January 6, 2009Foreign Affairs

The Pashupatinath affair

India must not allow the Nepalese government’s anti-India moves go unchecked

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

For 275 years, the priests at Kathmandu’s Pashupatinath Temple have come from south of the Vindhyas”, often from the Udupi and the Dakshina Kannada regions of Karnataka. The temple is one of Nepal’s most important religious institutions, not to mention a major tourist attraction. When Nepal became a republic, the affairs of the temple, previously directly under the king, were placed under the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) and the Ministry of Culture. And one of the first actions of the PADT was to replace the Indian priests with Nepali ones. And when there was a popular outcry, and a Supreme Court order staying the new appointments, the Maoists running Nepal’s government sanctimoniously (yes, pun and irony intended) called for the issue not to be politicised”. As if their original decision to destroy a tradition that dates back to a time before the modern state of Nepal came into being was anything but political. (via Sandeep)

Now, Mahabaleshwar Bhatta hardly wields a fraction of the political influence of the Panchen Lama. Yet, the manner in which Pushpa Kamal Prachanda’ Dahal has handled the religious appointment is reminiscent of the Chinese Communist party’s strong-arm tactics concerning the reincarnation of Tibetan monks. Clearly, Nepal’s Maoists are determined to weaken and destroy traditional Nepali society as a precursor to creating their revolutionary’ New Nepal. All this would be Nepal’s domestic business, for the nation to work out through constitutional democratic methods, except for the fact that it directly involves Indian citizens, and indirectly, one element of the deeper links between Nepalese and Indian people.

But Nepal’s Maoist-led government is not going about it in a constitutional-democratic manner. That it seeks to defy a Supreme Court order cannot be a positive sign for Nepal’s nascent new order. India must ensure that the lives and the legitimate interests of its nationals are safeguarded. And to the extent that these moves are an attempt to sever traditional and cultural links between the two countries, India must make it clear that it sees such actions as influencing the course of its Nepal policy.

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