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'Nepal church, mosque bombers funded by Indian groups, armed by ULFA'


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Kathmandu: Three months after being caught for masterminding attacks on churches and mosques in Nepal, the chief of an underground organisation that persecuted Christians and Muslims says he was funded by India's ultra-right organisations and armed by outlawed Indian militant group United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA).


Ram Prasad Mainali, a 37-year-old Hindu, metamorphosed from a ticket booking clerk to a ruthless, menacing shadowy figure who directed attacks that killed at least five people while praying in mosques and a church after he was aided by at least four Indian organisations.


"I was opposed to the idea of Nepal becoming a secular republic," he told IANS, sitting behind bars in Kathmandu valley's Nakhu Jail where he has been transferred since his arrest from southern Nepal Sep 5.


"There are over 50 countries that are Christian and more than 40 that are Islamic. Nepal was the only Hindu country."


However, the sleepy Himalayan nation lost its unique identity in 2006 when a pro-democracy movement unseated the army-backed government of King Gyanendra and parliament declared it a secular nation in a bid to cut off the popular power base of the monarch who was regarded by many as an incarnation of a Hindu god.


In February 2007, when it was clear that Nepal was heading towards an election to abolish the world's only Hindu monarchy as well, Mainali says he and his followers held a meeting in the Birla Temple in New Delhi to discuss forming an organisation that would strive to restore Hinduism as Nepal's state religion.


"The meeting was between us and members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bajrang Dal," he claimed.


"They approved and agreed to fund us. The meeting also discussed resorting to violence if our effort failed and endorsed it. Every month, the Indian groups sent us money - between NRS 200,000-500,000 through secret channels."


Initially, Mainali says his Nepal Defence Army (NDA) ran rallies for nine days in Birgunj, Nepal's industrial hub and the main trade route between India and Nepal, opposing secularisation and the abolition of monarchy.


However, after the ruling parties ignored the call, despite the public support it enjoyed, Mainali said the NDA decided to go underground and begin a campaign of violence targeting Christians and Muslims.


It used the funds sent from India to buy arms and explosives from the ULFA in Assam in northeastern, Mainali says.


The link occurred possibly because Mainali himself is from Morang district in eastern Nepal.


NDA members threw bombs at two mosques in southern Nepal, killing two Muslims during prayer. It also planted a bomb at one of the oldest churches in Kathmandu valley in May, killing three women during mass and triggering worldwide condemnation.


The outcry caused the Nepal government to start a manhunt as never before and both Mainali and his accomplice, the woman who planted the bomb inside the Assumption Church, were arrested.


Police have already charged Sita Thapa, the accomplice, with murder while Mainali is under detention as investigations continue into his links.


Mainali says the NDA is still intact though inactive. However, once he is released, it will resume activities.


But he says he will switch tacks to political activity and abjure violence. He is also not sure whether he wants to continue the campaign for a Hindu state.


"During my imprisonment, not a single Hindu came to meet me," he says bitterly. "Then who was I fighting for?"


On the other hand, he is regularly visited by Christian missionaries who have forgiven him. He has also been embraced as their brother by the prisoners in Nakhu Jail, many of whom converted to Christianity after imprisonment.


"I regret the deaths," he said. "We lacked planning. The intention was to attack the leaders who had abolished Hinduism as the state religion in Nepal, not ordinary people."


However, he still supports the idea of a monarchy in Nepal.


"In the past, you had to make offerings to just one ruler," he says.


"Today, there are 601 rulers and each has to be appeased."


He is referring to the newly elected 601-member constituent assembly that is writing a new constitution to decide, for once and for all, that Nepal should be a federal republic.


"But I am not advocating for deposed king Gyanendra," he says. "I am simply arguing for monarchy."






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