Police use force against those protesting Guthi BillConservationists, Guthi representatives are demanding withdrawal of the bill
At least six people were injured on Sunday when police used force to disperse heritage conservationists, locals and stakeholders who were protesting the proposed Guthi Bill that the government has quietly moved to Parliament without holding proper consultation.
Representatives of over three dozen Guthis (trusts) from Kathmandu Valley, heritage conservationists and locals have been demanding that the government withdraw the bill, which they say could result in loss of Guthi land.
“We were protesting peacefully. But all of a sudden, security forces used water cannons and charged batons,” said Macha Raja Dangol, treasurer of Naradevi Guthi. “We will continue our protest until the government withdraws the bill and agrees to revise it.”
Police also detained four protesters—Mahesh Man Shrestha, Kedar Maharjan, Bikash Maharjan and Anish Baidhya.
Cultural experts and academicians have also been protesting the bill, saying if passed, this could pave the way for “land mafia” to misuse Guthi’s property.
According to “Nepalma Guthiko Mahatwa Ra Upadeyata” [The importance and usefulness of Guthi in Nepal] published by Nepal Guthi Samrakshan Pucha, there are 2,335 public Guthis in Nepal under Guthi Sansthan, an umbrella body to oversee such trusts. And there is 756,000 bigha of land under Guthi across the country.
In an interaction last week, Kedar Bhakta Mathema, fromer Tribhuvan University vice-chancellor and chairman of the pucha, a group dedicated to the preservation of Guthi, said the bill needs to be stopped at any cost as it has been brought up without consulting with any of the stakeholders.
Bharat Jangam, a senior advocate who has been lobbying for a long time to take back the encroached Guthi land, said, “This bill is going to destroy our lifelong tradition, both tangible and intangible heritage gifted by our ancestors.”
“The bill has been brought up to attack our heritage and culture,” he said.
Currently, individuals can build their houses in land owned by Guthi after paying a certain amount, but the ownership of such land cannot be transferred to an individual. However, if the bill is endorsed, the ownership of such land can be transferred to an individual by filing an application.
According to Guthi Sansthan, Guthi practice was developed as an earlier concept of the cooperative system as a community organisation and this has been at work for centuries