Kathmandu, March 19, 2007 People from diverse religious sects today performed different activities to “protect themselves” from the “harmful effects” of solar eclipse. The Hindus went to rivers and bathed during the eclipse period. Over 1,000 people went to the Bagmati river this morning to get “purified.” Over 200 Brahmins chanted Chandi, Beda, Mritunjaya slokas at the Pashupati area. The Hindus believe that the eclipse pollutes the environment. Chanting mantras, the Hindus requested the almighty to protect them from the harmful effects of the eclipse. Pandit Lal Prasad Adhikari, a member of the Rastriya Jyotish Bigyan Sewa Samiti, said: “The period of the eclipse is unholy. People should bath thrice during an eclipse — when it begins, midway through the eclipse and when it ends.” “Moreover, people should keep on worshipping gods and chant religious hymns and donate things to the needy to get rid of the bad impact of the planets,” he said, adding that it is harmful to eat during the period. The Muslim community also worshipped the almighty and prayed for world peace. Mohammad Nizamuddin, chairman of the Awam Sahara Nepal, said: “Islam believes in the direct effect of planets on human beings. We prayed to the almighty, donated things to the needy and performed humanitarian deeds.” Buddhism stresses the need to do good work during the eclipse period. Businessmen announce indefinite strike Kathmandu, March 19, 2007 A total of 71 entrepreneurs’ organisations, including the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FNCCI), today announced a nationwide closure of all industries and the commerce sector including the transport and education sectors, from 3 pm today till the leaders of eight political parties including the Prime Minister meet them and express commitment to ensure peace and security in the industry and commerce sectors. The unexpected move came when Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala refused to meet a delegation of entrepreneurs who had gone to the PM’s residence to talk about the incident in which a group of Maoists yesterday night allegedly severely beat up Hari Shrestha, owner of Woodland Hotel at Durbarmarg. Hotel entrepreneurs said the Maoists took away 58-year old Shrestha from the hotel premises and landed him at the emergency room of the Bir Hospital after they severely beat him up at the office of Surya Carpet at Bouddhanagar. The Maoists, according to the hotel entrepreneurs, tortured him as he refused to donate Rs 2 million to them. The entrepreneurs today announced an indefinite strike at a press conference they organised outside the premises of the PM’s residence when they were not allowed to meet the PM.