Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The Maoist government has announced three months of national religious celebrations, in an attempt to stem the outbreak of protests in the country. The beginning of the yatra - the name of the traditional procession - was scheduled for yesterday, and will be held all over Nepal. The government headed by Prachanda hopes in this way to restore support after a series of decisions that the population considers as undue government meddling in religious questions.
The appointment of Nepalese monks as supervisors of the temple in Pashupati, installed at the beginning of the year with the help of the police, has unleashed protests and demonstrations on the part of the monks who were removed from office, and of the faithful who have witnessed the infringement of an age-old tradition.
Hundreds of people employed at the place of worship continue to demonstrate in front of the temple, calling for the restoration of the previous leader, of Indian origin. The government has created a "no protest zone" around the area of Pashupati, but the demonstrators continue to promote their cause.
The supreme court, to which the monks appealed, does not recognize the authority of the government to appoint religious leaders. On January 6, the prime minister said that he intended to respect the decision of the court. But in recent days, the newly appointed head of the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust said that the government had no intention of withdrawing its decision.
The monks of Indian origin, who had served at the temple until the end of 2008, say that they were forced out. One of them, interviewed by AsiaNews, says: "We were seriously pressured, and charged with mishandling the funds raised at the temple. But none of the Indian priests are responsible for any corruption. As we received many threats, we were compelled to resign from the post for the sake of our safety."
The World Hindu Federation organized, on Tuesday, a protest to which it invited all of the Hindu faithful and of the other religions present in the country. Da Damodar Gautam, president of the federation's Nepal chapter, says that in the name of change, laws and policies can be changed, but not faith and tradition. So we request the government to immediately withdraw the decision. If the government will not step back from such religious intervention, we will go to the international community for support."
Solidarity with the Hundu has also come from the Buddhist community, through a statement by Lama Nigma Dorje, president of the Gumba Management Committee.
The Rastriaya Prajatantra Party Nepal, a Hindu movement connected to the former king deposed by the Maoists, has begun agitations all over the country against the Maoist government and its interference in religious affairs. An anti-government march was held on Tuesday, December 6, beginning from the capital.
In the meantime, Lal Krishna Advani, the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has said that he is "deeply disturbed" by the Nepalese government's decision. In a statement, the BJP calls upon Kathmandu to respect these sentiments and religious tradition of the people, and calls the action by the Maoists "clumsy and anti-democratic."