Nepal’s ‘Laurel-Hardy’ join protests against animal massacre

November 10th, 2009 - 4:15 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Nov 10 (IANS) Nepal’s best-loved comedian duo, who have also become the voice of the fledgling republic’s conscience, have joined the growing protests in Nepal against the horrific slaughter of hundreds of thousands of birds and animals at a temple in the Terai.

Madan Krishna Shrestha and Hari Bansha Acharya - known as the MaHa pair and the only living beings in Nepal to have a series of comic books devoted to their antics - are asking people not to pledge to sacrifice birds and animals at the altar of the Gadhimai Temple in Bara district.

The temple has been dubbed “Nepal’s temple of doom” by the media because of the fair that is held every five years. The fair becomes the “largest animal killing fields in the world” where hundreds of thousands of birds and beasts are slaughtered by devotees who throng from both Nepal and Indian states across the border.

Shrestha and Acharya, who are also the public face of the UN and government’s campaigns in Nepal to spread harmony among different ethnic communities and improve child health, will take part in a public rally Friday to urge people to stop wanton bloodshed, be it of humans or animals.

Animal Welfare Network Nepal (AWNN) and Anti-Animal Sacrifice Alliance, two NGOs that are spearheading a campaign to end the centuries-old tradition, said the two stars will take part in a demonstration in Lalitpur city Friday lighting candles in the name of the 500,000 animals that are reported to be ready for sacrifice at the Terai temple.

“We have petitioned the agriculture ministry,” said Pramada Shah of AWNN. “We are telling the government that the mass slaughter, besides being inhuman, also needs to be stopped due to the danger of outbreaks of swine flu or bird flu as most of the animals are smuggled in from India without passing through the quarantine posts.”

On Tuesday, the media announced that a fair, scheduled to start at the Galeshwar Mahadev temple in Myagdi in western Nepal, had been shelved due to the outbreak of swine flu in neighbouring Parbat district and fears that the virus could have also entered Myagdi.

However, the government, despite being urged by noted Indian animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi to stop the killings in Bara, has said it would not ban the Gadhimai fair for fear of ruffling religious sentiments.

“We don’t think the slaughter will stop this year,” admitted Shah, who is also the niece-in-law of Nepal’s former King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah, who had been known for the large number of animal sacrifices he offered in Nepal and India during his five-year reign.

“However, the growing awareness this year makes us optimistic that one day, it will stop voluntarily.”

Shah said for the next five years, Nepal’s animal rights organisations would continue to liaise with Indian animal welfare organisations for a sustained campaign, especially in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, from where Indian devotees flock in large numbers to Gadhimai since their own states have banned animal sacrifices.

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