CHITWAN: Whether or not the outgoing Oli government has met people’s expectations during its tenure, it has certainly left Swami Kamalanayanacharya a pleased man. Just ahead of stepping down, it decided to free a huge portion of land covered by the so-called spiritual guru’s arshram from the authority of Chitwan National Park (CNP).
Kamalanayanacharya has erected the infrastructure for his ashram across 37 hectares of land in the park area over the last few years. The Oli government took the sensitive decision only on July 20.
Swami Kamalanayanacharya had been erecting one infrastructure after another on the government land despite the controversy it has stirred and the objections of park officials. The swami expanded his ashram right under the noses of officialdom.
Kamalanayanacharya obviously exercises influence over several top political party leaders. Last year, his assistant was held by the park authorities in connection with the ashram construction. But he was freed soon afterward.
“Yes, the park area has been revised. Some portion of land has been added while some other parts have been freed from the park authority. This was decided by the council of ministers,” said Prem Narayan Kandel, acting spokesperson at the Forest Ministry. He added that the matter had been under discussion at the cabinet for quite some time. “The cabinet on Wednesday evening (July 20) decided to free the 37 hectares from the park area.”
Kandel said the boundary of the CNP was revised for its ‘own good’.
Stating that it would set a wrong precedent, park officials had requested the government not to free the land encroached by Kamalanayanacharya. However, they were also fearful that the Swami might get the upper hand in the end. Then CNP chief Kamal Jung Kunwar had urged the government to take the matter seriously as ‘it would encourage other land encroachers also’. Interestingly, Kunwar got transferred prematurely. Park officials requesting anonymity stated that ‘challenging Kamalanayanacharya would not be pleasant’.
Meanwhile, park officials and locals have voiced disappointment over the legalizing of ‘the land encroachment by the Swami’.
Dhananjay Khanal, an advocate, has filed a case against the revision of the park boundaries. Stating that the government decision could have an adverse affect on wildlife conservation, Khanal filed his case at Kasara, the headquarters of CNP, on July 26.