Residents of Pulchowk along with members of the Save Nepa Valley movement and the Indigenous Newa Awakening Campaign demonstrated with placards in front of the building of Shree Laligurans Multipurpose Cooperative Limited on Tuesday to demand the reconstruction of the historic Samay Phalcha.
According to the demonstration’s organisers, Samay Phalcha, which once stood on plot no. 327 near the Pulchowk Thur, is an integral part of Lalitpur’s heritage and needs to be rebuilt at the earliest. They called on the Lalitpur Metropolitan City (LMC) to move forward with its plans to reconstruct the Phalcha (rest house) in its original form and said that they were willing to support it in whatever way possible.
The metro, for its part, claims to be more than willing to build the Phalcha. In fact, it as well as other parties have been trying to erect the Phalcha for the last 21 years. But repeated legal challenges have hindered progress.
In 2000, deeming it an important cultural asset of the city, the then Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City, with approval from the Department of Archaeology and the District Administration Office, decided to allow the Samay Phalcha Reconstruction Committee to rebuild the rest house. However, Anil Raj Bhandari, who owned the land attached to the Phalcha, filed a case with the then Appellate Court of Patan.
The case went on for three years until August 27, 2003, when the Appellate Court decided in favour of Lalitpur sub-metro and dismissed Bhandari’s application. Bhandari appealed the decision with the Supreme Court claiming that rebuilding the rest house would violate the Public Roads Act 1962, Local Self-Governance Act 1999, the standards fixed by the Kathmandu Valley Town Development Act in 1993 and the Muluki Ain.
This case went on for another five years until August 3, 2008, when the Supreme Court upheld the Appellate Court’s decision and stated that the laws and regulations highlighted by Bhandari only applied to the construction of new buildings, not to the reconstruction of archaeological monuments. The court also stated in its ruling that Bhandari had no legal right to object to the reconstruction of the Phalcha and made special note of his intentions. Bhandari’s land lies behind the Samay Phalcha and building it would make his
plot inaccessible from the main Pulchowk-Jawalakhel road.
Later, Bhandari sold the land to Shree Laligurans Multipurpose Cooperative Limited. The cooperative’s shareholder Amrit Kumar Aryal approached the High Court Patan this year asking it to block the construction of the Phalcha but the court refused. Then, the cooperative, along with its local employees, approached the Supreme Court which on August 1 ruled that the Phalcha would neither block the footpath nor the main road so its reconstruction could go ahead.
Following the latest ruling, LMC began work on reconstructing the rest house. Its municipal assembly had already passed the motion to reconstruct the Phalcha in the fiscal year 2021/22 and allocated the budget for it.
Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan was all set to lay the foundation stone at 8 am on August 19. However, a day earlier on August 18, the Lalitpur District Court issued a stay order in response to yet another lawsuit filed by Laligurans.
To inform everyone of the court’s order, Mayor Maharjan went to the construction site at the pre-scheduled time and expressed the metro’s respect for the court. But he accused Laligurans of hindering the Phalcha’s construction for personal interests. “The cooperative’s building faces east in the direction of the Phalcha meaning that if the Phalcha is built, its entrance will be blocked,” he said on the occasion.
However, a Laligurans official denied the accusation. “The cooperative, which is the largest cooperative organisation in the country, has not sought to encroach upon the land nor has it claimed any sort of ownership over it. In fact, we have repeatedly and publicly stated that the land belongs to the Government of Nepal and it should only be used in line with the government’s regulations,” the official who asked to remain anonymous told The Rising Nepal. “How can we be accused of being motivated by personal interests when our aim is to protect the government property?”
“Yes, the land in question lies in front of the cooperative building but it also lies inside the area of the road. This means that construction there will have to follow certain rules. LMC cannot simply do as it pleases,” the official, who is also a Patan resident, added.
In a previous interview with the television channel Prime Times HD, Surendra Bhandari, chief executive officer of Shree Laligurans Multipurpose Cooperative Limited, has accused the LMC of misinterpreting the Supreme Court’s order regarding the renovation of old buildings and construction of completely new ones and pointed to the letter forwarded by the District Administration Office (DAO) to the metropolitan city on July 11 asking it to halt all work on plot no. 327.
However, it is to be noted that on August 17, the DAO has sent another letter to LMC asking it to implement the orders of the High Court and the Supreme Court regarding the reconstruction of the Samay Phalcha.
In the TV interview, Bhandari also highlighted that the land survey of 1981 carried out by the Lalitpur Survey Office does not show the existence of any structure on the plot. A letter written by the Survey Office to the DAO on July 8 also backs Bhandari’s point. The letter explicitly states that the plot lies inside the road area and that no construction of any kind seems to have ever occurred on it.
But just because the survey does not show the Phalcha does not mean it never existed. Gabahal resident Dev Krishna Shrestha shared that the Phalcha collapsed in 1972. “So of course the survey of 1981 doesn’t show it,” the 62-year-old who was one of the demonstrators on Tuesday, said.
LMC also argues that the Phalcha existed at the very spot in Pulchowk and presents a photo dated 1969 as proof.
While discussing LMC’s current efforts, it is to be mentioned though that the city itself had once decided against the reconstruction. A meeting of the then Lalitpur Sub-Metropolitan City board on December 11, 2011, had decided not to allow the Samay Phalcha Reconstruction Committee to rebuild the rest house. It said at the time that the land lay inside the road area and working on it would require approval from the government and other relevant agencies.
This decision, however, came after the Supreme Court had already stated in 2008 that the laws and regulations related to roads and such only apply to the construction of new buildings, not to the renovation or reconstruction of monuments.
Samay Phalcha is nearly 206 years old. Occupying an area of one Aana and two Daam, the Phalcha was related to Lalitpur’s Machhindranath Jatra. “The locals used to eat Samay (a mixture of beaten rice, fish or meat, soybean and other grains) sitting in that Phalcha. That is how it got its name,” Shrestha shared.
LMC had aimed to begin work on the Phalcha before Dashain but it has been forced to stop by the latest court order. Speaking on August 19, Mayor Maharjan did not hide his disappointment and frustration but said that he and the city remained committed to re-establishing the Phalcha in its original and rightful place.
Source : TRN,