Kathmandu, Nov 1, 2018-
The authority of Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park has reclaimed the religious forest that was handed over to Osho Tapoban, the international commune and forest retreat centre named after spiritual guru Rajneesh Osho, after it was found flouting conservation laws and putting up infrastructures in the buffer zone.
The national park authority handed over the official withdrawal letter to the retreat management on Wednesday evening, snatching the 37-ropani area which was granted as religious forest 13 years ago. Going against existing laws, which bars from felling trees from the conservation area, a road, a bridge and a guard house were constructed within the Tapoban premises by clearing the forest. The structures were constructed by Department of Roads (DoR) following demands by the Tabopan, which has been registered as a non-government organisation.
The decision to repossess the religious forest came less than 24 hours after the Post carried the report about retreats centre’s illegal construction in the buffer zone.
The national park has also directed the DoR to demolish the structures, which were built entirely from government funding and cost over Rs 10 million to the taxpayers. After discovering the illegal construction, the national park administration had sought separate written clarifications from Tapoban management and the DoR earlier in April.
“The clarification wasn’t satisfactory and resulted in withdrawing the forest from the possession of Tapoban,” Kamal Jung Kuwar, chief conservation officer of the national park who took the decision told the Post. “The area now has come under our possession starting today.”
The decisions were made as per Buffer Zone Management Regulations 1996 which authorises the respective national park to take religious forest back if the institutions managing it don’t comply with the legal terms and conditions.
Following the repossession of the land, Tapoban, which sells meditation service to the national and international clients, will be confined within around 22 ropanis of land privately owned by the group. The government had handed the forest land to the retreat centre for ten years in 2005.
According to park officials, the repossessed area will be handed over to Mudku Srijanshil Upabhokta Samiti as a community forest.
The Post made several attempts to reach the Tapoban management for a comment, but representatives for the group declined to respond. A senior official at the Department of Roads said they are yet to receive the letter from the national park, therefore, couldn’t comment on the present development. “Let us first get the letter,” said Mukti Gautam, the department’s spokesperson, “and then we can tell you about our future move.”