01/09/2009, 00.00
NEPAL

Government backtracks, lets Indian priests return to Pashupati temple

Kalpit Parajuli
Government decision follows street demonstrations and protests by opposition parties. Criticism from the World Hindu Federation and India’s nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, plays an important role.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s Maoist government has backtracked and reinstated Hindu priests from India (Bhandaris) it had removed from the Hindu Temple of Pashupati. Prime Minister Prachanda’s cabinet had replaced the Indian priests with Nepalis, breaking a century-old tradition.

Police, aided by members of the Young Communist League (YCL), had stormed the holy site on 1 January after the Bhandaris had locked themselves inside, and brought in their Nepali replacement, this despite a ruling by Nepal’s Supreme Court saying the government had no jurisdiction in the matter.

On Thursday the head priest Mahabaleshwor Bhatta and two assistants, Ganesh Bhatta and Ram Karanta Bhatta, led a traditional ceremony, asking for forgiveness for the forced break by police of the daily puja.  

More than 2,000 people, worshippers, temple custodians and political leaders, took part in the service that enabled Bhandaris to take back their temple.

After removing the Indian priests, the government in Kathmandu came under fire from Nepal’s religious communities as well as the country’s political opposition.

The chairman of the World Hindu Federation and the leader of India’s Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, also slammed the decision.

For many Nepali commentators criticism from these two sources was instrumental in getting the government to change its stance.

With the return of Indian priests at the helm of the Pashupati temple, all demonstrations in front of the religious site by pro-Bhandari protesters were called off.

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