KATHMANDU: Newly-appointed priests of Pashupatinath Temple, Girish Bhatta and Raghavendra Bhatta, today took charge of Uttar Muhar Temple and Bashuki Temple, respectively. They formally assumed duties around 9 am following four days of solitary confinement for purification rituals, as per the tradition.
The priests were taken around 11 shiva lingas surrounding the Pashupatinath Temple before head priest Maha Baleshwor administered a closed-door oath of office and secrecy to them. They were flanked by scores of armed police personnel to prevent any untoward incident.
SP Nawa Raj Silwal, in-charge of Metropolitan Police Range, Hanumandhoka, said at least 1,000 police personnel had cordoned off the holy site to ensure law and order. SP Shailendra Khanal of Armed Police Force said five platoons of APF were deployed in and around the temple.
Following yesterday’s shocking incident, MPRH called back Inspector Santosh Tamang, in-charge of Metropolitan Police Sector Gaushala late yesterday. He was replaced with Inspector Binod Kharel. SP Silwal said Tamang was recalled as there was a major security lapse.
Meanwhile, the government today condemned yesterday incident. “Any amount of condemnation can’t compensate the the physical and metal torture that the activists of UCPN- Maoist afflicted on newly-appointed priests. We are deeply shocked by the incident. The government will provide adequate security to the priests and is committed to preventing repeat of the yesterday’s shocking incident,” said Dr Minendra Rijal, Minister for Culture, who visited the temple site to acquire information about the harassment meted out to the helpless priests.
Dr Rijal, who also chairs Pashupati Area Development Trust, termed Maoist-aligned Priest Appointment Joint Struggle Committee’s action as an unsuccessful bid to sabotage the relationship between Nepal and India. “We won’t let the culprits off the hook,” he said. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal also promised stern action against the miscreants.
Rakesh Sood, Indian Ambassador to Nepal, who was also present on the occasion, said he was saddened by the assault on the priests hailing from Karnataka. “This is one of the holiest places in the world that brought the neighbouring countries together. Intimidation and attack on the priests merely because they were Indian citizens is regrettable. God doesn’t belong to one country,” he said.
Dr Rijal claimed that the government was abided by legal procedures, traditions and practices while appointing the priests.
PADT didn’t allow the general public and devotees to enter the temple premises for nine hours today, citing security reasons.

India condemns attack

NEW DELHI: The attack on newly appointed Indian priests at Pashupatinath Temple, Girish Bhatta and Raghavendra Bhatta, allegedly by the Maoists has caused deep anguish in India.
“We strongly believe that this unprovoked and criminal act of violence goes against the ties of friendship that have existed since time immemorial between the peoples of Nepal and India,” Vishnu Prakash, spokesperson, MEA, said in a statement issued in the Indian capital on Saturday. “The safety and security of Indian citizens’ abroad is an abiding and core concern of the Government of India and we continue to closely monitor the situation surrounding yesterday’s unfortunate incident in Kathmandu,” the MEA statement added.
Earlier on Saturday, Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna told mediapersons in Bangalore that India had objected to the attack on Indian priests in Kathmandu.
“The Nepali authorities have assured us
that they are taking additional steps to ensure the safety and security of Indian priests in Nepal,” the MEA statement added. — HNS