Nepal apex court to hear Pashupatinath row Monday

January 7th, 2009 - 3:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Jan 7 (IANS) Asked to arbitrate in the growing row over Nepal’s revered Pashupatinath temple, the Himalayan republic’s apex court said it would hear the dispute Monday.On Jan 4, three separate groups of people, including temple employees, had filed affidavits at Nepal’s Supreme Court seeking a stay on the removal of the Indian priests engaged at the shrine and halt to the appointment of new priests.

The seeds of the unprecedented discord were sown last year after the atheist Maoist party won a historic election and came to power.

Soon after the chief of the party, former revolutionary Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, was sworn in as prime minister in August, his cadres allegedly began pressuring the five Indian priests appointed at the shrine to quit so that Nepalis could be appointed in their place.

In the 18th century, Nepal’s kings had begun the tradition of bringing priests from India’s Kerala and Karnataka states, known for their adherence to vedic rituals, to offer the intricate ritual worship at the 17th Century temple.

While many hailed the appointment of Nepalis, the matter has come under fire since the Maoist government jumped procedures and kept on hiring new people in defiance of a court order.

After the first new appointments were made public Jan 1, they were challenged by three groups, including Rajbhandaris, the temple staff who assist the priests.

However, though the Supreme Court issued a stay order, the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) that runs the shrine has been on a collision course with the law, making further new appointments.

Retaliating to the stay order, the PADT has made a counter petition, calling the order unjust and urging the court to vacate the stay.

Even as the battle starts in Nepal’s top court Monday, the PADT and protesters have already locked horns on the streets.

The protesters, joined by Hindu groups and major political parties, have begun regular protests before the temple in defiance of a ban on rallies.

Though the beleaguered Maoist government said it would start a countrywide foot march to defuse the row and issued a white paper to project its view point on the issue, it has found few takers.

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