01/02/2009, 00.00
NEPAL
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Clashes between Hindu monks and police at temple of Pashupati

by Kalpit Parajuli
The government of Prachandra has put two Nepalese monks in charge of the place of worship. Since 1904, the ceremonies had been led by Indian monks, now dismissed from their posts. The Maoist government is interfering in religious affairs in order to mark the beginning of the new course in the country.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The Hindu monks of the temple of Pashupati are in revolt (in the photo, a scene from the clashes). The violent protests that have led to the police intervention were unleashed after the decision of the government of Kathmandu to remove the Indian component of the monks responsible for the temple, and replace it with priests of Nepalese origin.

The Maoist government, headed by President Prachandra, has entrusted responsibility for the temple of Pashupati to the monks Bishnu Prasad Dahal and Saligram Dhakal. The two are replacing the Indian Mul Bhattas, removed from his post together with other non-Nepalese monks who, since 1904, had served at the place of worship dedicated to Shiva, "lord of the cattle," and situated in Deopatan, three kilometers from the capital.

Following the decision, the monks removed from their position asked the government to reverse it, sending a petition to the supreme court against the government and the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT): their accusation was that the government was interfering in the private business of the monks, and violating a long-standing tradition.

According to Hindu ritual custom, in order to lead the ceremonies the monks must follow several months of preparation. The Nepalese monks appointed by the government have not gone through this period of formation.

Barricaded inside the structure, the monks have prevented the new religious authorities from entering the temple and leading the ceremonies. On January 1, security forces together with government supporters and members of the Young Communist League broke into the temple together with the two Nepalese monks. The blitz was followed by clashes, and it was only in the late afternoon that the Nepalese Bishnu Prasad Dahal and Saligram Dhakal, after waiting outside the temple for three hours, were able to officiate over the ceremonies, although only in partial form.

Pramananda Shakya, recently appointed by Prachandra as head of the PADT, has said that the appointment of the two Nepalese monks reflects the new course of the country: "The former royals used to be the patrons of the temple trust and used to approve the selection of the priests. With the changed political situation this tradition has been broken," says Shakya. "The prime minister has replaced the king as the patron now."

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