Nepal beefs up Pashupatinath security

Nepal has said violence against Indian priests was `regrettable` and stepped up security for the pujaris.

Kathmandu/New Delhi: With India taking up
strongly the "unprovoked and criminal" attack on Indian
priests in Pashupatinath temple, Nepal on Saturday stepped up
security around the holy shrine and gave an assurance that it
will act tough against the attackers.

"The government will bring the perpetrators under the
force of law," Prime Minister Nepal said, after he deputed his
cabinet colleague Minendra Rijal to accompany Indian
ambassador Rakesh Sood to visit the temple where the newly
appointed Indian priests were thrashed and stripped by a group
of 40-50 Maoist activists yesterday.

Speaking at a function in the capital, Nepal blamed the
Maoists for fomenting trouble at the fifth century shrine.

Security was also tightened around the temple premises
with two platoons of security personnel being deployed at the
site. Police also arrested about three dozen people suspected
of involvement in yesterday`s incident.

In New Delhi, the External Affairs Ministry described
the incident as an "unprovoked and criminal act of violence"
and said the matter has been taken up with the Nepalese
government and the developments would be closely monitored.

The priests Girish Bhatta and Raghavendra Bhatta, both
32 and hailing from Karnataka were assaulted, their clothes
torn and their sacred thread cut by the former rebels, who
stormed the temple protesting their recent appointment.

In Bangalore, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said
India is in touch with the Government of Nepal as well as the
Pashupatinath Area Development Trust.

Meanwhile, the two priests appointed by Nepal, entered
the main Pashuptinath temple this morning and initiated the
regular worship or `Nitya Puja` as per the tradition.

Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood, accompanied by Rijal,
also chair of the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) that
looks after the temple affairs, and PADT member secretary
Shushil Nahata also visited the temple.

Rijal and Sood, who were at the temple for about 30
minutes to take stock of the situation, assured the chief
priest and other Indian pujaris of full security and support.

Rijal expressed regret over yesterday`s incident during
which the Maoists dragged the two new priests out of the
temple premises and paraded them half naked before beating
them up with iron rods and sticks.

He said that those opposing the government`s decision
are trying to disrupt the age-old friendly ties existing
between Nepal and India.

"I am very touched as the Minister himself is taking so
much interest in the security of the temple," Sood told
journalists outside the temple.

"The Pashupati is the holy place not only for Indians
and Nepalese but also for Hindus around the world. What
happened at Pashupati Temple yesterday has hurt us all".

The area remained tense as Maoists continued their
demonstration around the Pashupati area, disrupting traffic nd
burning tyres.

The demonstration were led by former PADT member
secretary Parmananda Shakya, who was appointed by the then
Maoist government.

Four months ago, when the Maoist government sacked
Indian priests and appointed two local pujaris, the temple
aides had protested forcing it to withdraw its decision.

The chief priest of the Pashupatinath temple, meanwhile,
said the Indian priests were ready to quit and return to India
rather than face "humiliation".

PADT member secretary Sushil Nahata said the government
will break the locks put by the Maoists at the PADT building
tomorrow. The Maoists have padlocked the PADT office complex
for the last one week.

"We have to resume the works from Sunday, so we will
open the locks," he said.

The three-member committee headed by chief priest
Mahabaleshwor Bhatta had selected the names of the two priests
from Karnataka and the PADT`s board headed by the Minister of
Culture recommended the names to the Prime Minister last week,
who then approved the decision and appointed the priests.

Bureau Report

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