Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bandari’s visit to Janakpur, situated in the country’s lowlands sparked protests. Supporters of the agitating Madhes-based parties staged demonstrations and waved black flags when President Bhandari reached Janakpur on Wednesday to offer prayers at the Janaki Temple on the occasion of Ram Janaki Bibaha Mahotsav.

Members of the agitating United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) and local youth clubs on Friday carried out cleansing at Janaki temple following President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s visit there on the occasion of the Ram Janaki Vivah Mahotsava, reported Nepal’s English daily Republica.

The locals ‘cleansed’ the temple, pointing out that offering of worship there by a widow was considered unholy.

“Today we, protesters and locals, sprinkled holy water from the Ganga at the temple premises to purify it as widows are traditionally not allowed to perform worship there,” said Dhanusha protest steering committee and Sadbhavana Party district chairman Sanjay Singh.

However, The Kathmandu Post, the country’s highest circulated English daily had a different story to tell. According to them, the Madhes Rights Struggle Committee (MRSC) and the SLMM “purified” the temple premises after security personnel and other people had entered it wearing shoes.

They cleaned the temple with “holy” water and milk, said MRSC Chairman Dharbendra Kumar Sah.

This is sad and twisted at many levels. The Morcha is seemingly fighting for the rights of poor, minority and oppressed and this act shows their true lies and deception. They have to start from their own community to end such discriminatory practices in temples.

Moreover, the President does not belong to a party. She is the head of the state. So she should be able to visit any places within Nepal. Morcha cannot decide who gets to visit Terai-Madhesh”, said Subhash Ghimire, Editor-in-Chief, Republica.

Refuting Ghimire’s claims, Prashant Jha, author, Battles of the New Republic, said, “The local protestors opposed Bidhya Bhandari’s arrival in Janakpur and entry into the Janaki temple because she was a representative of the Nepali state against which Madhesis have been waging a movement for over 120 days; because she was formerly with the UML which has been at the forefront of pushing through a constitution which is considered as regressive by many in Tarai; and because protestors have decided they would obstruct the entry of any leader of the bigger parties involved in the constitutional process”.

“In this regard, they have earlier too opposed the entry of MPs from the Tarai who had voted for the constitution. In the temple itself, Bhandari was accompanied by hundreds of security personnel; in the course of protecting her, the state forces were ruthless and attacked many pilgrims, including Indians”. 

“There has been a campaign to suggest that protestors opposed Bidhya Bhandari because she is a woman and a widow. If this is the case even remotely, it is despicable and against all the principles of equality and inclusion that the Madhes movement stands for”.

“But this is not the case. It is baseless, and an attempt to discredit the movement by sections of the media and the UML. Protestors have repeatedly clarified the reasons for the protest and we must not fall for the campaign which defames both the president and the movement”, he added.