Maneka Gandhi’s protest and Nepal’s ‘Budhha Boy’ Ram Bahadur Bomjan’s appeal would not be able to prevent 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 nearly five million Hindu devotees from across the country and several Indian states as well.
But despite protest from several quarters, the Nepal government has refused to intervene in the religious custom meant to appease Goddess Gadhimai and has decided to provide adequate facilities for the two-day ritual beginning on November 24. On Sunday, Home Minister Bhim Rawal assured the development committee of parliament that 1150 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,” told DB Bomjan of Tamang Rashtriya Mukti Morcha, an NGO recently.
Last month noted animal rights activist and politician Maneka Gandhi had written to Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal seeking government intervention to stop the mass sacrifice.
Another popular figure Ram Bahadur Bomjan, a Buddhist teenager who gained popularity as ‘Buddha Boy’ some years back for meditating in the forests without food and water for several days, is also appealing to the local community to desist from indulging in the sacrifice.
But the government is not prepared to hurt religious sentiments by banning the practice. “We will not use force to prevent the sacrifices,” said Information and Communications Minister Shankar Pokhrel last week. “It is a sensitive issue and we don't want to hurt religious sentiments.”