KATHMANDU, July 7: While the construction work at Sundarighat in Lalitpur for relocation of squatters evicted from Thapathali is going on full swing with around 23 cottages already erected so far, the locals have waraned that they would set fire to the cottages as soon as the security personnel currently guarding the place leave. The locals said they are planning further steps to "reclaim their ancestral land".
“We will fight to the last drop of blood in our body,” said Netra Bahadur Ranamagar, a central member of Malpokhari Conservation Struggle committee, which called for Lalitpur shutdown for Friday to protest the squatters´ relocation at Sundarighat.
“We will do no harm to the squatters but will burn all the huts to a cinder once the security force leave the place. Can the government deploy security forces 24 hours a day, seven days a week? Let´s see,” he fumed.
According to Ranamagar, he is one among dozens of people who lost their ancestral land in Sundarighat to the government´s forceful land acquisition in 1976. “And if the government is going to use the land that way, we just want our land back and at the same price the government had promised us then,” he stressed. He added that the government had announced to pay Rs 6,000 per ropani for the acquisitioned land but even that money was never paid.
Man building his hut. (Photo: Bijay Rai)
After his one and a half ropani of land was acquisitioned by the government, Ranamagar later bought 3.5 anna nearby where he has built a house and lives with his family.
Similarly, Chinu Basnet, treasurer of the committee told Republica that the locals have support of political parties as well and they would never allow the squatters to settle in the area.
She told Republica that the government had acquisitioned around 585 ropanis of land belonging to the people of Patan in 1976 and many claim they have not yet received any compensation from the government.
Yet another local of the area Basanta Shrestha argues who could guarantee there is no vested interest of the leaders in the entire relocation plan. “We don´t know if they are genuine squatters. Also the political leaders might have plan to register the pricey land plots in their own names,” he said.
Magar, Basnet and Shrestha, among others protestors are simply not ready to believe that the relocation of the squatters is temporary as promised by the government. “Once means always, forever,” said Basnet. “We cannot always fight for the same thing. So we want the matter be resolved now.”
The locals also worry that the settlement might pose security risk to the area. “Security is a big concern. Noone wants his or her neighbor to be squatters,” Basnet said.
Meanwhile, Shiva Sharma, an officer at the Urban Development and Building Construction Department said the first batch of 25 cottages would be ready for squatters in a week. “The cottages will have all basic facilities. No compromise has been made with regards to sanitation or cleanliness,” he said. “There is tight security and we will definitely complete the project.”