‘Nepal king ordered destruction of Buddha statue’

August 8th, 2011 - 5:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 8 (IANS) A former Nepali minister Monday said then King Birendra of Nepal had ordered the demolition of a Buddha statute.

Veteran politician Homnath Dahal, who was local development minister when King Gyanendra seized power in 2005, said his predecessor King Birendra ordered the army to knock down a statue of the Buddha built in western Nepal.

Dahal, a member of the opposition Nepali Congress party, said he was a journalist in the 1990s when the shocking incident occurred and he reported it in the “Rastriya Pukar” publication.

According to the former minister, the king, who was regarded as an incarnation of a Hindu god and wielded absolute power, had ordered that foreigners would not be able to build Buddhist monasteries in Nepal except in Lumbini, the sacred birthplace in southern Nepal.

However, a renowned Japanese monk, who had also built a Buddhist monastery in India’s Orissa state, wanted to establish monasteries in Nepal to propagate Buddhism.

The Japanese was helped by a former minister from the Nepali Congress, Min Bahadur Gurung.

Gurung offered the Japanese preacher his own personal land in Pokhara city, now a popular tourist destination in western Nepal.

Dahal said to throw dust in the eyes of the government, Gurung built a small temple on his land and then installed a Buddha statue there.

When Birendra came to know, he sent the army who razed down the temple and “kicked down” the Buddha statue, Dahal wrote Monday in the Nagarik daily.

Though he reported the desecration, Dahal said “there was no reaction” in Nepal.

Once the only Hindu kingdom in the world, though Nepal now takes immense pride in being the birthplace of the Buddha, Buddhists however say they live in neglect and repression.

Five years after Nepal became secular, the government is yet to offer any financial assistance to its nearly 5,000 monasteries and Buddhist shrines though it has earmarked funds for four major Hindu institutions.

The Nepal Buddhist Federation said in a recent press statement that harsh treatment to monks and nuns do not generally make news in Nepal.

“On the contrary the monasteries and nunneries in general have been the subject of systematic negative media campaign… including such baseless allegation as possessing weapons,” it said, adding, “Our monks and nuns live in perpetual fear.”

King Birendra, who was killed along with nine family members in a massacre in the royal palace in 2001, was regarded as a benevolent dictator who was flexible enough to agree to curb his own absolute powers in 1990 following a pro-democracy movement.

He also lifted the ban on political parties imposed by his father Mahendra and agreed to become a constitutional monarch, handing over power to an elected government.

Nepal’s government-conducted inquiry into the carnage says Birendra’s son Dipendra was responsible for the bloodbath as he was angered by his father’s surrender of absolute power and preventing him from marrying the girl he wanted to.

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

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