India’s animal rights activist and politician Maneka Gandhi’s protest and Nepal’s ‘Budhha Boy’ Ram Bahadur Bomjan’s appeal won’t be able to prevent the sacrifice of nearly half-a-million animals at this month’s Gadhimai Mela in this Himalayan nation.
Billed as the world’s largest animal sacrifice fair, the event — held every five years at Bariyapur in Bara district of southern Nepal — is expected to attract about five million Hindus from across the country and neighbouring India.
But despite protest from several quarters, the Nepal government has refused to intervene in the religious custom meant to appease Goddess Gadhimai. Instead, it has decided to provide adequate facilities for the two-day ritual beginning November 24.
On Sunday, Home Minister Bhim Rawal assured the development committee of parliament that 1,150 additional security personnel would be deployed in the mela area for security of the pilgrims.
“Security could be a cause of concern as a large gathering would congregate at the fair and there is difference of opinion among the local populace as well on whether the custom should continue,” said chairman of the committee Jitendra Sonar, who had visited Bariyapur recently.
According to estimates, nearly 500,000 animals, including buffaloes, goats, ducks, roosters and pigeons, would be sacrificed at the fair to appease the goddess. Some say the number has increased because of several Indian states banning animal sacrifice for religious purposes.
“Since many devotees come from India, we have asked the administration in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, states that border Nepal, to stop smuggling of animals and birds for the fair,” said D.B. Bomjan of Tamang Rashtriya Mukti Morcha, an NGO.
Last month Maneka Gandhi had written to Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal seeking government intervention to stop the mass sacrifice.