Nepal Christians threaten 'corpse' protest in burial row

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Christians in Nepal have threatened to parade corpses in the capital to press the government into finding them alternative burial grounds after burials near the country’s holiest Hindu shrine were banned.

Christians account for less than two percent of Hindu-majority Nepal’s 28 million people. Authorities barred them this month from burying their dead in the forested graveyard at Sleshmantak saying the land belonged to the Pashupatinath Hindu temple, a U.N. heritage site in Kathmandu.

“Burial after death is a fundamental human right and the government is violating this by not giving us any place to bury the dead,” C.B.Gahatraj, a senior official of the Committee for Christian Recommendation for New Constitution told Reuters.

“If we don’t get an alternative burial site we’ll be forced to protest with corpses in front of the Singha Durbar,” Gahatraj said referring to the government complex that houses the prime minister’s office and the parliament.

The Committee was set up to push for the rights of Christians in the country’s new constitution, which has yet to be finalised after the 239-year-old Hindu monarchy was abolished in 2008.

Some Christian families have been forced to cremate their dead against their tradition because they could not find a place to bury them, he said.

Legend has it that Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, once lived in the Sleshmantak forest where monkeys and deer roam now. The area is located on a hill next to the Pashupatinath temple, which is visited by thousands of Hindus including from neighbouring India every year.

Sushil Nahata, the head of a shrine management group said the temple land was being used as a cemetery “illegally” by Christians and that non-Hindu graves should be shifted elsewhere.

“This is the case of one culture interfering into the other,” Nahata said.

A specially elected Constituent Assembly, dominated by the Maoist former rebels, is due to complete drafting a new constitution ensuring equal rights to all ethnic and religious groups in May.

Editing by Matthias Williams