Nepal's Communist Government To Control Religion Through A New Guthi Bill: Experts

Nepal Communist Government To Control Religion Through A New Guthi Bill: Experts

June 3, 2019, 12:23 p.m.

Just over 3000 Bighas of land of Swargadwari, Nepal's promient temple of Pyuthan District, is under encroachment. Due to illigal encroachment, the temple has not been receiving any revenue from land necessary to maintain relgious practice and tradition.

Although late Swargadwari Baba, who established the temples handing over vast property to maintain religious practices, has clearly written in the wall saying those who misused and grab the land is subject to religious punishment.

Remembering this decree land tenant used to pay their share to temple authority. Following the 1990, people have started to defy the edict. With the upsurge of Maoist movement following 1996, Maoist launched hate campiagn under the guidance of Maoist leaders. After declaration of Nepal as a Federal, Republic and Secular state, the temples annual revenue started to decline.

Now the temple with such a huge property is facing financial difficulty. This is not only a case. Thrived in populist slogan, fringe communist parties including the current Nepal Communist Party promised to bring the act to end Guthi.

Swargadwari is not alone, even Pashupatinath Temple, Janaki Temples, Gorkhnath Temple and other hundreeds of temples in Kathamndu are facing financial crunch due to transfer of Guthi land to tenants.

With its aim to grab the lucartive Guthi lands, the government led by Nepal Comunist Party has presented a new Guthi Bill and pressing to pass the bill at any cost.

Alarmed by the clauses and provisions of the bilol, experts, trustees, stakeholders have launched a campiagn demandign to withdraw Guthi Bill. Organised by Guthi Puch, experts also have decided to take this issue at broader levels.

This bill shows how politicians are eyeing the revenue and the land of the Guthi. The aim of the bil is to removes local trustee and give them oppurtunities to misuse the land.

Once the government removes local trustees, it might give them opportunities to misuse the assets of temples,” said Deepak Gyawali,Academican of NAST and Former Minister of Water Resources.He is also amember of Guthi Pucha.

During the interaction, the group have called for withdrawal of the Guthi Bill registered in the National Assembly. They argued that the new bill will turn Guthis into playground of political leaders, bureaucrats and influential people to recruit the people they desire.

Raj Guthi, public guthi, are responsible to organise all most all festivals and cultural programs in Kathmandu. Managed by local community, they have been organising festivals and overseeing religious works in their localities.

But if the proposed Guthi Bill, registered in the Parliament two weeks ago, is signed into law the proposed Guthi Authority will remove all the locals appointed as trustees.

“This will enable bureaucrats and influential people to recruit people, who have very little knowledge of local culture and traditions, to operate the guthis. This will uproot our culture and tradition,” said Kedar Bhakta Mathema, chairperson of Guthi Pucha, a non-profit guthi that works on cultural preservation.

"The bill aims to curtail the rights of locals over guthis and bring in inexperienced people to run the organisations, which, eventually, will lead to erosion of cultural and traditional values.

According to the study, there are 2,335 public guthis in Nepal under Guthi Sansthan, the umbrella body which currently oversees all the guthis. The trustees of these guthis are locals who have been managing the trusts for centuries.

Currently Guthi Sansthan has been providing fiancial suppor to these trustees to operate temples, Satals, Pati, Pauwas (rest houses) and stone spouts; make daily offerings at temples; organise religious jatras and perform pujas.

"The Guthi Sansthan currently owns 1.45 million ropani land (737.673 million square metres) across the country. It generates revenue by leasing vacant land to individuals and businesspersons. Guthi Sanstha has also built business complexes on its own. It generates revenue of around Rs 500 to Rs 520 million per year from its properties," reports The Himalayan Times.

According to expert, the bill has also proposed to bring all private guthi under the proposed Guthi Authority. According to The Himalayan Times, there are an estimated 2,600 private guthis in the country. Once the bill is passed, the private guthis cannot use their trusts as per their own regulation, but will have to work as per the rules of the authority.

The news paper reports that the new bill has also proposed to pave the way for transfer of ownership of land under Guthi Sansthan to private individuals. Currently, individuals are allowed to build houses on land owned by Guthi Sansthan by paying certain fees. But ownership of such land cannot be transferred to individuals.

According to the paper, under the proposed law, ownership of land under Guthi Sansthan can be transferred to individuals by filing applications. Land ownership certificates will then be provided by the Land Revenue Office, the bill states. “This will limit the income of the Guthi and the total land area of the guthi will drastically fall,” said Govinda Tandon, former member secretary of Pashupati Area Development Trust

Member of National Assembly Radhe Shayam Adhikari had already opposed the bill in National Assembly. Under his initiative, Nepali Congress members have already registered amendment proposal in the parliament.

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