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Martyrs' Day sees small turnout

Lack of interest by government and public endangers legacy of annual holiday

Celebrants of Nepal's Martyrs Day lay floral wreaths at the Shahid gate in Kathmandu yesterday Celebrants of Nepal's Martyrs Day lay floral wreaths at the Shahid gate in Kathmandu yesterday
  • Chirendra Satyal, Kathmandu
  • Nepal
  • January 31, 2012
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Organizers of this year’s Martyr’s Day commemoration cautioned that lack of interest by the government and the public have endangered the legacy of the annual holiday.

Shankar Poudel, chief organizer of a remembrance event yesterday, said ambivalence has marked that last several years of the holiday.

“We invited government officials and others, but no one showed up,” he said. About 50 people turned up this year to lay garlands at Martyr’s Gate, which Poudel said was even at risk of being demolished.

“Amid political protests five years ago, a crowd of more than a hundred came to demolish the gate. But we, though small, hope to keep the tradition alive annually.”

Martyr’s Day honors victims of political violence, particularly those killed under the reign of the Rana dynasty, a family that ruled under a system of hereditary prime ministers from 1846 to 1951.

Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai paid tribute yesterday to the martyrs by laying a floral wreath at a little-known Martyrs Memorial Park in Lainchaur, where members of the military also celebrate the martyrs.

Some political activists have argued that the day should also acknowledge the deaths of more than 13,000 people under the country’s Maoist government between 1996 and 2006, and that events at the Martyr’s Gate should be halted.

Martyrs Gate, also called the Shahid gate, memorializes four martyrs – Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Ganga Lal Shrestha, Dasharath Chand and Sukra Raj Shastri – killed under the rule of the Ranas.

In a move that highlights the political divide over national martyrs, the Maoist-led government earlier this month ruled that a statue of the nation’s last monarch, King Tribhuwan, is to be relocated to the Narayanhiti palace.

This year’s commemoration also included an announcement by Kathmandu’s chief executive officer, Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, that families of the four martyrs honored by the Shahid gate would receive a monthly compensation of 10,000 rupees (about US$188), and that new libraries in the country will bear the martyrs’ names.
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