03/23/2011, 00.00
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Christians in Nepal protest against government: "We have the right to bury our dead"

by Kalpit Parajuli
The authorities of the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath prevent the burial of Christians, despite the go-ahead from the Supreme Court. Hundreds of Catholics and Protestant parade in central Kathmandu to demand a cemetery from authorities.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of Christians have protested in the capital today demanding the provision of a place to bury their dead from the local government. With the slogan "we are entitled to bury our dead, where is our cemetery?", about a thousand demonstrators blocked the centre of Kathmandu, parading in front of government offices with empty coffins. The protest comes after yet another clash between Christians and authority of the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath. They do not want to grant the nearby forest Shleshmantak as a cemetery, despite the Supreme Court ruling last March 20 that ordered the Hindu leaders not to prohibit burials there. To avoid further controversy, the government has promised to allocate a new site by March 25.

"The authorities - said Sundar Thapa, a Protestant Christian organiser of the demonstration - should give us a place to bury the dead according to our tradition." According to the Christian community, the inertia of the central and city governments has forced many of the faithful to cremate their loved ones. Christian leaders argue that the Hindus prevent burials also other regions of Nepal and called on the government to assign a measure for cemeteries in all 75 districts of the country.

In these years, speculation has reduced the areas in Kathmandu for the burial plots and the cost of vacant lots are so high that none of the Christian community can afford them. Until 2006, Hinduism was the official religion of Nepal. Hindus traditionally cremate their dead in the country and there are no official cemeteries. Forced to use one grave for more bodies, native Christians, Muslims, and Baha'is have asked the central government to grant low-cost areas for use as cemeteries. To resolve this problem, the authorities granted the Christian’s Shleshmantak forest, part of a Hindu shrine, but already used by some in the past by some tribal sects to bury their dead instead of cremating them. The decision sparked protests from Hindus in other parts of the country and forced the local government to ban the use of the area. Recently, the ban was lifted, but so far the police and authorities of the temple have prevented burials, even with violence. According to them it would damage the area considered a world UNESCO Heritage site.

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