Fear of attacks leads to ban of New Year celebrations in Kathmandu
by Christopher Sharma

The authorities have banned concerts, fireworks and shows in the capital and two neighbouring districts. For many angry Nepalis, "The Western New Year has been part of our culture” and it is unfair to ban it. The decision will force Christians to cancel festivities, but some will prepare for 1st January with Bible readings.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepali authorities have banned New Year celebrations, including fireworks and concerts, in Kathmandu and surrounding areas, fearful of possible attacks and unrest at mass events.

This is the first time that end-of-year festivities have been proscribed. "Our decision will control crime,” said Prakash Aryal, a senior police office in Kathmandu. “We are very sensitive to security situations that may endanger security.” In fact, even “Exchanging greetings in public is prohibited,” he added.

Every year, thousands of Nepalis celebrate New Year Western style with festivals, concerts, fairs and other events. Religious communities often organise events with a religious content.

The ban touches Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur districts. More than 2,000 police will be on duty to ensure compliance. However, many Nepalis have been put off by the decision, which affects the tourism and entertainment sectors.

"The Western New Year celebration has been part of our culture for years,” said Raju Shakya, a concert organiser in the capital. “People are happy to offer best wishes. This maintains solidarity, respect and social peace."

"The government should ensure security and ask people to remain peaceful,” said Samriddhi Rai, a Christian dancer and singer. “There are no justifications to ban any public event because of the danger of small incidents. Nepal is culturally and religiously diverse and such celebrations further mutual tolerance."

The ban also affects the Christian community, which cannot perform planned public activities. Still, in the capital, many Christians have decided to hold private Bible readings to prepare for the feast of Mary the Mother of God on 1st January.

Sirjana Tamang was supposed to attend a concert. "I planned to go with my friends but instead I'll stay home with my family and share the stories of the Holy Scriptures with neighbours."