Occupy Tundikhel activists to now reach out to President Bhandari and central government to free the city’s open area from encroachersThe vast public open space that offered shelter to thousands of earthquake survivors during the 1934 and 2015 earthquakes, once spanned nearly four kilometres.
They also tried to meet Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya to submit their letter of demand. However, Shakya turned down their request to meet them.
Given Shakya’s indifference toward preserving the Tundikhel, which has both cultural and historic significance, the campaigners have announced that they will take up the issue with President Bidhya Devi Bhandari next week. The Occupy Tundikhel campaigners are also planning to reach out to the government ministers and lawmakers.
“We went to the mayor’s office twice on November 9 and on November 24, before we started the Occupy Tundikhel campaign. We also tried to reach him last week, but the mayor didn’t show up, even though we had sent him a prior message,” Ganapati Lal Shrestha, one of the campaigners, told the Post.
He added the campaign members were currently trying to reach out to President Bhandari. “Because a major portion of the Tundikhel has been occupied by the Nepal Army, this problem has to be sorted out at the highest level,” said Shrestha.
Kathmandu Mayor Shakya has been a vocal critic of the Occupy Tundikhel campaign. He has in the past termed the movement “politically-motivated publicity stunt” and an attempt to“tarnish his reputation.”
The campaigners, however, feel that it is Mayor Shakya’s office which should be responsible for addressing their concern.
“This issue is supposed to be addressed by the local government. We tried to convince Mayor Shakya to take the lead in preserving the Tundikhel, but he ignored us. That’s why we are planning to reach out to the people above him,” said Alok Tuladhar, another campaigner.
The Tundikhel ground had served as a platform for political parties to voice their protest against the unilateral Panchayat system in 1990 and the 2006 People’s Movement. It had also offered shelter to thousands of earthquake survivors during the 1934 and 2015 earthquakes. The open ground once spanned nearly four kilometres - all the way from Rani Pokhari to Dasarath Stadium.
Instead of supporting the Occupy Tundikhel campaign, Mayor Shakya has emerged as a foe of the campaigners.
During the eighth week of the campaign, toward the end of December, Mayor Shakya had deployed security personnel to vandalise the paintings made by the campaigners at Khulla Manch.
Sanjay Adhikari, a student at the Kathmandu Law Campus, said the campaigners were also planning to knock the doors of the National Human Rights Commission and the Supreme Court to clear the Khulla Manch area of Tundikhel.
So far, there have been two tangible gains from Occupy Tundikhel movement: the Kathmandu District Court’s verdict to remove around two dozen illegal vendors from Dui Maju temple located in the north-west part of Khulla Manch. and compelling the Ward 28 office of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City not to let Khulla Manch become a parking lot.
The campaigners are buoyed by these achievements and they want to press on until Tundikhel is free.