Crooks in guise of sages abound in Pashupati area

KATHMANDU: Not all sages are holy but some are involved in unholy and criminal activities. Some sages or other persons in guise of sages, who come to shelter in Pashupati vicinity, are reported to be involved in smuggling arms and narcotics.

According to the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), some sages sheltering illegally in Ram Mandir at Pashupatinath are also reported to be involved in weapons and narcotics smuggling. There are about fifty sages and sadhus hailing from Nepal and India often living in Ram Mandir. “We are scrutinising the matter in cooperation with the Department of Crime Investigation that informed us about the arms and drugs smuggling by the sages,” said Sushil Nahata, member secretary at the PADT.

Sources at PADT, which is enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage Site, informed that it aimed to vacate suspicious sages from the Ram Mandir area before February 12, citing involvement in illegal activities. “PADT has warned us to remove from the area by mid-April,” said Lal Baba, 83, who has been regularly living at Ram Mandir for last 26 years. “We are troubled due to the suspicious activities in guise of sages,” he said. “However, I will not go away.”

Lal Baba said that the smuggling of narcotics from the area including Tilganga was rampant. “Even the school and college students come to buy those intoxicating drugs,” he said. “The smuggling of weapons also cannot be denied as many people in guise of sages come and go frequently,” he said. “Only some seven sages stay inside the temple premises, rest of them frequently go away.”

Baba complained the PADT and other government mechanism were unable to identify who is guilty or not. The criminals also can disguise to earn money safely, he revealed.

The new sages should register their names to PADT, however, they all don’t abide by the rules, according to PADT. The PADT lacks orderly registration system at Ram Mandir besides its office time. PADT permits them to shelter in the temple up to five days.

“We have recently requested the District Administration Office to remove illegally settling sages and persons from the area after they didn’t leave,” said Bhola Prasad Sitaula, director at PADT. “We are not against the true sages who are not involved in criminal activities. They will be allowed to stay here.”

The attempts of authorities to quell illegal and criminal activities in the past could not be successful owing to the lack of effective governance and will power of political parties.

The crimes in the society are alarmingly increasing making commoners’ life vulnerable, said Shiva Sharan Rajbhandari, local and storekeeper at the Pashupatinath temple. “It will be hard to subjugate illegal activities unless the efficiency and performance of the government and police are professionalised,” he said. SSP Rana Bahadur Chand, chief at the Department of Crime Investigation, said that they have assigned a team to watch the activities in the area. “They will face at least 12 years of jail term under the Arms and Ammunition Act and Narcotics and Drugs (Control) Act if they are caught,” Chand said, urging all to cooperate with police to punish the criminals.