09/04/2009, 00.00
NEPAL
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Maoists against police as clashes and arrests take place over the Hindu temple of Pashupati

by Kalpit Parajuli
More than two thousands demonstrators protest against the decision to put Indian monks in charge of an important temple. According to the protesters, the “government has insulted Nepalis by appointing Indian priests.” The authorities dismiss the complaints, saying they will not go back on their decision, which respects a century-old tradition.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Police clashed with Maoist protesters in Deopatan, some three kilometres from Kathmandu. Some of the demonstrators were arrested. A decision by the government to appoint priests from India to run a Hindu temple is at the root of the unrest.

The trouble began on Tuesday when two monks selected for the posts began their apprenticeship. The next day activists with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) set up a struggle committee and took to the streets to protest against the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust (PADT) and the government for their decision.

About 2,000 demonstrators filled the streets around the temple, blocking traffic and vandalising some cars before police could move in to restore order. At least 20 people were arrested.

“The government has insulted Nepalis by appointing Indian priests”, said Parmananda Shakya, coordinator of the struggle committee. “The struggle committee will not stop till the government changes its decision and appoints Nepali priests.”

For its part PADT said that it would not change its decision, arguing that the appointment of Indians follows a century-old tradition.

The Hindu temple of Pashupati, which is dedicated to Shiva the “lord of the cattle”, has been run by Indian monks since 1904.

Earlier this year the temple was the scene of other clashes and protests (see Kalpit Parajuli, “Clashes between Hindu monks and police at temple of Pashupati,” 2 January 2009, AsiaNews). But on this occasion, the unrest was caused by then Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda’s decision to replace monks from India with monks from Nepal.

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