Prachanda’s plan to develop Buddha’s birthplace questioned

Kathmandu, Nov 10: Nepal Maoist Leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda has reached an agreement with the Hong Kong based NGO Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF) to develop the birthplace of Buddha. The agreement has run into rough weather for not getting requisite permission from different ministries.

The chairman of Nepal’s ruling Maoist party and head of Lumbini Development National Directive Committee (LDNDC), Prachanda, and Xiao Wunan, executive vice chairman of APEC Foundation, signed the agreement.

Beijing Zhongtai Jinghua Investment Co (BZZH Inc) of China plans to develop five big projects, including a five-star hotel, on Lumbini Development Trust (LDT) premises in Lumbini. Dahal is one of co-chairs of the APECF, a little-known Hong Kong-based NGO that has forwarded documents in the name of BZZH Inc to Nepal government with a multibillion plan to develop Lumbini into a Buddhist ‘Mecca’.

The aim of the agreement is to develop the town into a ‘Mecca’ for Buddhists world over. However, many Buddhists have expressed their reservations about turning their sacred town into a commercial entity.

Many have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the man leading the project from the Nepal side – Prachanda. “

“Does a man who started a war that left thousands dead has the moral authority to develop a place that is holy to us Buddhists as we do not believe in violence?” asked D. Shakya, a Buddhist from the town of Patan.

The project had already attracted controversy after UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) had denounced claims by Prachanda that it had entered into a USD 3 billion agreement with LDNDCN and APECF.

Furthermore, it was revealed that top officials in both the Ministry of Culture, which oversees any development work related to Lumbini and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose permission is necessary to establish any deal with foreigners in the country, had been kept in the dark. The then Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav had also denounced the reports as ‘baseless’.

Some Nepali experts claimed if the project is to be successful, it couldn’t be kept in isolation from Indian plans to develop Buddhist heritage sites in India.

Of the four sacred spots for Buddhists, only the birthplace, Lumbini is in Nepal whereas the other three are in India. Hence, they claim that Nepal should develop its development plans side by side with India. By Manish Gyawali (ANI)