A body of Buddhist monks fighting for control of the Mahabodhi temple at Bodh Gaya in Bihar has sought the intervention of the United Nations Organisation (UNO).
The temple is located at the spot where Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is believed to have attained enlightenment about 2,500 years ago.
Bhadant Nagarjun Surai Sasai, president of the Bodh Gaya-based All India Mahabodhi Temple Liberation Action Committee (AIMTLAC), has complained to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that depriving Buddhists the right to manage the affairs of the temple amounts to grave injustice.
Sasai, a member of the temple management committee, which includes non-Buddhists, wants the UNHCR to help the Buddhists take over control of the management of the temple.
Buddhists like Sasai, a Japanese who renounced his citizenship to preach Buddhism in the land of its birth, accuse the present managing committee of being indifferent to the maintenance the sacred place.
Sri Lankan Buddhist missionary Angarika Dhammapala was the first to raise the issue in 1891, sources said. However, the movement gathered momentum only in October 1992 when Nagpur-based monks undertook a Mumbai-Delhi-Bodh Gaya chariot procession.
In March this year, about 200 Buddhist monks led by Sasai encircled the 7th century Mahabodhi temple and staged a sit-in protest demanding the transfer of management control to a Buddhist committee and a ban on wearing shoes inside the temple.
Earlier, the Nagpur-based All India Monks' Federation had asked Shankaracharya Jayendra Saraswati of Kancheepuram (Tamil Nadu) to intervene in the tussle between Hindus and Buddhists over control of the Mahabodhi temple.
The temple is managed, on behalf of the Bihar government, by a nine-member committee headed by the district magistrate.
Under the state government's Temple Management Act, only a Hindu can head the managing committee. The Act also specifies that if the district magistrate happens to be a non-Hindu, the state government has to nominate a Hindu to head the committee.
Right-wing Hindu organisations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal have been opposing any amendment to the Act as they see Buddhism as part of the larger Hindu family.
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