Christians give 48-hour ultimatum to Nepal government
On a relay
hunger-strike in Kathmandu for 13 days, Nepal's enraged Christian
community Monday gave a 48-hour ultimatum to the fledgling
government of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal: to give them a plot
Nepal's burgeoning Christian community's demand for a burial ground
seemed headed for a collision with the Hindus with the Supreme Court
Wednesday deciding to resolve two separate suits together.
Judges Balaram KC and Bharat Bahadur Karki Monday said two separate
petitions over a Christian cemetery - one filed by Christians and
the other by a Hindu activist - would be resolved together Monday as
they were co-related.
The decision could spark tension between the two communities who
have so far been living in harmony.
The fresh development came after Christians, who say their number
has crossed two million, began a public campaign, asking the
government to give them a plot of land for an official cemetery.
Though Nepal, once the only Hindu kingdom in the world, became
secular in 2006, Christians do not have any community burial ground
yet and complain of harassment by locals when they try to bury their
dead on personal property.
The problem became more acute this year after the trust managing
Nepal's oldest Hindu temple, the hallowed Pashupatinath shrine in
Kathmandu, began a demolition drive, razing the clandestine graves
erected by Christians and other non-Hindus in an ancient forest
adjoining the shrine.
The Pashupatinath Area Development Trust says the forest belongs to
the temple and the "encroachment" by non-Hindus has hurt Hindu
Christians began a relay hunger-strike in protest this month,
warning they would dump the bodies of their dead in front of the
prime minister's office if they were not allotted the cemetery land
they are seeking.
On March 13, one of the organisers of the protest, C.B. Gahatraj,
and a second Christian, Man Bahadur Thapa, finally moved the court,
asking for a Supreme Court stay on the grave demolition drive till
the dispute was resolved.
Their petition triggered a counter petition by Hindu activist Bharat
On March 20, Jangam, who had earlier fought the Maoist and communist
governments in court for trying to usurp the temple's authority and
treasury, filed a counter-petition, saying the Shleshmantak forest -
where Christians had been burying their dead - belonged to the Hindu
temple and should not be encroached upon by non-Hindus.
Asked by the court to show cause, Nepal's government washed its
hands of the row, saying the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust
was an autonomous body and it was not responsible for the trust's
Responding to the explanation, the two judges Wednesday said the
Christian and Hindu petitions would be decided together Monday.
The apex court decision came as a 48-hour ultimatum given by the
Christians to the government ended.
"We are not concerned about Bharat Jangam's petition," Gahatraj told
IANS. "We are asking the government for a plot of land, not him."
The Christian Burial Ground Prayer and National Struggle Committee
that is spearheading the hunger-strike said its officials had been
called to a meeting Wednesday to decide a new course of action.