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Pashupatinath prevails over Nepal Maoists

Pashupatinath prevails over Nepal Maoists

The Supreme Court said it would begin hearing the dispute from Monday.

Kathmandu: After battling Hindu devotees and the apex court for nearly two weeks over the revered Pashupatinath temple that saw violence and an unseemly dispute over the removal of its Indian priests, Nepal's Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda on Wednesday finally succumbed to the rising pressure and pledged to cancel all controversial decisions taken about the shrine.

Addressing the interim parliament on Wednesday, after a three-week deadlock with the other parliamentary parties was finally lifted through negotiations, the Maoist chief said that all controversial decisions made by the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust, that governs the 17th century shrine, would be withdrawn.

Prachanda said that in his capacity as patron of the trust, he was also pledging that the four Indian priests, who had submitted their resignations, would be asked to continue till new priests were appointed.

The capitulation came after an escalating public row triggered by the ouster of the Indian priests, allegedly after intimidation by Maoist cadres.

The trust, now controlled by the Maoists, departed from a nearly 300-year-old tradition that had seen only priests from south India appointed at the temple, and appointed Nepali priests.

The action saw Hindu groups in Nepal and India condemning the Maoist interference in religion and even Nepal's main parties as well as India's Bharatiya Janata Party and Samajwadi Party joined the protests.

Even Nepal's last Hindu king Gyanendra, who was deposed last year, broke his long silence to urge the government not to drag the revered icon into dispute and to respect people's faith and tradition.

The trust, however, continued on a collision course with the law defying a Supreme Court order to halt all new appointments and let the Indian priests continue with their duties till the dispute was resolved.

While the Maoist Minister for Culture and State Restructuring Gopal Kiranti said the Indian priests would not be reinstated, the Maoist Minister for Information and Communications Krishna Bahadur Mahara alleged that India was interfering in Nepal's internal matters.

Mahara also alleged that the offerings made by devotees at the shrine, that run into five figures daily, were in the past grabbed by Nepal's deposed royal family as well as India.

The Supreme Court said it would begin hearing the dispute from Monday.

However, bowing under pressure from the parties and public anger, Prachanda Wednesday promised parliament that his government would obey the apex court.

Though the pledge would act as a balm for millions of affronted Hindus, it however remains to be seen if the former guerrilla party would keep its commitment.

The Maoists are also under fire for not keeping the pledges they made two years ago when they signed a peace pact and were able to emerge from the jungle.
first published:January 07, 2009, 21:41 IST