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  • » 05/16/2006, 00.00

    NEPAL

    From Hindu kingdom to secular state

    Prakash Dubey

    The premier has accepted to consider the request of several local ethnic groups to declare the country as a secular state. A local activist said: "Only a secular Nepal can put an end to the explicit and implicit discriminations suffered by minorities".

    Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – The ad interim Nepalese premier, Girja Prasad Koirala, has accepted to consider a request by ethnic groups to give Nepal a secular status. The Constitution, which provides for freedom of worship, describes Nepal as a "Hindu Kingdom" although it does not lay down a State religion.

    The prime minister's statement came yesterday as hundreds of members of the Indigenous Nationalities Joint Struggle Committee (INJSC) protested outside his residence. This group, which includes several religions and ethnicities, presented Koirala with a memorandum that calls for the transformation of the Kingdom into a secular state.

    Prithvi Subba Gurung, one of the INJSC leaders, told AsiaNews that guarantees for change, handed down by the premier, "have aroused great optimism among ethnic Nepalese nationalities". He said: "We firmly believe that only a secular Nepalese state could end numerous implicit and explicit discriminations that ethnic groups have been vulnerable to, by guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities irrespective of one's faith."

    Pushar Tamang, a Buddhist, said Nepal is a mosaic of ethnicities. In 2001, 61 were registered, speaking a total of 120 languages between them, with different religions, and they make up 50% of the population. Just about half of Nepalese citizens speak the Nepalese language as their mother tongue and nearly 20% don't speak it at all. Right from the beginning, from the time of the foundation of the unitary state of Nepal in 1769, the monarchy of Kathmandu, deriving from high Hindu castes, has always sought to impose not only its language, but its cultural and religious matrix on the rest of the country. The most widespread slogan is: "One nation, one dress, one language!"

    Tamang said the concept of "total democracy" that sparked the protests against the king "would be reduced to a farce if Nepal is not declared a secular state". He added that only "monarchy leaders" wanted to hang on to the title of Nepal as a Hindu kingdom, because they "hoped for backing from nationalist Hindus from India in case of a crisis".

    Yesterday, the alliance of seven opposition parties that is leading the ad interim government fixed 18 May as the date for the presentation of and voting for a resolution to limit the powers of the crown: among other things, the king will forfeit his control over the army and his immunity.

    In February 2005, King Gyanendra sacked his prime minister and seized absolute powers over the nation. He justified his move by citing government incapacity to fight corruption and the Maoist revolt. After months of violent street protests, in April, the monarch agreed to form a new parliament.

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    See also

    26/02/2009 NEPAL
    Former Nepalese king visits India: meetings with Hindu leaders scheduled
    For the first time since the end of the monarchy, Gyanendra has gone to New Delhi. It is possible that he will meet with Prime Minister Singh and members of the BJP. For the former Nepalese ambassador in India, the former monarch could ask for pressure on the Maoist government.

    22/05/2006 NEPAL
    Nepal is secular state: minorities happy

    According to minority groups, the historic decision of parliament is "revolutionary and democratic". The 1990 constitution had described the country as a "Hindu state".



    16/05/2012 NEPAL
    Whole regions without food as strikes and protests are held against the new constitution
    Demonstrations have plunged the country into chaos. A 19-day general strike has grounded air transport to the western districts. More than 30 people have been hurt in clashes between indigenous groups and opponents of federalism. Ban Ki-Moon calls on Nepal to respect minorities in the new constitution.

    03/08/2011 NEPAL
    Nepalese Muslims pray for tolerance during Ramadan
    Islamic leaders preach respect for other religious communities. The country still debates choice of a secular state or a return to a Hindu monarchy.

    07/11/2008 NEPAL - BHUTAN
    Nepal, Bhutanese refugees ask new king for end of exile
    For more than 120,000 refugees, the coronation of King Jigme Khesar Namgyel brings new hope for a possible return home. Doubts and confusion remain about the decisions that the young new sovereign will make. Activists warn that the monarchy is at risk, and threaten popular revolt.



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