06/28/2016, 13.39

Nepalese priest against using religion to shield crimes

by Christopher Sharma

Police detain Hindu holy man for deceiving and getting young people sold to human traffickers. They also arrest two Buddhists with 35 kilos of hashish hidden in sacred texts. This shows "how religion is improperly used in Nepal,” said Fr Ignitious Rai, pastor in Kathmandu, and how its dignity is being undermined.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Punya Prasad dangal, a 75-year-old Hindu teacher and holy man, was arrested two days ago on charges of duping many young people who came to him for advice on their future.

This is a dangerous and worrying example of "how religion is improperly used in Nepal. No one should undermine the purity of people’s faith,” said Fr Ignitious Rai, pastor at Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral as a he reacted to the holy man’s arrest as well as that of a couple of Buddhists accused in connection with human and drug trafficking.

The authorities accuse the holy man of trying to get young people to travel abroad (mainly to Japan, the United States and Canada) as earthquake victims. He would be paid for this with the kids ending up in the hands of human traffickers. The accused reportedly pocketed some 2.5 million rupees (US$ 20,000).

"Everyone respected him as a holy man. Many came to him for advice,” said Bijaya Manandhar, one of the victims. However, “he deceived people and sent them abroad on migrant visas. I trusted him, and he advised me to earn more. I paid a deposit but then I reported him to the police when he put me in touch with a network of traffickers."

Punya Prasad dangal "had good contacts in Arab countries, where people were sold to Islamist militants,” said Sitamaya Tamang. “Many innocent kids are used as human shields and many girls are sex slaves,” she added.

Police also arrested Saiman Tamang, 25, and Dhan Bahadur Tamang, 37, after they were caught with 35 kilos of hashish. The two come from a famous Buddhist area near the Kopan Monastery in the capital.

The drug was found inside Buddhist religious texts, ready for sale abroad. Police seized a million rupees in cash as well.

According to law enforcement, the two are part of a racket run by Dharma Pakhrin, a Bangkok-based Buddhist drug lord.

The traffickers are known for stuffing drugs inside religious objects for shipment to the Netherlands and Hong Kong.

Police believe that this batch of drugs was destined for Islamic militants.

According to authorities, Nepal is increasingly becoming an important drug hub, mainly because of the increased presence of Chinese in the country.

Drugs reach Kathmandu from different parts of the world before they are shipped out through contacts in Pakistan, Brazil, Thailand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and the United States (and many other countries).

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