Kathmandu (AsiaNews) -
Fr John Prakash, an Indian
priest assassinated in 2008 by Hindu extremists, will be recognised as
national martyr, this according to Gita Rasailee, coordinator of the probe
committee for martyrs and the disappeared. The latter's aim is to come up with
a list of people worthy of this title. The Catholic priest is the first victim
of religious hatred to be recognised in the predominantly Hindu nation.
"Martyrs are currently picked
under political pressure," she told AsiaNews.
Each group uses them to gain voter support. Instead, for her, before anyone is
defined as a martyr, there should be agreement on the criteria used to grant them
the title of national martyr.
"Our team is looking at
various groups in society in order to separate those who died for political
reasons from those who were killed on religious grounds," she said.
Fr John Prakashm falls
into this latter category, she noted. His death and work on behalf of the poor are
sufficient reasons to consider him a national martyr even though he was Indian.
More importantly, for
Rasailee, few people in Nepal know the real meaning of martyr. After the war
against the Hindu monarchy, it has acquired an ideological function to
celebrate politically relevant figures.
Last Wednesday's controversial
'National Martyrs' Day' was a case in point. The celebration was marked by
great tensions after Maoist Prime Minister Baburan Bhattarai was accused of
using his power to protect party officials involved in civil war massacres.
Since they came to
power in 2006, Maoists have pushed for recognition of their war dead, presenting
a list of 835 fighters. This led opposition parties to counter with their own
lists. The party representing the Madhesi minority for example submitted a list
of 53 Madhesi killed during the civil war. Rightwing parties and other
political groups presented 150 names.