The Nepali state observed Democracy Day on 19 February inside Tundikhel, but a few hours later civic groups demonstrated on its perimeter demanding that the space be given back to the public.
Democracy Day on Falgun 7 marks the day of the return from India of King Tribhuvan and the formal end to the 104-year rule by the hereditary Rana oligarchy in 1950. However, democracy has seen many ups and downs in the period.
The latest challenge has been by Prime Minister Oli, who dissolved the Lower House and called for snap polls, just a year ahead of schedule. Many saw the move as unconstitutional, and the prime minister going against the country’s democratic principles because he could not manage a power struggle within his ruling Nepal Communist Party.
There have been protests by a rival faction of the party led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal on the streets, and Prime Minister Oli himself has been rallying his supporters in cities across the country. The two sides have been competing to bring out more people out as a show of force while the Supreme Court decides on the fate of the Lower House.
Civic groups have also been protesting a myriad issues related to women’s rights, gender-based violence and a spate of rape cases. Friday’s demo was organised by a citizen’s group demanding that Tundikhel be given back to the people by the Nepal Army which has encroached upon most of it.
Among the protesters on Friday who carried a map of the shrinking Tundikhel, while others held placards that told the government it had ‘f**** with the wrong generation’.