Nepal beefs up Pashupatinath security
Last Updated: Sunday, September 06, 2009, 08:44
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

First Published: Sunday, September 06, 2009, 08:44

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