KATHMANDU, NOV 14 - Indian spiritual leader and social activist Swami Agnivesh has joined the list of activists to speak out against Gadhimai sacrifice, calling for a ban to the ritual believed to be the largest animal sacrifice in the world.
Addressing a press conference in the Capital on Thursday, Agnivesh urged political and religious leaders and committee members of theGadhimai festival to initiate steps to put a stop to the animal sacrifice , which he described as ‘heinous’ and ‘diabolical.’ “This is violation of our spiritual heritage. Such animal sacrifice is a total contradiction of our Sanatan Dharma,” he said.
He also met with UCPN (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai at his residence. He said the former prime minister has assured full solidarity to the cause. Agnivesh also met with Prabhu Shah, a lawmaker from the Gadhimai region. “I appeal to the civil society of Nepal to start a massive movement against superstition and blind faith and promote rationality and scientific temper,” he said.
Agnivesh, a former member of Legislative Assembly in the Indian State of Haryana, is best known for his work against bonded labour through the Bonded Labour Liberation Front, which he founded in 1981. He is also the president of the World Council of Arya Samaj and has been awarded the Right to Livelihood Award, which is widely known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Peace Prize’ is presented annually in Stockholm at a ceremony in the Swedish Parliament.
Activists from India and Nepal have been lobbying to put a stop to the Gadhimai sacrifice. The Gadhimai festival , held every five years, will see over 10 million devotees flock to Bara from various districts in Nepal as well as India. Almost a quarter of a million animals, mostly buffaloes, are slaughtered to appease Goddess Gadhimai and usher in prosperity. Almost seventy per cent of the animals come from India.
Earlier, the Indian Supreme Court had passed an interim order restricting the illegal movement of animals from India to Nepal. Last week, it asked all concerned parties to come together to implement the ban and ensure that no illegal movement takes place. Meanwhile, the state government of Uttarakhand has banned the movement of animals and is working with Armed Border Forces to implement the court order. Agnivesh said he recently met with Bihar Chief Minister and was assured of full implementation of the ban.
While the Nepal government has not delivered an official statement on the issue, the Department of Livestock has readied an action plan to ensure better management of the sacrifice. The action plan enlists provisions to create proper health inspection posts that will let only healthy animals in. They have also laid out plan for post sacrifice management to maintain hygiene and control diseases.