Nepal protesters demand government keep away from trusts

June 19, 2019
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Nepalese Newar community members shout slogans during a protest against government in Kathmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Thousands of people protested in the Nepalese capital to protest a Bill that would give government control over community and religious trusts. Protesters demanded the government scrap the proposed Bill to protect these trusts that hold religious ceremonies and festivals. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Thousands of people gathered in Nepal’s capital Wednesday to protest proposed legislation that would allow the government to nationalize centuries-old community and religious trusts responsible for organizing festivals and ceremonies.

The protesters gathered near the prime minister’s office in Kathmandu chanting anti-government slogans and blocking the road.

There were no clashes between the protesters and police on hand. Police the protest estimated there were about 20,000 people in the crowd.

The trusts can date back generations and are run by communities to support specific goals, such as maintaining a temple or arranging an annual religious ceremony. They are normally funded by donations and some have large holdings of property or land.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli announced Tuesday that the bill would be withdrawn from parliament just a day before the planned protest.

The protesters said they were not convinced the government was serious and worried the bill could be brought back later.

“We are not looking for withdrawal of the bill from parliament only. We are demanding that it is totally scrapped and there are assurances that it not be brought back again,” said Bishnu Raj Shrestha, who had closed his shop to join the protest.

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