Assault on civilisational ties, says SMK

Attack on Karnataka priests: MEA in touch with Nepal government

             
Karnataka priests Girish Bhatt and Raghavendra Bhatt, who were assaulted allegedly by Maoist cadres at Kathmandu's Pashupatinath Temple. PTISpeaking to reporters in Banglaore, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said the Nepal government had assured India of the safety and security of the priests.

He said India was aware that the temple authorities were under pressure from the Maoists. However, the authorities of the Pashupatinath Area Development Board have informed him that security had been beefed up on and around the temple premises. “In Kashi,  a priest from Nepal performs poojas and in Pashupatinath it’s the Indian priests.... India shares a historical bond with Nepal and it is a tradition being followed for centuries,” Krishna said.

The attack on newly appointed priests Girish Bhatt and Raghavendra Bhatt took place at a time when New Delhi was trying to find ways to engage with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), led by former prime minister  Prachanda.  The incident has shocked New Delhi as it took place even after Rakesh Sood, the Indian envoy in Kathmandu, on Thursday requested Prachanda to make it sure that his cadres did not resort to violence in the temple and attack the priests from India.
“We strongly believe that this unprovoked and criminal act of violence goes against the grain of the civilisational ties of friendship that have existed since time immemorial between the peoples of Nepal and India,” said Vishnu Prakash, the official spokesman and Joint Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The assaulted priests are from Karnataka and they received the appointment orders from the Nepal prime minister on September 2 last. They were performing suddhikaran anusthan –– a purifying ritual compulsory for new priests before joining duties –– on Friday, when the attack took place.

According to a statement issued by the MEA, around 10-12 Maoist cadres, led by Punya Prasad Pandey and Ramesh Dongel, both former members of the Pashupati Area Development Trust, barged into the room where the priests were performing the rituals. They assaulted the priests.

The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu immediately took up the matter with the Nepalese government and also contacted top police officials. Senior Nepali police officers visited the site and have deployed a new security contingent. A team from the Indian Embassy too visited the temple. “We understand that the Nepalese authorities have apprehended over 25 people in connection with this incident, including the ring leader,” said Prakash.

Priests from Karnataka have since long been appointed to perform rituals at the Pashupatinath Temple. The Maoist government’s move in 2008 to replace Indians with Nepalese as priests had to be aborted due to the widespread protest against the breach of centuries-old tradition.

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