In change of heart Nepal to allow cremation of Tibetan monk

KATHMANDU Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:04am EDT

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Nepal will allow a monk prominent in Tibetan Buddhism to be cremated in a monastery in Kathmandu, a minister said on Tuesday, disregarding fears of possible anti-China protests by his followers during the funeral.

The government had previously barred the followers of Shamar Rinpoche from bringing his body back to Nepal - where he ran a monastery - for the final rites, a decision that local media had blamed on pressure from China.

Rinpoche, also known as the Shamarpa, died of a heart attack in Germany aged 62 on June 11. His body has been kept in India while his followers pressed Nepali authorities to lift the ban.

Nepali Information Minister Minendra Rijal said a cabinet meeting on Tuesday had decided to allow Rinpoche's body to be brought to Nepal in recognition of his contributions to Buddhism in the Himalayan nation, sandwiched between India and China.

"The cremation should ... take place without any breach of Nepali law, culture, tradition and social harmony," Rijal told reporters.

Nepal is home to more than 20,000 Tibetans. Many of them arrived in 1959 when their spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

In recent years, Nepali authorities have cracked down on Tibetan protests against China, which keeps tight control of the Himalayan region and views the Dalai Lama and his followers as "splittists" plotting to end Beijing's rule in Tibet.

Chine Lama, a follower involved with the funeral arrangements, said the cremation had been set for Thursday.

The monk's body would be kept at his monastery on a forested hill outside the Nepali capital to allow followers to pay their last respects. Rinpoche taught Buddhism there for several years.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Gareth Jones)