepal Communist Party in Province 5 Assembly, said the vehicle’s window panes were smashed but Pokharel remained unhurt in the incident. Police have arrested 10 people on charges of throwing stones at Pokharel’s vehicle.
Pokharel had gone to Kathmandu on Saturday to forge consensus with the opposition parties regarding the provincial capital. A source said he attempted to meet with NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba but was unsuccessful. According to the source, NCP chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal later called Deuba and talked about the fresh debate of the provincial capital in Province 5.
At the initiation of the NCP parliamentary party, an all party meeting was held at the provincial assembly secretariat on Sunday to forge a consensus regarding the provincial capital. The NCP, the Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal attended the meeting but Rastriya Janamorcha remained absent. The meeting failed to make any headway.
“The government has urged us to support the proposal tabled in the provincial assembly. But we asked them to withdraw the proposal and forge political consensus,” said Nirmala Chhetri, the NC whip of Province 5 assembly. According to her, the all party meeting ended with an agreement to sit again after consulting with the parties’ central leadership.
Meanwhile, the NCP Rupandehi district committee has also opposed the provincial government’s decision. Issuing a joint statement on Sunday, the district committee Chairman Shiva Subedi and Secretary Narayan Bahadur GC urged the government to withdraw its decision regarding the provincial capital. They also warned party leaders not to forget the assurance the government had given to the party during the elections to designate Butwal as the provincial capital.