Fifty youths, including passers-by, detained from Baluwatar ahead of ‘Enough is Enough’ protestPolice claim the youths were protesting in a restricted zone, but protesters say the planned rally could not happen following random arrests.
Nepal Police personnel on Friday swooped up around 50 youths from the streets of Baluwatar, where a peaceful protest had been called by the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign against the government’s poor handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The protest, which was scheduled to begin at noon, could not take place after police started making random arrests, including some passers-by who had nothing to do with the protest, according to the campaign members.
“I was at Big Mart [a local departmental store] when the police accosted me and put me in their van,” Aalok Subedi, a member of the campaign, told the Post from Narayanchaur police station. “There are four protesters with me here. More than forty others have been taken to the police station at Maligaon.”
Ranju Darshana, Pawan Thapa, Nawaraj Uprety and Saurav Neupane were the other protesters who were detained alongside Subedi.
Subedi and Neupane have vowed to go on a hunger strike at the police station following the arrest.
A member of the campaign, Iih, has already been staging an indefinite hunger strike in Basantapur for nearly two weeks now. Karan Gurung and Samaira Shrestha, who were also participating in the fasting strike to draw the government’s attention, recently ended their fast after their health deteriorated.
Sudan Gurung, a protester who was being held at Maligaon police station, told the Post that there were more than forty of them at the station, including random passers-by who just happened to be in the Baluwatar area.
“We were told that we were arrested for trying to protest in a restricted area. But what about those people who were detained just for passing through the street. They were brought here for no rhyme or reason.”
Robic Upadhayay, another campaign member, said the arrests were made even before the protests could begin and some protesters had been lifted from surrounding areas of Maharajgunj, Durbarmarg, Naxal, and Bhatbhateni.
Police, however, insisted that the protesters were detained for assembling in a restricted zone.
“We had to make the arrests because they were trying to stage a protest in a restricted zone,” Deputy Superintendent of the Police Roshan Khadka, told the Post.
The campaign members have dubbed the arrests arbitrary and a display of police brutality. They assembled outside the Narayanchaur and Maligaun police stations later in the afternoon and offered voluntary arrest to protest the arbitrary detention of their fellow campaigners and innocent pedestrians earlier in the day.
The detained youths were freed in the evening.
Gurung, who was arrested and taken to Maligaon police station, confirmed the release of the detained youth.
“We had a discussion with DSP Roshan Khadka who gave us his personal assurance that there won’t be random detention of protesters from now on,” said Gurung.
The campaign, comprising independent youths, has long been exerting pressure on the KP Sharma Oli government to expand the coronavirus polymerase chain reaction tests and contract tracing, set up better quarantine and isolation facilities and ensure financial transparency regarding the government’s spendings in the fight against Covid-19.
This is not the first time that the campaign members have been arrested.
In June, five protesters were arrested from Patan Durbar Square where they were staging a hunger strike. On July 30, some campaign members were detained from Singhadarbar while on their way to file a Right to Information petition at a court. They were detained at Mahendra Police Club without arrest warrants and reportedly subjected to harsh treatment in custody.
Although the government had earlier agreed to address the concerns raised by the campaign—which had led to the ending of the earlier hunger strike staged by Iih and Pukar Bam, the agreement was never fulfilled, prompting further protests.
The story has been updated.