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Nepal govt challenges order staying Indian priests' removal

Nepal govt challenges order staying Indian priests' removal

The Nepal govt under pressure from its army.

Kathmandu: Despite facing flak at home and abroad for removal of Indian priests in Nepal's renowned Pashupatinath temple, the Maoist-led government has challenged an interim Supreme Court order staying the controversial appointment of local Brahmins.

The Pashupati Area Development Trust, a state-run body which oversees the affairs of the temple, filed a writ petition in the apex court on Monday to vacate the stay that effectively bars the newly-appointed Nepalese priests.

The PADT, headed by Maoist Culture Minister Gopal Kirati, claimed in its petition that the appointment of the new priests was legal and that the interim order had disturbed the implementation of the government's decision.

The move came even as Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' assured President Ram Baran Yadav that the government will abide by the Supreme Court order.

During a meeting here on Monday, Yadav expressed concern over the defiance of the court ruling by the Maoist activists after which Prachanda gave his assurance, the President's Press Advisor Rajendra Dahal told PTI. The premier echoed the same to a visiting Samajwadi Party delegation earlier.

As tension prevailed in the Pashupatinath area after an attack on protesting temple staff by Maoist cadres, the district administration issued prohibitory orders banning demonstrations, rallies and public meetings in the locality.

The order declaring Pashupati a "riot area" came in the wake of an agitation launched by the locals and bhandaris, the aides of the priests, who were demanding reinstatement of South Indian 'Bhatta' brahmins who had overseen traditional rituals at the temple for the past 300 years.

Meanwhile, the Nepal govt under pressure from its Army after the govt's interference in the Pashupatinath row. The Army is warning the political leadership that any interference in its affairs could lead to a revolt.

The strong reaction came after the Maoist defence minister called for the army chief and his officers to resign. Army sources say, any call for resignation will be treated as interference.

first published:January 07, 2009, 00:46 IST