Policing against tradition
Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple, more than 4000 police officers, Nepali army squads, sniffers dogs, riot control vehicles and ambulances attended to the holly festival of Maha Shivaratri.
Mission: arrest “non” holy people in possession of bhang (marihuana).
Outcome: More than 70 people arrested.
Maha Shivaratri takes place every year in reverence of Lord Shiva. The legends tells that Shiva, who fled his Himalayan abodes of Mount Kailash in Tibet, was later found in the form of a golden-horned deer grazing in the Mrigasthali forests close to the sprawling Pashupatinath temple on the bounds of Kathmandu. During the festival the devotes engage in different rituals, which include consumption of bhang for meditation and spiritual purposes.
The holy festival congregates more than 7000 people from different parts of South Asia but principally from India and Nepal. Some of these pilgrims are sadhus, holy men who dedicate their life to meditation and contemplation of Brahman. While these religious celebrations bring together people from different backgrounds, only the sadhus are allowed to consume marihuana. That is why a spiritual and traditional fest also becomes a demonstration of force.
This “regulation” seems to be a response to Western moral regarding drug use. Restricting marihuana to certain sectors of the Hindu community is just a way to keep quiet the Western governments and their prohibitionist drug policy.
In a country like Nepal, where more than the 80 percent of the population are Hindus, it seems completely unreasonable such restrictions and waste of resources. All the money expended in policing could be inverted in improving public health services or tackling other type of crime.
Prohibiting marihuana consumption not only constitutes an invasion of an individual’s freedom regarding his/her wellbeing; but also an attempt to intervene in secular matters, from which paradoxically western democracies presume to be independent. To this extent we have to question our selves, which is the price of progress? In religious rituals why wine is more acceptable than other drugs? Are eastern cultures paying the price of years of colonialism?