Thousands of protesters in Nepal locked horns with the police after the law enforcement officials used tear gas and water cannons to break up a religious rally carried out in defiance of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Nepal government had placed a ban on large gatherings to stem the inexorable spread of the Chinese coronavirus within the country. However, more than 2,000 people on Thursday took to one of the busiest thoroughfares of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, to haul a chariot of the rain God, Rato Machhindranath, a tradition practised for aeons.
Police officials donning riot gear were determined to stop the people from following the centuries-old ritual. Intending to disperse the congregation, the police came down brutally against the people, hurling water cannons and using tear gases against them, who in turn responded by pelting stones at the police force.
Riots in Kathmandu.— Research Wing (@ResearchWing) September 4, 2020
After biased appeasement by @PM_Nepal govt. and restricting Hindus from celebreting festival people in #Nepal hit the streets agains the state.
Complete governance failure by Nepal Communist Party. pic.twitter.com/UjBm62gBE9
Devotees claim communist government in Nepal interfering in their religious and cultural practices
The violent confrontation between the people and the police force continued for hours, rippling through the other areas of the city, which too witnessed widespread violence and rioting after the Nepal police displayed unusual brutality against the people gathered to carry out the age-old tradition.
The adherents claimed that they should be allowed to follow the tradition that has lasted for more than 1000 years. They have objected to the government-imposed curbs, claiming that they are deliberate attempts by the communist government of Nepal to interfere in their religious practices and festivals.
The Communist government of Nepal had banned outdoor celebrations of festivals and large religious gatherings since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, in a bid to stop the relentless march of the contagion. Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and surrounding districts have experienced a severe lockdown since last month that forbids people from leaving their residences.
Nepal went into the lockdown in March which was gradually lifted in July. However, the caseloads of coronavirus kept on spiking, prompting the government to impose prohibitory orders in areas witnessing the rise in the cases. Nepal has registered approximately 43,000 cases till date and 257 fatalities.
A 1,350-years-old tradition of pulling Rato Machindranth’s chariot
The tradition involving Rato Machindranath—a deity whose idol is created from clay and covered in red paint with eyes wide open—is pulled around the city for a month with the conviction that will please the gods, who in return will provide a generous rainfall, a bountiful harvest and prosperity.