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PM plays down sacking of priests

world Updated: Jan 05, 2009 01:21 IST
Anirban Roy and PTI
Anirban Roy and PTI
Hindustan Times
Prachanda says Pashupatinath move not targeted at Indians

Prime Minister Prachanda sought to calm tempers over the appointment of Nepalese priests at Pashupatinath temple, saying he did not intend to displace the south Indian ‘Bhatta’ brahmins, who had overseen rituals at the temple for the past 300 years.

The appointment of Nepalese priests in place of Indians was a “mere coincidence” and not intended to oust the Indians, he told leaders of various small parties here on Sunday, adding the issue had been “pointlessly politicised”.

His comments came a day after deposed king Gyanendra appealed to the people not to “politicise” the dispute. Foreign minister Upendra Yadav, representing the Madhesis, said on Sunday the Maoists were trying to “capture” Nepal’s holiest Hindu shrine.

Stung by the controversy, the government announced a yatra for religious concord. The three-month-long nationwide yatra will start on Monday from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan airport, culture and state restructuring minister Gopal Kiranti said. Prachanda, ex-officio patron of the temple trust, would lead the march. On Thursday, Kirati had led Maoists to the temple to instal two Nepali priests.

About 100 Maoists on Sunday attacked the temple’s caretakers, who have vowed to fight “Maoist intrusion”. At least 10 people were injured.