Pashupatinath in Nepal declared prohibited area (Roundup)

January 5th, 2009 - 10:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Amitabh BachchanKathmandu, Jan 5 (IANS) As violence and public anger continued to mount over the ruling Maoist party’s intervention in Nepal’s revered Pashupatinath temple, the 17th century temple and its surroundings were Monday declared prohibited areas where rallies, demonstrations and press conferences have been banned.The Pashupatinath Area Development Trust, an autonomous body that manages the shrine, Monday made the announcement after fresh violence erupted in the area with angry locals and students protesting against the Maoist government’s decision to remove Indian priests and appoint Nepali successors.

Protesters blocked part of the road leading to the temple, burning tyres and pelting passing vehicles with stones. Several cars were damaged.

Nepal’s major parties joined the chorus of condemnation putting greater pressure on Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to strike a conciliatory tone.

“We will honour the order of the Supreme Court,” Prachanda said after holding hasty meetings with President Ram Baran Yadav, and opposition leader and former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala to discuss how to defuse the row that has also spread to neighbouring India.

Koirala, regarded as the architect of the peace agreement that ended Nepal’s 10-year Maoist insurgency and helped the guerrillas return to mainstream politics, has advised Prachanda to reinstate Mahabaleshwor Bhatt, the chief Indian priest at the shrine, who along with three other Indian priests resigned after alleged Maoist pressure.

He has also asked the Maoist government to follow the order issued by Nepal’s Supreme Court Sunday and to consult all political parties in future before taking decisions of national importance.

Three groups of people, including temple employees, filed petitions at Nepal’s Supreme Court last week, asking for the new appointments to be scrapped as they were done without following procedures.

However, the Maoist Minister for Culture and State Restructuring Gopal Kiranti had ruled out reinstating the Indian priests, saying that they had quit voluntarily and their resignation had been accepted by the trust.

Dismay and concern at the unprecedented fracas is being expressed by Indian leaders as well.

Former Indian defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose Samajwadi Party is an ally of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), said he was grieved to be leaving Nepal without being able to visit the Pashupatinath shrine.

Yadav, who had come on a two-day visit to Nepal Sunday at the personal invitation of President Yadav, said the furore was an evil omen that could assume dangerous proportions if not defused immediately.

He also said that Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan and billionaire industrialist Anil Ambani were also to have accompanied him but called off their trip because of the Pashupatinath row.

Protests Monday began in India as well with rallies before the Nepal Embassy in New Delhi where protesters burnt the effigy of Prachanda.

A subdued Prachanda Monday said the fracas was due to “unwarranted politicisation” but his government would obey the Supreme Court order.

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