A police water cannon hits a protester at Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu on Sunday during a demonstration against government preparations to replace the Guthi Corporation with a new Guthi Authority. The government has recently introduced a bill to amend the Guthi [trust] act and the protestors want withdrawal of the bill. Photo: Dipesh Shrestha/Republica
KATHMANDU, June 10: Scores of protesters on Sunday demonstrated in Kathmandu demanding to scrap off a Guthi [trust] bill arguing that the bill was brought by the government in an attempt to capture the Guthi lands preserved for centuries.
Police used water cannon and force to disperse the demonstrating Guthi supporters who had gathered at the Maitighar Mandala to protest the bill introduced by the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation.
The bill registered at the National Assembly proposes forming an 'authority' to manage the Guthis, which are currently being managed by the Guthi Corporation.
Under Guthi Sansthan, there are 2,335 public Guthis in Nepal. These Guthis are managed by the locals for centuries. The Guthis are responsible for the management of temples, jatras, religious rites and worships among other things.
If the bill is endorsed in its present form, the existing Guthis will be rendered powerless, activists said.
Culture experts are of the view that the new law will turn public Guthis (trusts) into a playground for politicians, government officials and influential people to recruit the people of their choosing.
“The bill is anti-culture. But the government is suppressing us when we opposed it,” said Nareshbir Shakya, the chairman of Nepal Bhasha Manka Khala, adding, “Suppression is not a solution. We will launch strong protests if the government continues to ignore our genuine concerns.”
According to Shakya, Maheshwar Ranjit, Krishna Manandhar and Sajib Bajracharya among others were injured in police action at Maitighar on Sunday. They are receiving treatment at Norvic International Hospital and Annapurna Neuro Hospital.
Police arrested Mahesh Man Shrestha, Anish Baidya, Krishna Gopal Maharjan and Bikas Maharjan.
Guthi activist Ganapati Lal Shrestha said the land mafia will misuse the Guthi lands and other properties if the authority is mandated to handle the existing Guthis. “If the bill is endorsed as proposed, it will serve the interests of none other than the land mafia,” said Shrestha.
Shrestha said the government has no alternative but to withdraw the bill to save the centuries-old Guthi tradition.
Bharat Jangam, general secretary of Guthi Samrakshan Pucha, threatened to launch nation-wide protests if the government refuses to withdraw the bill.
“Guthi is a civilization. It has greatly helped in preserving cultural heritages. All religious activities and traditions will collapse if this bill gets parliamentary endorsement,” said Jangam.