The Struggle to Save Khokana and Bungmati

Translated from the original report by Sapana Maharjan published in the Annapurna Post at the link 

12 Feb 2020

Kathmandu: “We don’t need Outer Ring Road in Bunga and Khona. Protect agricultural lands, Stop importing food grains. Protect cultural heritage.” – such were the slogans of Khokana and Bungamati locals, who gheraoed Maitighar Mandala on Tuesday adorned in traditional costumes with a rally. The locals protested that the government was building the Fast Track by displacing the indigenous communities of Khokana and Bungamati.

Agricultural lands of Khokana and Bungamati have been under encroachment of the government to transform the Kathmandu valley into an ultra-modern city. One of the locals, Nepalman Dangol says that eight mega national projects such as Kathmandu-Terai Expressway (Fast Track) and Smart City are going to be constructed by destroying  heritage settlements of Khokana and Bungamati. “Fast Track will eliminate not only the agricultural land of the areas but also the cultural heritage, Jatras (traditional fairs) and festivals.

The locals are terrified by the projects which are going to be constructed by destroying their culture and traditions. The areas were declared as heritage settlements because of their rich tangible and intangible heritage.

Last Tuesday, the locals had filed a writ petition in the Supreme court stating that the mega projects would end the ancient civilization of Khokana and Bungamati. Machhe Narayan Shrestha and 52 others of cultural Guthi had called on the court to save the ancient settlements. Dangol says that they had gone to the court after the concerned agencies did not respond even after repeated petitions. He said that other Guthis of the valley have also begun expressing their solidarity on the case.

Senior Advocate and former Attorney General Mukti Pradhan said,”the locals have filed a petition stating that the heritage settlements should not be demolished in the name of development”. On Wednesday, the single bench of Supreme Court judge Purushottam Bhandari ordered a written reason to the government in this case and called for the discussion about issuance of  an interim order against the projects on Wednesday.

The government had declared Sankhu of Kathmandu, Khokana and Bungamati of Lalitpur, Gorkha Durbar area, Nuwakot Durbar area and village around Bhimsen temple of Dolakha as heritage settlement area. After the April 2015 earthquake caused harm to the Malla civilization, it was decided to rebuild the settlements in the original style. But locals allege that the “Happy Nepali, Prosperous Nepal” (Sukhi Nepali Samriddha Nepal) concept of the government could not contain ancient culture and heritage. The Nepali Army has begun demarcating land from December to construct the Fast Track. Suman Sayami of the Kathmandu Valley Road Expansion Victims’ Committee (Upateka Sadak Bistar Pidit Sangharsa Samiti) says that the government has not distributed proper compensation for the lands which the locals have traditionally owned and used. “It is the policy of the government to destroy the cultural city and to displace the indigenous communities of Kathmandu valley,” he says. “Such repression of the government is not acceptable to us.” He said that the government decision has put the locals in a difficult situation who had been dependent on agriculture profession for generations.

Khokana (Khona) is famous for Sikali jatra. With around 1,338 year old Kudesh civilization, it depicts the living history of Nepal. This settlement, known as Telgram, is significantly rich in ancient culture, costumes and traditions. This is where the initial human settlement started in the valley. The heritage settlement of Bungamati (Bunga) also has its own unique identity. The Jatra of Red Machindranath (Bunga Dyo) is held in this place which was developed by King Amshuvarma. Khokana and Bungamati are built in Swastika shape according to tantric methods.

Destruction of cultural heritage

After the construction of Fast Track, the Katuwal pond situated at Dakuchap in Lalitpur, which is used to bring the holy bath water for the deity of Red Machindranath, will be buried. The Red Machindranath was brought to Nepal in Kaligat Sambat 3600. Machindranath was brought to Bungamati in the form of a bumblebee inside a Kalash (holy water vessel) from Katuwal pond by tantric methods. The chariot trip of Machindranath Jatra, known as the longest in the world, will be disrupted after the construction of the Fast Track. Other cultural places along its route will also disappear along.

The Fast Track will completely encroach upon the Kumari field (kumara khya) situated in Bungamati.  Every year, on the the night of the ninth day of Dashain festival, the victory festival of Goddess Vawani Devi is celebrated in the same field. That place is considered as the courtyard of the living goddess Kumari. Among historical, religious, cultural jatras and festivals of ward #22of Bungamati, the jatra Bhawi Pith is celebrated onPaha Charhe i.e. the day before Ghode jatra. The Fast Track will disrupt the main route used for the jatra.

Parjakhala, Bosi Khangi Guthi, Panejo Guthi and Vairav Guthi of that place will also be displaced. The cremation sites of Khokana and Bungamati will be buried. Sources of drinking water and irrigation and agricultural lands of Guthi will be destroyed, which will end the Guthi tradition itself.

खोकना–बुङमती बचाउन संघर्षखोकना बुङमती बचाऊ अभियानमा माइतीघर मण्डल घेर्न पुगेका स्थानीय। तस्बिर : दिपेन श्रेष्ठ


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