Barahathawa, a marketplace in Sarlahi district, remained tense for the second consecutive day on Saturday. Protesters continued demonstrations with the body of a local businessman who was killed in police firing on Friday.
The demonstrators continued the protest by defying the district administration’s prohibitory orders. Tension ran high on Friday after Jaya Shankar Sah, aged 29, died during a violent clash between police and protesters. The protesters have been staging demonstrations by keeping the dead body in the street.
Issuing a notice on Saturday, the district administration said that it had imposed the prohibitory order to avert any untoward incidents following the death of a youth during protests on Friday. The 24-hour order will be in place until 8am on Sunday in the Barahathawa market area.
“A prohibitory order has been enforced from 8am on Saturday till 8am on Sunday in view of the possible risks of vandalism of public and private property, disruption in law and order, arson, and riots,” reads the notice signed by Chief District Officer Komal Prasad Dhamala. Any kind of meeting, or political gatherings are banned in the stated areas. The order also bars people from walking around the prohibited areas.
However, despite the prohibitory order, a huge number of locals, activists of various political parties and the business community took to the street. The protesters put forward a nine-point charter of demands including declaration of the deceased as a martyr, suspension of police officers involved in the incident, and resignation of Barahathawa Municipality Mayor Kalpana Kumari Katuwal, among others.
“We will continue protests until our demands are addressed,” said Bibek Sah, nephew of the deceased. The security personnel could not collect the dead body from the incident site as it is under the control of the protesters.
Sah was a local businessman of Barahathawa. He ran a hotel and feed industry. Sah, who had been studying MBBS in Bangladesh, returned home without completing his course after his father died during Covid pandemic.
On Friday, a curfew was enforced in the Barahathawa market area after the death of the protester. Tension ran high throughout the day on Friday in Barahathawa after agitators vandalised the municipal office and Mayor Katuwal’s house, which is close to the municipal office. The protesters also set a motorcycle on fire.
Barahathawa Municipality’s decision regarding the upgrade of a 15-bed municipal hospital triggered the violent protest on Friday. The municipality’s executive committee meeting on September 26, 2023 decided to upgrade the municipal hospital to a 50-bed health institution and hand it over to the provincial government of Madhesh. However, the municipality backtracked on its decision on January 2, which sparked the protests.
The Nepali Congress, Janata Samajwadi Party, Janamat Party and the business communities denounced the municipality’s decision and took to the street. An all party meeting was called on Friday but the disgruntled parties, business communities and the locals staged demonstrations against the municipality’s decision.
Katuwal was elected as the mayor of Barahathawa from the CPN-UML. Stating the protester’s death as an unfortunate incident, she urged all the political parties, business communities and the protesters to sort out the issue through negotiation.
Issuing a press statement on Saturday, the Congress district chairman Surendra Prasad Singh condemned Friday’s incident and claimed that the incident happened due to Mayor Katuwal’s decision. He reiterated that his party was in favour of upgrading the hospital and handing it over to the provincial government.
Meanwhile, an all party meeting was held at the District Administration Office in Malangawa. According to Chief District Officer Komal Prasad Dhamala, the meeting decided to take legal action against the security officers if they were found guilty.