By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 4 (IANS) A day after controversial yoga televangelist Baba Ramdev's principal aide Acharya Balkrishna was questioned in India's Dehradun city on the suspicion that he had obtained an Indian passport fraudulently, hundreds of his defiant followers celebrated his 39th birthday in pomp in Kathmandu to show their support.
Though the saffron-clad baba and his aide have become virtually persona non grata with the Indian government, with police breaking up by force a fast in New Delhi, in Nepal ministers willingly took part in the birthday celebrations.
Forest Minister Bhanu Bhakta Joshi planted saplings at the Yoga Village built by Ramdev's Patanjali Yoga Peeth in Dhulikhel town near Kathmandu valley, a popular tourist destination.
Despite facing an Aug 13 deadline to show results in the peace process or quit, beleaguered Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal had consented to be the chief guest at the dipawali in Kathmandu Thursday evening, organised to wish Balkrishna long life and good health.
Shaligram Singh, trustee of the Patanjali Yoga Peeth, said the interrogation by India's Central Bureau of Investigation was unfortunate as Balkrishna was "100 percent Indian".
"Hundreds of Indians come to Nepal and take Nepali citizenship," Singh told IANS. "We have no issues with that. Then why should there be objections to Balkrishnaji's Indian citizenship since he was born in India? You can't accuse someone of obtaining an Indian passport fraudulently just because his parents happen to be in Nepal."
Balkrishna's parents come from Syangja in eastern Nepal. But the 39-year-old was born in India's Haridwar city as his father was employed there at the time of his birth.
Singh said the Indian authorities were trying to assassinate Balkrishna's character by earlier saying he was a criminal who had fled from Nepal after being wanted for crimes in the Himalayan republic.
"Nepal's home ministry issued a statement saying that there were no criminal charges against him," he said. "How can he be involved in criminal activities in Nepal when he had come here only once in 18 years?
"Such allegations are unfortunate because India is not just our neighbour and friend. We have blood ties with Indians."
The day was being celebrated in Haridwar also with the Aastha channel owned by Ramdev airing the events, Singh said.
Currently, Acharya Balkrishna is under investigation on the suspicion that he produced fake educational certificates while acquiring an Indian passport.