11/04/2011, 00.00
NEPAL
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Christians on hunger strike, demanding a place to bury the dead

by Kalpit Parajuli
The fast began on 2 November in the capital. Christians, Muslims and Kirati denounce the inaction of the government that forbids them to have cemeteries.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - With a hunger strike Nepalese Christians, Muslims and Kirati want a place to bury their dead and protest against government inaction, accused of doing nothing to solve the problem, despite promises to the contrary. Beginning November 2 in Kathmandu, the event is expanding to other regions of the country. Today hundreds of people joined a strike organized in front of the Singhadarbar palace, the capital’s administrative seat.

On 3 October, the government formed a committee composed of seven experts with the aim to decide within one month a series of places in the capital suitable for the construction of cemeteries for Christians, and Muslims and Kirati, who unlike the Hindu (majority faith) bury their dead instead of cremation. To date, the committee has never met, but the Nepalese Ministry of Culture says that any decision on the burial must pass the scrutiny of the expert group. Meanwhile, religious minorities are banned from burials within the city. Cemeteries now house more than one body per coffin or are forced to bury the corpses in secret with no headstone for fear of violent reactions from Hindus.

Christian, Kb Rokaya, is among the seven members of the panel. He says that "at the end of September I was informed that I was chosen to join the committee. But since then nothing more has been done and I was not sent any official letter. The only thing I know is that I am the only Christian, the others are almost all Hindus. " According Rokaya, all attempts to find a solution to the problem of the cemeteries are failing because in fact none of the communities concerned was present at the meetings organized by the government in recent months.

In recent years, Kathmandu has been subject to rocketing 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. Since last February, Christians, Muslims and Kirati, have organized protests against the repressive attitude of the local government, which with the aim of delaying the problem, continues to sign covenants and agreements of understanding without actually applying them.
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