The two newly-appointed Indian priests of the Pashupatinath Temple were assaulted on Friday by protesters who want Nepali priests to be appointed in their place.

Treasurer of the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) Narottam Vaidya said the priests, Raghavendra and Girish, were manhandled in the temple premises. The police have arrested a man in connection with the incident.

Minister for Federal Affairs, Constituent Assembly, Parliamentary and Cultural Affairs, Minendra Rijal condemned the attack and said the government would take strong action against those who tried to disrupt the nitya puja (daily worship) at the temple. “I express the government’s commitment to provide any level of security to allow these pujas to take place,” he said, requesting the protesters not to “politicise the appointment”.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal recently approved the recruitment of the priests from Karnataka. They are set to start puja (worship) on Saturday. But a struggle committee has been protesting against the government’s decision to recruit Indian priests. They locked the PADT office on Sunday and for the last two days have been holding demonstrations, burning tyres and raising slogans against the government’s decision.

Meanwhile, the government on Friday evening declared the Pashupati area a prohibited zone and stepped up security. But the struggle committee said they would not stop the protest programmes until Nepali priests were appointed at the temple.

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