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Upendra Bharti | HENB | Kathmandu | June 25, 2019:: The anti-Hindu Communist government in Nepal formally withdrew the controversial Guthi bill from the National Assembly on Tuesday following weeks-long intense protest by the ethnic Newar community which feared that it could jeopardize Sanatan Hindu tradition.
A proposal on annulment of the bill tabled by Minister for Land Reforms Padma Aryal was endorsed unanimously at the National Assembly, the upper house of Parliament.
Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli-led government had tabled the Guthi Bill in Parliament to amend the Guthi Act and nationalise both public and private guthis or trusts and regulate all religious sites under a powerful commission.
Fearing that the government’s move could jeopardise Sanatan Hindu tradition, the ethnic Newar community staged weeks-long protests demanding scrapping of the bill.
Following intense protests, the Nepal government withdrew the controversial bill from Parliament, but the protestors demanded scrapping of the bill.
The much-talked-about bill on the management of lands belonging to Guthis or religious and social trusts courted controversy with people from various walks of life, mainly the Newar ethnic groups of Kathmandu demanding its withdrawal.
Last week, around 50,000 people rallied in Maitighar Mandala of Kathmandu protesting against the government’s move to introduce the bill aiming to bring the private and public trusts under a powerful commission.
The agitators have argued that the proposed law would turn public guthis (trusts) into a ‘playground for politicians, government officials and influential people who wish to embezzle thousands of hectares of guthi land’.
The system, known as “guthi”, is rooted within the Newar community indigenous to the Kathmandu Valley.
It has a special role in maintaining temples and traditional public spaces and organising festivals and religious parades.
Guthis are trusts, which have been present in Nepal since the Licchavi era. Many of these trusts own large plots of donated land. These plots are generally leased or used by farmers of a community to raise crops. The revenue generated from the use of land is spent on conducting religious ceremonies, renovating temples and heritage sites, and preserving culture and tradition.
According to Guthi Sansthan, raj guthis have an estimated 66,000 bigha land in the Tarai, and around 561,000 ropani land in the hills.
There are around 2,335 registered raj guthis. Although private guthis are not registered with the Sansthan, it estimates their number to be in excess of 5,000.
Many say the passage of the controversial bill would have eased the process of transferring ownership of these land plots to private citizens at minimal price.
Many were also miffed at the bill’s provision to bring all private, public and raj guthis under the proposed Guthi Authority, ending the role of existing trustees. They were also against the bill as it paved the way to convert private guthis into public guthis and gave sweeping power to chief trustees (mathadheesh and pujaris).
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 fulfil 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 invasion of Sanatana Dharma”, read the placards the protestors carried during the rally.
“Our Sanatan Dharma and culture could be jeopardised 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 heritages, he said.
Thousands of people also organised torch lit rallies in neighbouring Lalitpur and Bhaktaur districts on Friday night to oppose the Government’s move to endorse the Bill that would destroy centuries old Sanatan Hindu culture.
Under pressure from several quarters, the government on June 18 had primarily announced its decision to pull back the bill and the controversial was withdrawn by the Nepal Govt on Tuesday.
Expert on Nepali politics, eminent Hindu interlocutor and Hindu Existence Web Editor, Upananda Brahmachari opined that the Communist Govt in Nepal had a planning to pass the Guthi bill only to take control over the Guthi properties of Hindus by the Communist-Maoist elements and to distribute those Hindu properties afterwards to Christian and Muslim missionaries to disturb the Hindu prominence in Nepal.
‘The success of Hindu public and Omkar Parivars in Nepal to proscribe the Guthi Bill may set a new spirit of Hindu movement in Nepal to revive a Hindu Rashtra demand in Nepal once again,” Brahmachari told HENB.
___inputs from PTI/ ANI/ Himalayan Times/Nepali Times.