Nepal's ethnic Newaris protest against Guthi bill

Nepal's ethnic Newaris protest against Guthi bill
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Kathmandu: Thousands of people belonging to the ethnic Newar community staged anti-government protests on Saturday, demanding the withdrawal of a controversial bill, which they say has provisions in favor of land mafias and could jeopardize Sanatan Hindu culture and tradition.

Around 10,000 people from Newar community rallied in the major parts of the city Saturday morning raising slogans against the Oli government demanding that the government withdraw the Guthi bill from the Parliament.

The K P Sharma Oli-led Communist Party government has tabled the bill in Parliament to amend the Guthi Act and nationalize both public and private guthis and regulate all religious sites under a powerful commission.

Guthis are socio-economic institutions (trusts), both public and private, that fund their obligations from incomes from cultivated or leased land assets. Depending on their obligations, guthis fulfill religious, public service or social roles and could either involve members from a common lineage, or several.

"Don't destroy heritage," "scrap Guthi Bill", "Our culture our identity", "down with KP Oli government," "stop the invasion of Sanatana Dharma", read the placards the protestors carried during the rally.

"Our Sanatan Dharma and culture could be jeopardized if the Bill, tabled by the Communist Party-led government in Parliament, gets endorsed," said Pavitra Bajracharya a Newar activist and central member of Federal Socialist Party Nepal, which is also part of the ruling coalition. 

The aim of the bill is to snatch the public and private land allocated for cultural trusts and distribute to others encroaching our age cultural heritage, he said.

Thousands of people also organized torch-lit rallies in neighboring Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts Friday night to oppose the government's move to endorse the Bill that would destroy centuries-old Sanatan culture.

The organizers of the protest warn of intensified protest on Wednesday in all the three cities of Kathmandu valley if the proposed bill has not been withdrawn.

By Shirish B Pradhan