Maoists capture Pashupatinath’s bathhouseJanuary 7th, 2009 - 3:28 pm ICT by IANS
Kathmandu, Jan 7 (IANS) Even as Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda claimed his former guerrilla party was not seeking to interfere in religious matters, its cadres have taken over the house meant for the bathing rituals of revered Hindu deity Pashupatinath.The Mahasnanguthi, a building at the west gate of the 17th century Pashupatinath temple traditionally used to store accessories for the elaborate bath ritual of the icon, is now controlled by Maoists who allegedly have been using the vantage-point building to collect money from traders and shop keepers.
Devotees who have been visiting the temple daily for years said they were stunned to see the Maoist red flag fluttering from the building almost two years ago after the army-backed regime of king Gyanendra collapsed and the new government signed a peace pact with the underground Maoist party, enabling them to come out of hiding.
Since 2006, there has been a systematic move by the Maoists, who profess not to have faith in any religion, to control the Pashupatinath shrine that is revered by Hindus worldwide.
The board of the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT) has undergone a sea change.
Hindus are objecting to the appointment of a Buddhist as a key PADT official, saying that the temple is meant for Hindus.
Even now, the signboard at the main shrine says only Hindus are allowed to enter.
“Would the Muslim community agree to a Hindu being appointed as a mosque official?” asked 65-year-old Vishnu Poudel, who has been visiting the shrine daily for 20 years now. “Can the government impose Hindu officials at Swayambhunath and Boudhanath, the two leading Buddhist shrines in Kathmandu valley?”
Questions are also being raised about the appointment of Maoist lawmaker Jhakku Prasad Subedi as a PADT member.
“The Pashupatinath area is not Subedi’s electoral constituency,” says Bharat Jangam, a social activist who is among the three groups that have filed petitions in Nepal’s Supreme Court asking for the scrapping of new appointments at the temple.
“As per PADT provisions, the lawmaker of the Pashupatinath constituency should be on board. Suprabha Ghimire of opposition Nepali Congress (NC) was elected from the Pashupatinath area, but she has been unfairly dropped.”
Hindu organisations, devotees and Hindu holy men have begun protests near the temple, objecting to the resignation of four Indian priests, who were reportedly intimidated into quitting, and the arbitrary appointment of Nepali priests in their place.
The protests have spread outside Kathmandu valley with Hindu mendicants staging a rally Tuesday in Mahottari district before the temple of Jaleshwor, another incarnation of Lord Pashupati.
Even Nepal’s major parties are condemning the Maoist interference.
The NC led a protest rally near the shrine Tuesday while Ghimire led a delegation of protesting Hindu groups to the head of state, President Ram Baran Yadav.
Other opposition parties like the royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal and Rastriya Janashakti Party have joined the protests as well as the Maoists’ ruling ally, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist.