Kathmandu: 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
of land for an official cemetery or have protesters dump Christians'
corpses in front of the prime minister's office.
"We want the world to know how Nepal is trampling Christians' basic
human rights," said Sundar Thapa, the pastor of a church in
Kathmandu and the coordinator of the newly formed organisation that
this year began a campaign to get an official plot of land from the
government for Christians to bury their dead.
"Though officially secular, Nepal continues to treat us with bias
because we happen to be Christians."
Over two dozen men and women sat patiently under a canopy close to
the Ranipokhari Lake of Kathmandu singing hymns, reading together
from the Bible translated into Nepali and praying together.
"Show us our burial land," read the posters put up before the
makeshift stage. "We don't want employ (sic), we don't want resident
(sic), we don't want fooding (sic)," said another illustrated with a
coffin. "We want just burial land."
Though the Christian Burial Ground Prayer and National Struggle
Committee, which is leading the protests, has been trying to enlist
the support of the political parties and human rights organisations,
the former's glib promises of mediating with the prime minister have
come to nothing.
Unable to form a full-fledged cabinet even two months after becoming
premier, Khanal remains mired in various crises, the gravest being
the possibility of failing to unveil a new constitution by May 28
and plunging the country into a constitutional vacuum.
Neither has he been able to disband the guerrilla army of the Maoist
party, his only ally in the coalition government, with nearly 20,000
combatants still living in cantonments.
The Christian protests started after Nepal's oldest Hindu shrine
said it would not allow non-Hindus to bury their dead in an ancient
forest that is the temple's property, alleging it was outraging
With the authorities of the Pashupatinath temple, a Unesco-declared
world heritage site, barring the Shleshmantak forest, where
Christians and other non-Hindus had been burying their dead
secretively in the past, Christians say they have no option but to
go on a strong protest.
"There are nearly 2 million Christians in Nepal today," Thapa said.
"But the government continues to turn a blind eye to us. If we don't
hear from them by Tuesday, we have no option but to place the dead
bodies of our people in front of Singha Durbar (the heart of the
government where the PMO and other major ministries are located."
Though Nepal, once the only Hindu kingdom in the world, became
secular in 2006, Christians don't have any official cemetery.
The campaign however has divided the community with some distancing
themselves from it.
Bible scholar and pastor Ramesh Khatri said in a tiny country like
Nepal, where land was a premium commodity and even the living did
not have access to it, he was perfectly happy to be cremated after