Kathmandu July 25, 2012 – Homeless people from their own nation searching for shelter inside their own country and a day government decide to demolish their homes and tell them to find another area or nowhere to go? Being a human being they have the right to live freely and have all the rights that other citizens have in the country. Questing of Squatters in Kathmandu is a long been unanswered and government and Kathmandu Metropolitan never seek for the permanent solution.
The story of the squatters is still unfolding, but it is revealing in the effect it creates on politicians and the community. When they were evicted from the proposed UN Park area in Thapathali by the Maoist-led government, it seemed like the Valley citizens wanted the squatters out. People even accused them of not being genuinely landless. In the first week of May, the government demolished 249 houses by the banks of the Bagmati and forcibly removed the squatters using the police. Since the demolition, the government has tried to relocate them twice, but in both places it has faced opposition from the locals in the communities, apart from the local and central level politicians who are playing with the lives of the landless. It is disheartening that communities are against letting the squatters live among them even temporarily, and some of the charges leveled against the landless—for example the accusation that settling squatters will increase theft and other social ills—smack of prejudice.
On May 8, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai met the landless people he evicted and promised to shift them to Chobhar, in the premises of the defunct Himal Cement Factory. But the decision was opposed by the locals there who were subsequently supported by every party except the UCPN (Maoist). The government backtracked from its decision and decided to relocate them to Sundarighat in Lalitpur on a piece of barren land that was confiscated three decades ago to construct a water treatment plant. This, too, was opposed vehemently by the locals, along with politicians, although it appears that the political opposition to resettle has more to do with settling scores with the Prime Minister and the government, rather than over genuine concern for the well-being of the local community. Despite the opposition, the government, in the beginning, appeared to stick by its decision. Around two dozen huts were constructed and the police were deployed to provide protection against irate locals. But when the locals resorted to calling strike and obstructing traffic, they too rejected the idea. The government, too, has backed down.
The resettlement is especially frustrating because it’s a temporary arrangement. The government has already bought land in Ichhangu Narayan VDC in Kathmandu, where it is planning to construct around 200 concrete houses to settle the squatters permanently. The government plans to finish the project by the year’s end. If that is indeed the case, then it was a premature judgment to remove the squatters in the first place, alternatives should have been secured first. But the problem is not only that of the government. Many members of the Valley’s civil society have acted insensitively by turning their backs on their fellow citizens, who happen to be poor and landless. It is fine to be cynical about some fraudsters posing as landless, but those who hold prejudice and oppose the genuinely landless should be reminded that, like them, the squatters are also human.
Political influence, instability, uncertainty and fake Squatters are the major hurdle for the government and other organization to settle the case for permanent basis as well.
Lines Curtsey: KOL Editorial.