Nepal Govt defies court order, Maoists assault Pashupatinath priests

Nepal's Minister for Culture today said the Government will not obey the Supreme Court order staying the appointment of a priest believed to have been handpicked by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' to head the Pashupatinath temple. The brazen defiance of the court egged Maoist cadres to go a step ahead and assault temple priests preparing to address a press conference to protest the Government's interference in Pashupatinath affairs.

"We are not going to stay the decision that the government has already taken regarding appointment of the new priest of the temple", minister Gopal Kirati, also a Maoist central committee member, said.

The new head priest, appointed by the Government-nominated Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) is being protected by Young Communist League workers deployed inside the temple by the Maoist party. Today, the PADT unilaterally appointed two junior priests, ostensibly to help the head priest run the affairs of the temple.

In his first comments since the court order four days ago, Prime Minister Prachanda today said it was his duty to see that a new head priest was appointed at the earliest. "It was just a coincidence that the new head priest happened to be from Nepal." He did not comment on the departure from the 275-year-old tradition of having the head priest from the south of the Vindhyas. Without taking any names, Prachanda said the issue was being "politicised".

The defiance of the court and assault on priests has triggered concern in legal and political circles. "This government wants to deprive citizens of their right to religion," political scientist Surendra K C said. Constitutional lawyer Kumar Regmi said, "Today's incident shows there is total constitutional breakdown in the country. Constitution, constitutional order and constitutional norms seem to have no place in the Maoist regime."

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