Indian Help Sought as Nepal Refuses to Ban Ritual Slaughter

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Indian Help Sought as Nepal Refuses to Ban Ritual Slaughter

By Sudeshna Sarkar on ThaiIndian.com

The slaughtered animals are not eaten but the carcasses are left in the open while rivers of blood drench the fields.

A group of Buddhists from Nepal as well as animal rights organisations have begun urging India’s state administrations and animal welfare organisations to help prevent the slaughter of thousands of birds and animals as Nepal’s government said it would not ban a Hindu festival in the Terai plains for fear of ruffling religious sentiments.

“We have asked the administration of India’s Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states, which border Nepal, as well as other bordering Indian states to prevent the smuggling of animals and birds from India to Nepal with the intention of slaughtering them at the Gadhimai Fair,” said D.B. Bomjan, chairman of the Tamang Rastriya Mukti Morcha, an NGO from an indigenous community that is Buddhist by religion.

Bomjan said that Nepal’s animal rights organisations have also asked their counterparts in India to help create mass awareness and stop hundreds of Hindus from travelling to Nepal’s Bara district across the border at the end of this month to take part in a religious festival they are describing as the “largest animal killing fields in the world”.

The plea came after Nepal’s communist-led coalition government declined to intervene in the festival at the Gadhimai Temple in Bara, scheduled to start from Nov 24.

The festival, held once in five years, has grown in notoriety due to the growing mass animal slaughter at the altar of the goddess. This year, the organisers of the festival say about 500,000 birds and animals will be killed.

Though former Indian minister and noted animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi wrote to Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, urging the government to intervene, the spokesman of the government said the state would not use force as it was a sensitive issue.

“We do not plan to use force to prevent the sacrifices,” said Information and Communications Minister Shankar Pokhrel, who is also the government spokesman.

“It is a sensitive issue and we don’t want to hurt religious sentiments.”

Bomjan said that in the past, human sacrifices were also considered to be essential for Hindu festivals. But they had been stopped.

“We also used to burn widows on the pyres of their husbands as part of tradition,” he said. “But didn’t we end that atrocity?”

However, the response from Nepal’s major political parties - which three years ago abolished Hinduism as the state religion and last year ousted the royal family to turn the Himalayan kingdom into a republic - has been extremely lukewarm, Bomjan said.

“We invited them to discussions to chalk out alternatives to the sacrifices,” he said. “But they haven’t responded.”

A few of them had indicated that they did not want to go against prevailing religious sentiments, Bomjan said.

The Buddhist community is pinning its hopes on Nepal’s “Buddha Boy”.

Ram Bahadur Bomjan, who shot to fame nearly five years ago when he started meditating in a remote forest in the Terai for world peace, has been campaigning in the nearby villages to stop sacrificing animals in the name of religion.

Bomjan said the teenaged wonder, who commands widespread respect and devotion from Buddhists and Hindus alike, will go to the village where the Gadhimai temple is located, on Nov 20, four days before the killings start, to make an appeal.

The Gadhimai killings are condemned as the world’s greatest wanton cruelty of animals and are a severe danger to the environment and public health.

In the past, two animal-borne diseases entered Nepal during the fair and this time, livestock experts are fearing the spread of bird and swine flu.

The slaughtered animals are not eaten but the carcasses are left in the open while rivers of blood drench the fields.