Stung by the controversy over the unceremonious removal of Indian priests from Pashupatinath temple, Nepal's Maoist government on Sunday resorted to a desperate damage-control exercise and decided to start a yatra for religious concord.
The three-month long nationwide yatra will start from Monday, the Maoist Culture-Affairs Minister Gopal Kiranti, said, adding that Prime Minister Prachanda, who is also the ex officio patron of the temple trust, would lead the foot march.
On Thursday, Kirati had led a crowd of people to the holiest temple of Nepal to install two Nepali priests. The decision to remove the Indian priests has drawn large-scale criticism across the globe.
Nepal's deposed king Gyanendra Shah also criticized the decision of removal of the Indian priests and requested the Nepal government not to politicize the holiest temple of the country.
The BJP also took serious note of the controversy and Rajnath Singh reportedly called up Prachanda and President Ram Baran Yadav and asked them not to politicise the holy temple.
Since the rule of the Malla kings in Nepal, the priests from Karnataka were brought to Kathmandu to perform the religious functions in Pashupatinath temple.
The yatra will begin on Monday from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport, Kirati said. Several civil society members and organisations are being roped in to take part in the yatra.
During the march across the country, the members will try to spread the message of communal harmony, Kirati said. However, it remains to be seen as to how the people of world's last Hindu kingdom react to the Maoist move.
Interestingly, Kiranti dismissed the fears that the removal of the Indian priests would affect India-Nepal bi-lateral relations. "The government does not intervened in religious matters," he said, adding that the decision to appoint Nepali priests was taken by the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust.
The decision to appoint the Nepali priests has also been challenged in the court. Three affidavits have been filed at Nepal's Supreme Court, challenging the appointments.