September 11, 2015.- Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) calls on Nepal Police to refrain from using unnecessary force against peaceful demonstrations of communities affected by road expansion in Kathmandu. Dozens of demonstrators, including at least two women, were injured on Tuesday after police baton-charged and booted them during a rally of the affected communities. AIPP condemns the high-handedness of the police at the rally and urges the Nepalese authorities to uphold the right to peaceful assembly and rule of law in the country.
Local communities, predominantly indigenous Newars, have been protesting against the ongoing forcible road widening drive across Kathmandu valley. They have been impacted due to rampant demolition of their houses and other properties for widening various sections of road undertaken without any prior consultation with and provision of fair compensation and proper resettlement for affected households and communities.
“Since last year, those affected in various road stretches united under a Kathmandu Valley-Wide Road Expansion Victims Struggle Committee have carried out relay hunger strikes, sit-ins and rallies in a peaceful manner,” Suman Sayami, Chairperson of the Committee said. “However, the Government authorities of Nepal as well as the Parliament have continued to turn deaf ears to our concerns.”
Lately, the demonstrations of the Committee have been organized near Nepal’s Supreme Court calling on the Court’s verdict in relation to cases challenging the road expansion drive. The affected communities and their rights advocates have claimed that the road expansion is illegitimate. But the Court has repeatedly postponed its final judgment on the matter.
“The road expansion drive infringes on the rights to property and other fundamental rights of the affected persons as guaranteed to Nepali citizens in the laws of the country,” said Tahal Thami of Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples, which has been providing legal support to the communities.
“Further, the road expansion and other proposed projects such as construction of Outer Ring Road and satellite cities in Kathmandu pose risks of forced displacement of indigenous Newar communities from their ancestral lands in the name of development,” Thami added.
Earlier, in response to petitions filed by affected households in various stretches, the Supreme Court had issued interim orders to halt expansion in a couple of sections. Nonetheless, despite those order, the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority and Department of Roads have continued demolishing houses in various parts and announced further plans to widen the roads. The agencies involved have used the basis of a law introduced around four decades ago to push for the road widening even in settlement areas established centuries before.
“The concerned agencies of the Government of Nepal must immediately suspend the road expansion works until the demands of the affected communities are resolved,” Gam Shimray, AIPP Secretary General said. “The Government must further comply with its obligations as per the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169, including to obtain the consent of indigenous Newars for any development activities that affect them.”
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