Protests continued in Nepal over the Pashupatinath Temple issue even as the Indian priests, who were assaulted by Maoists on Friday, continued to perform puja. The protesters demand that the puja should be done by Nepali priests. But representatives of various religious and spiritual bodies have requested them not to mix politics with religion.

Chairman of the World Hindu Federation (Nepal) Damodar Gautam condemned the assault on the Indian priests and said religion should not be politicised.

Professor Bidya Nath Upadhyaya Bhatta said religion is not confined to a particular country. “Buddha was born in Nepal, but Buddhism is practised all over the world. The tradition of carrying out Pashupatinath’s puja should not be broken.”

The Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) appoints priests. The main priest or the mul bhatta recommends priests’ names to PADT, which forwards it to the Prime Minister. About the recent controversy, Member Secretary of the PADT, Sushil Nahata claimed the protesters “politicised the issue to be highlighted by the media”. He said the new priests would not be removed. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala on Sunday condemned the attack on the Indian priests. She said such attempts were targeted at harming the relationship of the two countries.

Bishnu Dahal, a Nepali priest who was appointed by the Maoist-led government last year, has claimed Lord Pashupatinath is unhappy.

“Only when Nepali priests worship at the temple, Pashupatinath will be happy.” Mr. Dahal, who is said to be close to the Maoists, said he was better qualified than the Indian priests. Meanwhile, a member of struggle committee that has been demanding recruitment of Nepali priests, Paramanada Shakya, says history should be studied to assess who performed puja before arrival of the South Indian priests.

“Let us not just say ‘maintain tradition’ but try to find out who did the job before the Indians came.”

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