A staunch Hindu activist who fought three legal battles to safeguard the rights of Pashupatinath, Nepal's holiest Hindu shrine, has struck a new legal blow, opposing the government's decision to open the main treasury of the temple, which Hindus believe was padlocked for over 2,000 years and should remain unopened.
Bharat Mani Jangam, who took on Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas in the past to prevent their decision to sack the Indian priests at the temple, has now filed a public interest suit in the Supreme Court, asking the apex court to strike down the decision taken by the council of ministers to open the main treasury of the shrine.
"The main treasury of the temple is a sacred site that has remained locked for over 2,000 years during the reign of over four different dynasties," the 64-year-old activist told IANS.
"In 2006, Nepal became secular. It means the government has no right to interfere in religious institutions. Can it dare open the treasuries in Buddhist monasteries, Muslim mosques and Christian churches?"
Last month, the cabinet decided that the main treasury, said to contain fabled riches, should be opened and an inventory made of the valuables it contained.
The ministers also decided while the gold, silver and cash there should be kept in the central bank, other items should be showcased in museums.
"It's appalling," Jangam said. "Hindus are not going to tolerate this rank interference in their religious matters. The government move will trigger violence and bloodshed."
The Hindu activist says Hindus are not opposed to the riches of Pashupatinath being conserved.
"But it should be done legally, not by a caretaker government or mere ministry," he said. "We are asking the state, if need be, to enact a new law to safeguard the riches of the shrine, revered by one billion Hindus worldwide."
The court will begin hearing the petition Monday. Jangam has named the council of ministers and the culture ministry as respondents.
In 2008-09, the attempt by the then Maoist government to dispense with the centuries-old tradition of appointing only Indian priests at the temple by sacking them triggered widespread condemnation with India's government and major parties also adding their voices to the protests.
The unprecedented opposition forced Maoist prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to rollback the decision after five days.
The following year, when the new government tried to regulate the offerings made by devotees at the shrine, Jangam filed another petition against it and the hearing still continues.