Priest attack: Nepal's Culture Minister assuages India's hurt feelings

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Kathmandu/New Delhi, Sep.6 (ANI): Nepal's Culture Minister Manindra Rijal on Sunday said his government is taking all steps to ensure the security of Hindu priests inside the Pashupatinath Temple and ruled out reports that the two priests who were allegedly attacked by Maoists were wanting to return to bangalore, their hometown.

Rijal told a private television channel that he had gone to the temple with India's Ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, on saturday to apologise to the Indian priests and had assured them of their security.

He also said his government has promised to take stern action against the perpetrators of the attack.

Nepal has "regretted" the attack by Maoists on two newly-appointed Indian priests. The police has arrested about two dozen people, including the leader of the group that beat up the priests-Girish Bhatta and Raghavendra Bhatta. However, tension prevails around the temple area inspite of the placatory moves.

The Unified CPN (Maoist), however, has denied its involvement in Friday's attacks.

A statement issued by the party's International Department in-charge Krishna Bahadur Mahara says, the party does not have a policy of jeopardizing religious harmony and intervening in religious issues.

"Our party believes in people's religious independence and respects the rights and sentiments of the people to support or oppose any issue," the statement mentions.

Mahara also mentioned that the Nepali public has been demanding Nepali priests in the Pashupatinath temple for a long time.

Demonstrators protesting against the appointment of Indian priests had attacked the priests, who were undergoing a ritual of fasting and isolation inside the temple premises, and attempted to break their sacred thread, on Friday

India on Saturday described the attack as an unprovoked and criminal act of violence that goes against ''the grain of the civilisational ties of friendship that have existed since time immemorial between the peoples of Nepal and India''.

Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said New Delhi has already done enough to ensure the safety and security of the two Karnataka-based priests.

''Nepal is a sovereign country and we have had traditionally good relationships with Nepal. I am sure they will do enough to ensure such incidents don't recur,'' Krishna said.

''India shares historical bond with Nepal, in Kashi priests from Nepal perform the pujas and in Pashupatinath it is the Indian priests. It is a tradition being followed from centuries. So I think there should no problem between us,'' Krishna added.

He said he was aware of Maoist pressure on temple authorities to prevent Indian priests from conducting religious ceremonies and Nepal government had no role in it.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said: ''The matter was immediately taken up through our embassy in Kathmandu at the highest levels in the government of Nepal and our concerns conveyed. 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 the unfortunate incident in Kathmandu.''(ANI)

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