- The Washington Times - Friday, November 11, 2005

NEPAL

Lawsuit puts light on ‘living goddesses’

PATAN — The king of Nepal and his left-wing opponents have united in opposing an attempt to modernize the cult of the capital’s “Kumaris,” or living goddesses.

A case filed in the Supreme Court by an activist lawyer, Pundevi Mahajan, has provoked fierce reactions by claiming that the tradition denies the young girls their right to education and keeps them illegally confined in temples and Kumari houses.

Traditional community leaders, who asked not to be named, said the royal palace had asked them to press to have the case dropped. The cult is a unique mixture of the Buddhism and Hinduism that exists in Katmandu. Although the Kumaris are chosen from the Buddhist Shakya caste, they are regarded as Hindu goddesses.

ISRAEL

‘Lost tribe’ in India spared conversions

JERUSALEM — Israel has bowed to complaints from the Indian government and stopped trying to convert to Judaism thousands of people in India who believe they are a biblical lost tribe, the Foreign Ministry said this week.

About 7,000 people in northeast India claim to be members of Bnei Menashe — children of Menashe — one of the 10 “lost tribes” of Israel. Efforts to convert them by a team of Israeli rabbis were called off after India, a major buyer of Israeli defense exports, voiced displeasure.

“The Indian authorities, through official channels, told us they do not view positively initiated efforts at conversions to other religions,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. “When the Indian government issues a complaint, we take it seriously. At the moment, there is a freeze on all such conversions taking place,” Mr. Regev said.

BANGLADESH

Tight security set for SAARC summit

DHAKA — This capital was brought under tight security coverage Thursday, with 40,000 policemen and paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles deployed ahead of a summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation today and tomorrow.

Several thousand plainclothesmen from different intelligence agencies were also deployed, with closed-circuit cameras on buildings near the venues.

Security measure have been tightened at Zia International Airport where SAARC leaders will arrive.

The movements of vehicles were restricted and security forces were checking public transportation and passengers at different points, including city entrances.

Weekly notes …

India’s former President K.R. Narayanan, 85, died Wednesday of pneumonia and renal failure, the government said. The scholarly Mr. Narayanan, India’s first president from the Dalit, Hinduism’s lowest “untouchable” caste, was president of the world’s second-most populous nation from 1997 to 2002. He was admitted to a hospital Oct. 29 and put on life support two days later. … U.N. officials warn that widespread rain in Pakistan’s quake zone could be disastrous for their struggle to contain an outbreak of acute diarrhea in tent camps. There have been at least 200 cases, and possibly as many as 750, at one camp for homeless quake survivors in Pakistani Kashmir, amid fears that it could be cholera, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said. The first rain in nearly a week fell on quake-ravaged northern Pakistan and parts of Kashmir early Thursday and yesterday, turning to snow at night, the Pakistani meteorological department said.

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