Fiery God inspires protests in Kathmandu
The ongoing protests by the Newar community in Kathmandu may be the first major public defiance faced by the barely one month old Maoist led government. The protesters clashed with the police calling for the shutdown of the markets surrounding the Durbar Square area condemning Finance Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s announcement of reducing the budget on traditional rituals.
The Maoists, who were overwhelmingly supported in the capital by the Newars during the Constitutional Assembly elections, felt the heat so hard that Dr. Bhattarai had to apologize for infringing on the “cultural rights” and announce immediate resumption of the funds for “sacrificial rituals”.
However, the violent protests against the government is not only unjustifiable, but also another example of sheer non-sense prevailing Nepali society. Each year thousands of animals worth millions of Rupees are offered to the deities in the rituals according to the Hindu and Mahayana Buddhist traditions.
In the GadhiMai Mela (Worshipping of the Goddess) alone, more than 40,000 animals are killed to “appease” the Goddess. In another ritual practiced in Kathmandu, a live goat is thrown into a pond and youths jump into the water biting the animal to death.
Until recently, being the only Hindu theocracy in the world, such traditions were encouraged by the state to preserve the monolithic culture of the ruling classes. The people of New Nepal being the inhabitants of the newest secular republic in the world must also review their nonsense traditions.
The irony this time is that the Maoists who have been held responsible for sacrificing more than 15,000 human beings for “grabbing” the power were the only government in Nepal’s history who dared detaching the state from the costly and cruel animal sacrifices.
If everything can be acceptable in the name of rituals and tradition, then why was the Sati Pratha – in which the wife is burned alive in the funeral pyre with her dead husband – abolished from Nepal?
The Maoists and their allies better “watch” their public image mirrored in this incident. Unless they abstain from coercing people to behave according to the party guidelines, even such positive and pious intentions of refraining from animal-killings would invite confrontations.