The nation of Nepal used to be the only officially-Hindu nation in the world. Its Constitution said as much until 2008, when the Unified Communist Party took over and declared it a secular country. Politicians are currently working on a new Constitution and protesters are demanding that the “Hindu” nation designation come back.
The problem is that “secular” in Nepal — which is the term in the interim Constitution — means something very different to the people there than what we’re used to. For many Hindus, the word is not synonymous with religious freedom:
“Our religion is facing a threat from the Christians who are proselytizing. We want to stop it,” said Madhav Bhattarai, the chief of the Eternal Hindu Front group that organised the protest.
Politicians working on Nepal’s first post-monarchy constitution face pressure to use the term “Hindu state”, or include a guarantee of religious freedom, following overwhelming public demand to return to the former status of a Hindu nation.
Hindu groups have demanded that secularism be abandoned, saying it has encouraged religious conversions illegal in Nepal. Other groups deny this.
It’s hard to argue against a “secular” nation, but as long as the final wording in the Constitution is clear on the idea of true religious freedom, that should be all that matters. I’m not sure how calling it a “Hindu nation” fixes that problem for the roughly 20% of the population who believe in something else, but a clear compromise on this issue is vital.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Scott for the link)