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Nepal 'regrets' attack on Indian priests

Nepal "regretted" the attack by Maoists on two newly-appointed Indian priests at the famous Pashupatinath temple here and assured protection to them as police arrested about two dozen people, including the leader of the group that beat up the pujaris.

world Updated: Sep 05, 2009 15:50 IST

Nepal "regretted" the attack by Maoists on two newly-appointed Indian priests at the famous Pashupatinath temple here and assured protection to them as police arrested about two dozen people, including the leader of the group that beat up the pujaris.

"This is very sad and most regrettable to attack Indian priests inside the holy temple which is the centre of faith for millions of Hindus across the world," Nepal's Cultural Minister Minindra Rijal said.

His remarks came a day after the priests Girish Bhatta and Raghavendra Bhatta, both 32, were severely thrashed by some 40-50 Maoists, who entered the shrine posing as devotees. The priests' clothes and sacred threads were also torn by the former rebels.

Minister Rijal also apologised for the inconvenience caused to the devotees because of yesterday's incident at the fifth century Hindu shrine.

However, the two Indian priests, unfazed by the attack on them, today performed the daily rituals at temple, where Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood and Nepal Cultural Minister Rijal were also present.

Sood assured the priests, who hail from Karnataka, of all cooperation while the Nepal Minister said that adequate security would be provided to them to prevent a repeat of yesterday's incident.

One of the priests had suffered a black eye during the attack.

Meanwhile, Vishnu Rijal, spokesperson in the Nepalese Prime Minister's office, said that "almost two dozen people" have been arrested in connection with the incident, including one leader of the group that beat up the priests.

"There are some more yet to be arrested and they will be tried and they will be taken to the court," he told 'Times Now' channel.

He said the priests were observing "isolation, fasting and mediation" as per the tradition. This morning they had to go around 11 temples surrounding the Pashupati area.

"They were given security and they observed puja in all these 11 temples," the spokesperson said, adding "they have been now religiously approved as priests".

The duo were recently brought here by temple authorities, said Shiva Sharan Raj Bhandari, a temple aide and part of a three-member selection committee that recommended their names.