Thousands of demonstrators came out on the streets yesterday (19 June) in Nepal to protest against a bill of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) government which would extend state control over ‘guthis’, which are traditional trust-like entities which organise and oversee religious festivities and administer local temples, reports AFP.
The guthi system stems from the traditions of the Newar community which constitutes the original population of the Kathmandu Valley. There has been immense backlash in the region as well as other parts of the country over the government’s ‘Guthi Bill’, which was registered in April this year (2019).
"They are attacking our heritage. guthi has been part of our culture for generations and we will not let the government take it away," said Nani Maiya Maharjan who came out to protest yesterday.
The government’s bill proposes putting all guthis under one common authority, removing the present trustees from their positions heading these trusts.
Although the Nepalese government has announced that it will withdraw the bill, concern persists among people about state interference in religious matters. Thus, protesters came out in strength to convey the message that they would not relent until the bill is actually scrapped.
Government control over Hindu temples has also been an extremely contentious issue in India, particularly due to cases of blatant mismanagement; for example, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department of the Tamil Nadu government directed that temple funds be utilised to supply water to its offices.