Kathmandu, July 21
Nepal’s authorities must immediately halt forced eviction of the Chepang people from their settlements and ensure that those responsible for the destruction of 10 homes are held accountable, Amnesty International said today.
“On 18 July 2020, the authorities at Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, set two houses ablaze and destroyed eight others with the use of elephants. The attacks were carried out without any prior warning.
The Chepang families, belonging to one of Nepal’s most marginalised communities, lost not just their homes but also their money, identity documents and other possessions,” AI stated in a press release. “Depriving anyone of their homes is an act of cruelty. To do so with the use of arson and charging elephants, risking lives and destroying the few possessions of marginalised community, is unconscionable and a human rights violation,” read the release.
The Chepang community must be protected. Any further attempts to force them out of their homes must be stopped.
The people who have been forcibly evicted must be given effective remedy including adequate alternative housing and compensation.
The perpetrators responsible for these forced evictions should be held accountable for their actions.” One of the victims of the attack told AI that the park authorities first began approaching their homes by grazing elephants on the land used by the Chepang community for farming, damaging their crops.
They then set two of the houses on fire and unleashed elephants to charge at and destroy eight other houses. The park authorities took the action without even informing local government officials.
Members of the Chepang community, who lost their homes have been taking shelter in a school hostel nearby and fear that other members of their community in Chitwan National Park could also suffer the same fate. This is the second such attack that Nepal’s indigenous people have faced in two months. In June, the authorities at the Bardiya National Park attempted to forcibly evict members of the landless Tharu community from their settlements there. Indigenous Chepang communities depend on subsistence farming as they do not have land. Nepal’s laws, which fail to meet international standards, only protect people living ‘on land that they own’ and fail to ensure adequate safeguards against forced evictions of people who do not have land ownership titles.
“No one should be subjected to forced evictions. It is appalling that during a pandemic and ongoing rainy season, when having a home is critical to keeping oneself safe, Nepal’s authorities have chosen to dispossess some of the most marginalised people and make them homeless” read the release. “Nepal’s authorities should be focusing their energies on addressing the human rights of all including Indigenous peoples at this time, including their rights to adequate housing and access to livelihoods.”
A version of this article appears in e-paper on July 22, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.