Protests erupt over Maoist appointments at Nepal temple

Kathmandu, Nepal - Hundreds of protestors burnt tyres and blocked streets in Kathmandu Tuesday as protests escalated over the Maoist-led government's appointment of top clergy at the country's largest Hindu temple. The protests followed demonstrations by junior priests at the Pashupatinath temple objecting to the appointment of new high priests by the Young Communist League.

Hundreds of protestors, including junior priests known as Bhandaris, imposed a traffic blockade and burnt tyres.

"Down with the Maoists, prime minister leave the country," the protestors chanted.

"The protests will continue until the Maoists stop making political appointments at the temple," organizers said.

Police said the protests were generally peaceful.

Last week, Nepal's Supreme Court issued a stay on the appointments and said prayers at the temple must be conducted by old priests who are from South India.

But the government ignored the court order.

"The appointments were made with good intentions, but the issue is now being politicized," Minister for Information and Communications Krishna Bahadur Mahara said.

"No one and no law can stop us from implementing our decision which is for the good of the country," Mahara said.

The Indian priests known as Bhatta have been at the helm of worship at Pashupatinath temple for nearly 200 years.

They resigned last week citing serious differences with temple management installed by the Nepalese government.

Even former King Gyanendra broke his silence to issue an appeal not to politicize events at the temple.

Thousands of devotees visit the Pashupatinath Temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva each day.

It is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.