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Christians go hungry in burial protest

Hindus-only policy keeps others out of graves in Kathmandu

A Buddhist speaking to the crowd A Buddhist speaking to the crowd
  • Chirendra Satyal, Kathmandu
  • Nepal
  • March 23, 2011
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A group of around 36 Christians have started an indefinite fast, to urge the government to allot non-Hindu burial plots in Kathmandu.

The fast, which will be carried out on a relay basis, was launched at a rally at the Shanti Batika – Peace Garden - park in the city center today. The rally was attended by Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic and Hindu leaders, along with over 1,000 Christian demonstrators.

Pastor Chari Bahadur Gahatraj, secretary of the Christian Advisory Group who organized the event, was applauded when he said “we will ask the UN to fly us out to be settled elsewhere if our government still considers that two million Christians are not its real citizens.”

While he stressed that the action would remain a peaceful one, he added, “we are protesting as we have been forced to cremate bodies or carry them out of Kathmandu to be buried.”

This is the latest move in a long-running battle to force government action on the lack of  non-Hindu graves. The Christian Advisory Group claimed a victory on March 18, when a Supreme Court ruling allowed them to use a burial site in the Sleshmantak forest near Pashuputinath, Nepal’s oldest and most revered Hindu temple. The ruling, set to remain in force “until other alternatives are found,” reversed a ban imposed in December.

It was followed by a meeting in the city on March 20, where rights groups and interfaith leaders gathered to show their support. At the meeting, Damodar Gautam, president of Nepal’s Hindu World Federation, read out a letter which he has sent to Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav, as proof of Hindu solidarity with the cause.

However, he added that while he agreed that Christians and other minority religions should be given permanent burial plots by the government, they should not be at Pashuputinath.

“Please do not try to take a foot when given an inch and cause religious tensions by erecting big burial crosses in the forest,” he warned.

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