Tribhuwan University, established in 1959, the oldest university of Nepal, has fulfilled the dreams of thousands Nepalese. The university at Kipoo(Kirtipur), which spreads over an area of 154.77 hectares, constitutes the Central Administrative Office and the Central Campus, has buried the spirits of the indigenous population since 59 years. The dark history of Tribhuwan University’s establishment and its consequences on the Newa population has always been talked by the residents, but their voices dampened by the power and state. While the introduction of Mega Projects in Nepa Valley, the indigenous population at most times have been pushed around and adversely affected through unjust bargains, use of institutionalized force, exploitation of vulnerability, and most importantly the state power.
Kirtipur, an ancient Newa town, is natively known as Kipoo, the residents are called Kipoo-mi. The Kipoo-mi people still talk about what happened fifty nine years ago, and how it affects their livelihood today. Large structures that loll beside the ancient town of Kipoo nudges the hearts of Newars, how they had been pushed away for a “development”. “Why couldn’t development include us? Why do they have to harm us every time?” ruminates in people’s heart. From unjustful actions, conspiracies, divisions to use of power, Kipoo faced fifty nine years ago.
The major source of livelihood and economy, the agricultural land girdles Kipoo. Mahendra Shah, the tenth descendant of Gorkhali invader Prithvi Narayan Shah, kept a bad eye on the land of Kipoo-mi. “A commission was made for establishing the university. Even Laxmi Prashad Devkota, a great poet of Gorkhali language, was in the commission.” said Dwarika Maharjan, a social worker from Kipoo. The Kipoo-mi people also express that King Mahendra Shah, who was devoted to his forefather Prithvi Narayan Shah, had a notion of taking revenge with Kipoo-mi since Gorkhalis were badly defeated two times in Kipoo. “There were also other places proposed for University, where the land was not fertile and agriable, but Mahendra did not consider them”, says Harisharan Maharjan. Not to forget Mahendra was the king who introduced to 75 district systems where the native administrative units were dismantled.
With discussions pressing the capital, finally it was decided to be established in Kipoo. Following the decisions, land acquisition was to be made. During the land acquisition, government promised to provide Kipoo-mi people with 15 hundred rupees compensation per ropani and also provide 5 bigha land in Chitwan or Hetauda. On 1956 November 30 Friday, which was Bikram Samvat 2013 Marga 15, a declaration in Gorkhapatra was published about the process of university building. The first lines of the declaration said, “Kipoo-mi people will be employed for building the structures. Kipoo-mi people will make the buildings of the university.” The second declaration was, “Kipoo-mi people will be at first priority for employees of Tribhuwan University.” The declaration sounded great, but it did not come as an agreement but one-sided information from government.
The Divided Kipoo-mi
When the news of land acquisition arrived, Kipoo-mi people started opposing the decision. Then the state played dirty game of “Divide and Rule”. On one hand state agents were sending messages to Kipoo-mi people that they will be wealthy and prosperous after the university is constructed and will get muti-dimensional advantages. On the other hand were the brainstormers who were critical about the consequences of the way this project was placed. The division of Kipoo-mi people even led to a chaos.
The two groups formed, where one said, “Once the dictator government has declared for land acquisition, they will capture it anyhow. We won’t be able to stop them. Lets keep our demands of justice” who were the “Ya Sangh”, while the other group said, “Our life depends on our land. We cannot loose our fixed assets. Even if they give a mound of gold to a mound of soil, we will not give to them.” were the “Maya Sangh”. With this internal division among Kipoo-mi, it became easy for the state.
The voices of ‘Maya Sangh’ became strong in those times that the ‘Ya Sangh” started to diminish. The majority of Kipoo-mi were in the opposition of this, while the voices were strongly being raised, ‘Ya Sangh’ got boycotted from the social institutions and spheres, Guthi.
The Deceived Kipoo-mi
The government first declared to acquire 500 ropanis land only. This somehow had brought a feeling that not much will be harmed with 500 ropani land only. But, the government deceived Kipoo-mi and took 3500 ropanis of land. The government again told that Kipoo-mi people will receive land instead of land. It was said that the Parti Land(community land, revenue free land, used for funeral rituals) of Duru Pukhoo and Syuchatar will be given. Lofty promises were made to Kipoo-mi saying 3 ropanis land will be given in return to 1 ropani land. Moreover, the state even said that 3 bigha of land in Chitwan would be provided instead of 1 bigha land, and 100 rupees per one bigha land to clear the forest.
“Kipoo-mi people are going to be placed in the region where there is malaria. How can we survive?”, the chaos even aggregated. The chaos reached at such level that people that people from one tole could not even move to the other tole. A referendum was declared. In the referendum, only one person voted for the university and everyone else voted against it. The referendum result got twisted when it was presented to King Mahendra. The commission said that, “Only one person voted against and everyone else welcomed.” This was the biggest conspiracy done against Kipoo-mi.
