Activists fighting against Balaju road expansion project call out government for being casteist

A candlelight vigil was held at Indrachowk, Kathmandu on Tuesday evening to celebrate the release of activists who were arrested for protesting against the Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s decision to move ahead with the Balaju road expansion project.

A joint bench of Justices Deepak Kumar Karki and Prakash Man Singh Raut of the Supreme Court yesterday issued an order to release the arrested as they had been detained without any reason. The order said, “Arresting petitioners without a clear basis and reason, and keeping them in custody during the investigation is not justified even from a judicial point of view, so release the petitioners today.”

The ‘Valley Road Expansion Victims Struggle Committee’ and the ‘BrihathNagarik Aandolan’ organized yesterday’s candlelight procession also as a symbolic protest stating that justice wasn’t an option for commoners even in a democratic country like Nepal.

Stating that the activists mostly belonging to Newar as well as other casts were arrested for speaking their mother tongue, they also protested against the state’s oppression against their ethic language.

Suman Sayami, Virochan Shrestha, Bhimdev Shrestha, Meen Shahi, Maheshwar Manandhar, Sanjay Tamang, Rukshit Shrestha and Dipen Shrestha, who were released after the court order, had later joined the vigil in Indrachowk.

At the rally, the protesters demanded Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa to resign, saying that those protesting for the protection of their property were being illegally detained.

They chanted slogans like ‘Newa Ekta Jindawad’, ‘Nagarik Ekta Jindawad’ and ‘Stop Land Encroachment’.

Maheshwar Man Shrestha, who was released yesterday, said that the government had cowardly arrested him when he demanded ownership of his land.

“Activists have been arrested for discussing our issues in Newari language. This is an attack on the Newari language and civilization,” Shrestha said.

Similarly, Sirjan Man Shrestha of Newa Students Union said that the new generation should be taught to speak their mother tongue. He said, “If we do not learn to speak our own language, this civilization will be in danger tomorrow. The history of the Valley is in danger.”

He said that not only Newari language but all languages, castes and communities should be respected.

Activist Chandra Kumar Maharjan condemned the government for encroaching not only on private land but also on historical heritages like Kamalpokhari.

Similarly, activist Alok Siddhi Tuladhar said that the development concept taught by foreigners was not acceptable to them and national heritages should be authentically rebuilt on the basis of the Kathmandu’s history.

The agitators also lashed out at all Newar ministers of the KP Sharma Oli-led government, saying that such ministers had helped the government in its regressive moves even when their community was being attacked.