Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – More than a hundred Hindu and Muslim men fled a village in southern Nepal without leaving a trace.
The flight began last month after the killing of a Hindu man in the village of Bidhyanagar triggered a wave of sectarian violence between the two religious communities.
Hindus fled because the village has a Muslim majority, and fear more attacks. Muslims went into hiding to avoid police arrest for the sectarian violence.
"All religious groups are free to profess their faith and we have to respect each other,” Fr Ignatius Rai, pastor of Assumption Cathedral in Kathmandu, told AsiaNews. “Violence and murder in the name of religion must be condemned”.
The situation precipitated the day of the Mawlid, the birthday of Muhammad, which fell on 12 December last year, when Munnalal Yadav, a Hindu, was beaten to death by some Muslims for refusing to accept an invitation to take part in the celebrations.
The victim’s brother, Tilakram Yadav, 52, was also seriously wounded. "I was not able to escape because of my injuries,” he said, “but more than 100 people have already fled. The whole village lives in fear of revenge and further clashes between Hindus and Muslims."
"My husband and my son managed to escape soon after the riots,” said Nazima Badhai, 60. “In the village there are only women with children and some very old people. We are poor and sick and we cannot move. If someone were to attack us,” she added resignedly, “we would not know how to defend ourselves. We hope the state will protect us."
The village of Bidhyanagar is located in Kapilvastu district. It is home to 124 families, 100 Muslim and 24 Hindu. It has seen sectarian violence in the past.
Several people were injured in the latest clashes. After police intervened to restore order, six people were arrested, but investigations are stalled due to the escape of many suspects.
Similar incidents also took place on Mawlid in the village of Matehiya, Banke District (southwestern Nepal), resulting in the death of two people, which triggered further violence and damage to homes and places of worship.
Whilst the son of Hindu man killed in Bidhyanagar calls for justice for his father and punishment for the guilty Muslims, Fr Rai urges everyone "to pray for peace and tolerance."