Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - With a petition, the authorities of the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath (Kathmandu) challenge the right of Christians and other religious minorities to bury the dead in the area around the holy place, as laid down by a Supreme Court ruling. The move is likely to fuel new tensions between Hindu and Protestant Christian leaders, 17 days on hunger strike to demand a place to bury their dead.
Chari Bahadur Gahatraj, Secretary General of the Committee of Christian counsel for the new Constitution, said: "Christians obtained approval from the Supreme Court with great difficulty. The community is shocked by the delays in implementing the government's verdict. " The leader announces that Christians will continue to demonstrate until the authorities provide new space for burials.
The debate on the burial site, however, divides the Christian community. The Catholic Church in Nepal has distanced itself from the protest, saying it had no objection to cremation. Bishop Anthony Sharma, bishop of Kathmandu, says that Nepal is a small country and land is a gift from God. In Kathmandu, thousands of families can not afford land to build a house and live camped in tents. "When the living do not have enough land - he says - there should be no objection to cremating the dead."
In Nepal more than 70% of the population is Hindu and traditionally the dead are cremated and not buried. Christians are about 3% and all other minorities buy land for their cemeteries purchased with the money of the faithful.
In recent years, Kathmandu has been subject to rocking real estate speculation. This has limited the availability of free land and reduced the areas that were once intended for Christian and other minorities cemeteries, forcing them to bury more bodies in the same grave. To resolve this problem, in 2009 the authorities granted the Christians Shleshmantak forest near the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath. The decision sparked protests from Hindus in other parts of the country and forced the local government to ban the use of the area. Despite the approval of the Supreme Court, police authorities prevent burials near the temple. In February, the Hindus destroyed more than 200 gravestones and tombs built by the Christians after the court's ruling issued on 28 January.