Kathmandu, Sep 3 (PTI) Over a thousand people gathered for a religious chariot festival in Nepal on Thursday, defying COVID-19 prohibitory orders, and clashed with police who resorted to tear gas shells to disperse them, causing a few injuries.
People gathered at Pulchowk area of Lalitpur district, 8 kms east of Kathmandu, to take part in the centuries-old chariot pulling Machindranath festival, which is mainly observed by the Buddhist community in the valley, police said.
The festival is the longest chariot festival in Nepal which starts just before the beginning of monsoon, to appease the rain and grain god Rato Machindranath, according to the Kathmandu Post.
The district administration had in July directed the locals involved in the annual festival to postpone it till the pandemic is over, it said.
Tensions flared as police objected to an attempt made by the people to organise the chariot pulling procession of the statue of Rato Machindranath.
The local youth started pelting bricks and stones on the police personnel on duty, following which the police lobbied tear gas shells and used water cannons to disperse the crowd.
Half a dozen people, including some policemen, sustained minor injuries, police said.
A police vehicle was also damaged in the incident. However, no one has been arrested so far, police said.
A large number of riot police personnel were mobilised in the area to avert any untoward incident.
The district administration extended the coronavirus restrictions for one more week after the two-week long prohibitory order expired on Wednesday amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
According to the Johns Hopkins university data, Nepal has reported 42,877 COVID-19 cases with 257 deaths. PTI SBP RS RS