"People of Madi will retaliate if CNP obstructs housing for Chepang people"

Wednesday 22 July, 2020   |   Political affairs

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"People of Madi will retaliate if CNP obstructs housing for Chepang people"

Thakur Prasad Dhakal

Landless Chepang people have been dangerously living in Kusum Khola area of Madi municipality-9 for the last two decades. It is not a good habitat for them, and I have been trying to relocate them to some other safer places.  

After I was elected as the Mayor of Madi municipality some three years ago, I have been consistently trying to evacuate Chepang people from Kusum Khola area, which is not an appropriate place to live in for two reasons. First, much of this area is filled with sand and gravel incessantly flowing down from the Chure hills. Therefore, Chepang people cannot grow food here. Second, this area is vulnerable to flooding and inundation, which add to the woes of Chepang people during the monsoon season.

In the monsoon of 2017, many Chepang people's houses were ravaged by flooding. After that flooding, I started drawing a plan to relocate Chepang people of Kusum Khola to safer places. We identified Pyauli, Rai Chula and Barha Ghare in the ward number 9, Sikdwar in the ward number 8 and Gairi Gaun in the ward number 7 as potential places for resettlement.

I have been consistently trying to evacuate Chepang people from Kusum Khola area, which is not an appropriate place to live in for two reasons. First, much of this area is filled with sand and gravel incessantly flowing down from the Chure hills. Therefore, Chepang people cannot grow food here. Second, this area is vulnerable to flooding and inundation, which add to the woes of Chepang people during the monsoon season.

We told Chepang people: we will provide only one kattha of land in the resettlement area for every Chepang family of Kusum Khola, where they can build houses for their families. We also told Chepang families that although we cannot provide enough land for farming, we will provide them with entrepreneurship skills and assistance for livelihood.

In the resettlement area, we first built physical infrastructure for drinking water and electricity. We also calculated that construction of each house would cost around Rs 500,000. We started building houses for Chepang families. Two weeks ago, a group of authorities from the Chitwan National Park (CNP), accompanied by army officers, came there to stop housing activities for Chepang.

I told the CNP officials : these Chepang families had been living dangerously in Kusum Khola area, and we are just providing safer shelter to them. It would be wrong to stop us from building houses for landless Chepang people. But they were not in the mood to listen to us. They just told us to stop construction activities immediately."

They obstructed construction activities, saying the resettlement area is part of the CNP. I told them: let us continue with our plan, and I will seek a political solution to this problem by meeting the Forest Minister and former Prime Minister and the ruling party's co-Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who was elected from Chitwan constituency. But the CNP officials did not listen to me.

I told the CNP officials that "these Chepang families had been living dangerously in Kusum Khola area, and we are just providing safer shelter to them. It would be wrong to stop us from building houses for landless Chepang people. But they were not in the mood to listen to us. They just told us to stop construction activities immediately."

Around 11 Chepang families were yet to be evacuated from Kusum Khola. New houses being bult for them were stopped. I told them: relocation program has been halted, so continue living in Kusum Khola area until we find a solution. They were living there not by choice, but because their new houses were incomplete due to the CNP's order.

All of a sudden, on last Saturday, the CNP officials went to Kusum Khola area where they torched two houses of Chepang people. They also destroyed 6 houses by using an elephant. Kusum Khola is a remote part of Madi municipality, and I heard about their displacement only on Sunday.

Immediately after learning about this tragic incident, I issued a press statement condemning the CNP's act of displacing poor Chepang families amidst torrential rains. I informed the Forest Minister and the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (CNP)'s co-Chair Dahal. We will now restart the construction of houses for these 11 Chepang families, like how we have built houses for other Chepang families in Pyauli and Rai Khola. If the CNP sends its force to stop us, the people of Madi will retaliate.

(Thakur Prasad Dhakal is the mayor of Madi Muncipality. This article is based on an interview conducted by journalist Kumar Yatru with Dhakal for Indigenous Television's program called Jana Sawal)

 


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