04/01/2014, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepal's religious minorities tell government to be "secular" and not just support Hindus

by Christopher Sharma
Nepali authorities are spending millions on Maha Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival, helping set up free accommodations for 10 million people. Christians, Muslims and Buddhists are united in demanding equal treatment for all. Protestant leader slams the authorities for ignoring Christian demand for "land to turn to build a cemetery," something that "is not fair," he says.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Nepal's religious minorities are protesting against the government, which, despite its secular nature, continues to provide financial and logistical support only to Hindu religious events.

The latest example is the Hindu festival of Maha Kumbh Mela. Held every 12 years, the great event began yesterday for more than a month bringing holy men to Chataradham in the southern part of the country.

A similar event is held in India. It involves actually a pilgrimage to the Sapta Koshi, a holy river, where pilgrims perform meditations and ablutions.

In Nepal, celebrations attract some 10 million people; in India, it can draw up to 100 million.

Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala opened the celebration yesterday. In order to help in the celebrations, his government allocated more than 5 million rupees (about US$ 50,000), including free shuttle service to and from the venues of the festival, as well as free room and board to pilgrims. The event is scheduled to end on 2 May 2014.

"It is not right for the state to support de facto one religion and ignore the others," said Rev C.B. Gahatraj, a Christian clergyman.

In doing so, "it is clearly showing a policy to marginalise and ultimately suppress minorities. We only want a treatment that is fair and equal for all since we live in a secular and democratic nation."

Sadly, the authorities "have ignored every year our request for land to build a cemetery," the Protestant leader explained.

They "banished us from our land near Pashupatinath temple. They continue to treat us second-class citizens. Meanwhile, they use taxes collected from everybody to help Hindus. This cannot be called a secular government. "

Nazrul Hassein, a Muslim, and Dharma Murti, a Buddhist, agree. "The government's partiality for Hinduism poses a psychological threat to all of us."

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