Nepal Christians to protest over burial ground ban

Christians in Nepal threatened Tuesday to parade corpses in front of the parliament building after the government ruled last week that an area near a revered Hindu temple could no longer be used as their burial ground.

Christians in the capital, Katmandu, have traditionally buried their dead in a forest next to the Pashupati temple, which is revered by Hindus in Nepal. But the government-run Pashupati Development Trust issued a ban Friday against using the grounds for burials.

The cemetery and temple both come under the trust's control.

C.B. Gahatraj, general secretary of the Christians Recommendations Committee, said Christian representatives were meeting in Katmandu on Tuesday to decide on the details of their protest, including plans to take three corpses to the parliament building.

"We plan to carry our dead in front of the parliament and stage a protest unless our pleas are heard and justice done," he said, adding that the three corpses were awaiting burial and being kept at a church in Katmandu.

Culture Ministry Secretary Modraj Dotel said the ban was imposed because the temple area was getting too congested and there was not enough space left for more corpses to be buried.

The U.N. body in charge of preserving historical sites, UNESCO, was threatening to strip the temple area of its world heritage status if the burials did not cease, he said.

He also said Hindu groups angered by the burials had made threats in the past, and it was necessary to protect the Christians from possible harm.

The government is trying to secure areas in suburban Katmandu for Christians to bury their dead, Dotel said.

"We have asked the Christian community to search for such area, and the government will, if necessary, purchase the land and convert it to a graveyard," he said.

Hindus make up the majority of the population in Nepal, which was officially a Hindu nation until 2006. Christians are about 1.5 percent of the country's 27 million people.