Police rescue 21 Indonesians after protests amid COVID-19 fears

Published On: April 4, 2020 05:13 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, April 4: Police have rescued 21 Indonesian Muslim pilgrims after locals protested over suspicions of coronavirus infection wherever they were taken for food and shelter.

After their rescue, the pilgrims, who had arrived in Nepal as part of a religious tour, are now in a safe place and police are guarding them. Police were forced to provide them shelter without giving out any clue where they were being taken after locals in Lalitpur district continued to protest wherever they were taken.

“They are now safe and sound. I won't tell you where they are being kept,” said Tek Prasad Rai, police chief in the district, “They are now happy and we have ensured their security, shelter, food and everything.”

The pilgrims who had landed in Nepal on January 21, had spent a few days in Kathmandu-based mosques and later traveled to mosques outside the capital city. They had reached Kanchanpur of Saptari when the nationwide lockdown was enforced.

But someone arranged a bus for them during the lockdown and returned them to Kathmandu on Wednesday. They had tried to stay at Machhapokhari, Balaju. But locals protested, suspecting they might have been infected with the coronavirus. Police rescued them and took them to a mosque at Imadol the same day.

Their stay at Imadol didn't last long either after locals there also including elected people's representatives protested. Police then evacuated them to Godawari.

But their efforts to settle them in Godawari also went awry. Local representatives and others demanded that the Indonesians be taken away from their village.

“We have now taken them to another place where the police are guarding them,” said the district police chief, adding that the locals had missed an opportunity to show their humanity in a time of crisis. “We have ensured their safe stay and their consular office in Nepal is also informed about this.”

Their departure for Indonesia is scheduled for April 11. But it's not certain they will get to leave as scheduled as Nepal has banned international flights till mid-April.

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