The protest against construction accelerated that ever thought. The state again played it tactics. The influential leaders of opposition were given appointment letter for job at Tribhuwan University. It wasn’t the end. Time and again, year by year the unjustful land acquisition took place and more than 6 thousand ropani of land was grabbed.
Amidst the protest happening, state started construction. No one got land in Chitwan, neither somewhere else. One ropani land was given 300 rupees, where some people could take full amount, some people could take partial amount while some people never got a single penny. This was how state treated the Kipoo-mi people.
As per the declaration, Kipoo-mi people were not provided employment.
Opposition and Suppression
As soon as the process of land acquisition started, the citizens started to oppose more strongly. Then King Mahendra Shah visited Panga. During this visit to Panga, people started sleeping on the streets and blocked his way. Women came out with black cloths to show their opposition. “I remember, when I was a child, my Ta-maa(father’s elder brother’s wife) took me to Panga and said ‘Mahendra ta Haku Parsi Kyan Wonegu’: Showing black parsi(sari) to Mahendra”, remembers Harisharan Maharjan. They even started hanging black parsi in windows of every house.
King Mahendra started suppressing the protests. The main leaders were arrested, which started making the voices of Kipoo-mi weaker. Then government started doing land survey, by deploying police personnel. The suppression went to such a extent that people were started to be taxed even to enter and exit Kipoo because the road to Kipoo was through University. This stopped only in Bikram Sambat 2030.
When Tribhuwan University started to extend it dimensions year by year, and with a declaration of 500 ropani, it has reached 6,500 ropani, again in order to build walls to bound the area, land grabbing started, where youths revolted in a different way.
The youths started to demolish the walls of TU. Then police personnel were deployed again, but this time, they did not do anything. As the result, TU stepped back 12 feet and built the walls.
It was also the time when ringroad was constructed in the valley. The road that goes from Kalanki to Ekantakuna was deviated. Kalanki was known as Kalkhu Ajima while Ekantakuna was the way to Gwakhuncho which is now known as Bhaisipati. Even the ringroad was proposed to pass through Kipoo, but the violent protests deviated it otherway.
State language and Citizen’s language
The language used as official language by the state was Gorkhali language. In 1920, Gorkhali language was started to be referred as Nepali language. Meanwhile a large population of citizens in Kipoo could not understand this language. They spoke their native language only. The state took advantage of this. Moreover, the citizens were kept uneducated for many generations. Before the Rana regime, Newa people could read and write in their native language, but the one language policy and anti-education policy kept Newa people illiterate and uneducated for many generations, of which was taken advantage during land acquisition. One can imagine what challenges they faced 59 years ago because the authorities spoke a language most completely did not understand. However, a written agreement was never done.
The Kipoo-mi whose livelihood was dependent on their farms, had a great loss of their livelihood. Most people’s source of food got cut off, and also their source of income. Many Kipoo-mi had to come to core Kathmandu and struggle for employment. Their hardships of economy has diverse stories. For most people, their fixed assets were lost, they couldn’t do anything with the amount of compensation. “From the land owners, Kipoo-mi had to be beggars”, said Panchalal Maharjan. Aside from livelihood crackdowns, the culture of Kipoo also faced backlash because a lot of Guthi land(revenue free community cultural land) was also acquired in the process. However, King Mahendra also established Guthi Sansthan, through which he brought all the autonomously functioning Guthi institutions of Newa people, and started to turn community land to private land. The Guthi institution that run from the income and production of Guthi land, got languished. There is a forest called Gwodaa-gun, which is important for a jatrathat takes places. The culture of lighting “Gwodaa-mata” has died out. This is just an example, while lot of such cultures have vanished, with loss of their community land.
Till today 35 hundred ropani of land hasn’t been used. This large amount of land is just grabbed by TU and left for nothing. Many citizens are paying taxes to work here their own land. The land that was grabbed without a compensation is being taxed by TU. The Kipoo-mi people also fear that if they do not come and work in their land, TU will capture them as well, but even to work in their own land, they have to pay tax. Many Kipoo-mi have become landless and homeless as well. The people whose sole job was agriculture faced serious backlash in their economic life. Fifty nine years ago, when service oriented jobs were not introduced and traditional jobs were the only source of income, one can imagine what sort of economic backlash was faced. TU has no plans to utilize the left out land, and is taking taxes from its own native land owners.
The protests did not stop, the younger generation realized what they had lost and time and again made protests. However, police force was used to suppress the protests. Various Banking companies got land that was grabbed from the Kipoo-mi. The land that was grabbed for education purpose is being used for business as well. The protest is still going and when it seems like to reach a peak, the TU administration plays a game to divide the Kipoo-mi.
“Money is current asset. It will finish within a few year. Land is fixed asset. We can pass this wealth from generation to generation. Land is also power. With loss of land Kipoo-mi have lost many things, from power to economy”, a local activist says.
Despite the Kipoo-mi had to loose their land for establishing university, what did they get in return except suppression, conspiracy and marginalization?
Here is a documentary of the unsolved story of Tribhuwan University and Kipoo-mi people, which is in Nepal Bhasa.