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Nepal PM for tough action against priest attackers

Nepal PM for tough action against priest attackers

Two Pashupatinath priests were attacked by suspected Maoists.

Kathmandu: Amid mounting concern and condemnation by the Indian government, Nepal's Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on Saturday stepped into the Pashupatinath temple row, promising tough action against those who had attacked and stripped two Indian priests inside the 5th century shrine on Thursday.

While Nepal sent Culture Minister Minendra Rijal to the shrine on Saturday morning to watch over the initiation of newly-appointed Indian priests Girish Bhatt and Raghavendra Bhatt, the premier also said during the inauguration of a hospital in the city that the opposition Maoist party was trying to foment trouble.

They had not even spared the Pashupatinath shrine, the communist prime minister said.

"But the government will bring the perpetrators under the force of law," Nepal said. "This government is no weakling."

Riot police Saturday arrested 30 protesters and baton-charged others to clear the road leading to the temple.

Though the Pujari Nijukta Birodh Sangharsha Samiti - the committee formed to oppose the appointment of Indian priests - says it is apolitical and following the desire of all Nepalis, the violent protests are believed to be led by the opposition Maoist party, which during its tenure last year tried to halt the hiring of Indian priests.

INDIAN ENVOY, NEPALI MINISTER PRAY AT PASHUPATINATH

India and Nepal sent their top officials for joint prayers at the Pashupatinath temple on Saturday to uphold bilateral amity, as demonstrators went on the warpath over the appointment of new Indian priests at the hallowed shrine and raised anti-India slogans.

Nepal's Culture Minister Minendra Rijal and Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood went to the fifth century shrine that has been under siege since Friday, in a bid to send out a message of unity to the assailants.

"It is most unfortunate that an attempt was made to harm the age-old harmonious relations between two neighbouring countries," Rijal told journalists. "The government of Nepal is stunned by the barbaric and humiliating attack on the two priests and will not tolerate it."

The minister said the government was pledging to protect the Indian priests and provide them due honour.
first published:September 05, 2009, 16:56 IST