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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006, 15:36 GMT
Nepal's 'Buddha' boy goes missing
By Bhagirath Yogi
BBC News, Kathmandu

Ram Bomjan meditating in village of Ratanapuri in Bari district
Ram Bomjan's followers claimed he did not take food or water
A 16-year-old boy who had been meditating and fasting in a Nepal forest for 10 months has been missing since Saturday morning, police say.

Locals and police searched the area in the southern district of Bara but have not been able to locate him so far.

Police have rejected reports that the young boy, popularly known as "Little Buddha", may have been abducted.

His followers say Ram Bomjan may have moved deep inside the forest looking for a quieter place to meditate.

Hundreds of people used to visit the area every day where the young boy was meditating.

Make-shift shops had been set up by the locals to cater to the visitors who came from different parts of Nepal and neighbouring India.

Buddhist flags were erected around the site where Bomjan was meditating.

Booklets carrying his photo and CDs sold like hotcakes in Kathmandu and other parts of the country.

'No food or water'

His followers claimed that Bomjan did not take food or even water throughout his t10 month-long meditation.

They refused, however, to allow any independent investigation about the health conditions of Bomjan saying that "it would disturb him."

The authorities also did not intervene to avoid hurting local feeling.

While critics accused Bomjan's followers of fooling people, the young boy continued to hog media headlines.

Tired from the decade-old armed conflict that has already claimed more than 13,000 lives, followers of Bomjan claimed that he was an incarnation of Lord Buddha who was born in Nepal more than 2,500 years ago.

They are still hoping that Bomjan will reappear somewhere deep in the forest and continue his meditation.

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