KATHMANDU, July 22: Groups against resettlement of squatters at Sundarighat of Lalitpur district Sunday enforced shutdown of the urban areas of the district accusing the government of ignoring their opposition to the construction of huts for evicted squatters.
The squatters were evicted from the banks of Bagmati River by the Baburam Bhattarai government earlier this year and the government has recently started constructing huts to resettle them at Sundarighat. The plan has been strongly opposed by the local people.
Police said about 45 protestors were arrested in the afternoon, five of them were released by the evening. Similarly eight vehicles were vandalized, SP Basanta Panta said.
Chinu Basent, central committee member of the Malpokhari conservation struggle committee, which has been leading the protests, said the government must withdraw its decision or face severe consequences.
“We do not hate the squatters. They are also human being. But we cannot tolerate them here in our ancestral land for it was not taken by the government for that purpose,” Basnet said. “The government had forcefully captured the land promising it would set up drainage system for cleanliness of the region,” she added.
That committee said the government had expropriated 550 ropani of land 36 years ago promising Rs 6,000 per ropani as compensation. The committee further claimed that many owners had not received the compensation, and the same land was worth millions of rupees today. Several political parties and politicians including Raghuji Pant and Pampha Bhusal have been openly supported the locals.
“The prime minister had assured us that he would draw up plans that did not clash with our interest. But he seemed to have forgotten that and we decided to organized Patan shutdown to remind him of his assurance.”
“The squatters are not acceptable at any cost, we will rather die fighting for our demandst,” Basnet sad.
Netra Bahadur Rana Magar, another local in Sundarighat, who had lost 2 ropanis of land termed the government´s attempt as either utterly foolish and deceptive. “You never know whether they are real squatters. If so, why do they need to be relocated at such a place where a square feet of land costs far beyond their reach,” he said. “Without even consulting with the locals, why did the government take the decision in the first place? It seems the government is extremely foolish,” he added.
Over 250 squatter homes were demolished on June 9. The government then decided to relocate ´genuine squatters´ to Chovar but the locals there did not let it happen.
Then the government chose Sundarighat and released Rs 2.2 million in the first phase for the construction of 48 huts that is expected to cover around 3 ropani of land and around 25 bamboo cottages have been erected so far. However, the attempts has run into trouble from the beginning.
On the other hand, Shiva Sharma of Urban development and building construction department stated that the matter is being discussed at the higher level. He did not elaborate.