Talks ahead, Gaur limps to normal

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RAUTAHAT, APR 06 – Protests that gripped Gaur, the district headquarters of Rautahat , for the past five days subsided on Sunday with protesters staging a peaceful rally.

After the local administration lifted the curfew in the morning, the agitators demonstrated peacefully. Panic-stricken locals, who witnessed Saturday’s violent clashes,  however, refrained from coming out of their houses. Market places did not open, according to Birendra Basnet, a local.

The rally culminated in a corner meet where protesters warned that the agitation would continue until the government addressed their demands. They have asked the government to declare Ram Aashish Thakur a martyr, provide compensation to his family and withdraw the decision to extend administrative services to Chandranigahpur.

Regional Administrator Ram Kumar Acharya and Deputy Inspector General of Police Devendra Subedi reached Gaur in the evening to negotiate a deal. Two AIGs of Nepal Police and Armed Police Force reached Gaur in the evening for talks expected to be held later on Sunday. “We have called the protesters for dialogue but they have not come,” said Chief District Officer Madan Bhujel.

The locals resorted to violent protests over Thakur’s death on Friday evening after a police van hit him during the demonstration.

The Rautahat Chamber of Commerce and Industry has led the demonstrations since Wednesday demanding reversal of the decision to establish branches of the District Land Revenue Office and the Survey Office in Chandranigahpur.

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission has expressed its concerns over the violent protests. After monitoring the situation on Sunday, the rights watchdog urged the government to probe the incident and take action against the guilty.

A similar protest raged in Kalaiya, the headquarters of the neighbouring Bara district, and Simara in February. Of late, violent protests against the government’s decision to extend administrative services have affected central Tarai districts.

The business community and the locals at the district headquarters seem worried about the prospect of decline in trade and human activity with the extension of crucial government offices outside the town. The local chapters of Chamber of Commerce and Industry led the protests in both the districts.

People are divided over the government decision to impart the services from more than one centre in a district. This has generally divided residents in the northern and southern belts of the districts.

“There is rapid development in places near the highway in the upper region. However, development seems stagnated in the district headquarters and adjoining areas to the south,” said Harilal Agrawal, former chairman of the Kalaiya Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “So the locals in the district headquarters protested against the decision to extend the administrative services to north.”

Fears are rife among the residents of south that the gradual shift of government offices will ultimately result in the relocation of the district headquarters to more prosperous towns to the north.