Nepal government stops ex-king from religious programme

September 21st, 2010 - 2:19 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Sep 21 (IANS) Two years after the abolition of monarchy in Nepal, deposed king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah was at the heart of a fresh row Tuesday with the government, citing security concerns, preventing him from attending a religious programme at the palace of his ancestors.

The 63-year-old ousted king was stopped at the last moment from going to the Basantapur Palace, from where his ancestors had ruled Nepal in the past, to be the chief guest at a programme smacking of a campaign for the restoration of the Hindu kingdom in Nepal.

Organised by a Hindu organisation, the Yuva Bishwa Hindu Mahasangh, the elaborate programme included felicitating nine former Kumaris — women who had once been appointed Nepal’s living goddess, a position they lost on reaching puberty — as well as 504 “young virgins”.

Traditionally, the Kumari was regarded as the protector of the royal family. The programme also coincided with Indrajatra, a festival celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists as thanksgiving to the rain god for a bountiful harvest. During Indrajatra, the king of Nepal used to make offerings to the Kumari to ensure his triumphant reign.

After the abolition of monarchy in 2008, the president of Nepal, who replaced the king as the head of state, usurped all royal duties, including making offerings to the Kumari.

Tuesday’s programme, therefore, is regarded as a virtual campaign by the Mahasangh for the restoration of monarchy and a Hindu state in Nepal.

However, the former king’s participation was prevented by the caretaker government that said it would not be able to ensure his security due to another public programme being held in the capital at the same time.

The Nepali Congress, the largest party in the ruling alliance, is currently holding its general convention in Kathmandu with thousands of representatives arriving from different parts of the country to take part.

On Tuesday, the party also began an internal election to choose a new chief for four years, a position left vacant by veteran politician Girija Prasad Koirala’s death this year.

The home ministry said its forces were deployed at the convention and it would not be able to provide security to the former king.

Rajan Maharjan, chief of the Mahasangh, alleged that the government had kept the former king under surveillance to prevent him from turning up at the programme.

The organisers referred to the deposed king as reigning and omnipotent and raised slogans against the government, saying they condemned the interference.

Since the political parties’ failure to promulgate a new constitution in May, that would have consolidated the secular nature of Nepal, royalists have stepped up campaigns for the restoration of the Hindu kingdom in Nepal.

The ousted king, who had been keeping a low profile after his throne was scrapped, is now increasingly taking part in public programmes along with his son and daughter-in-law.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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