05/22/2006, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepal is secular state: minorities happy

by Prakash Dubey

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

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Religious and ethnic minorities in Nepal have voiced their satisfaction about a historic parliament resolution declaring the country to be a "secular state".

Robert Gurung, a member of the "Good Hope" Pentecostal Church, said the decision was "revolutionary and democratic. It will ensure justice among the different religious, cultural, ethnic and linguistic minorities in the country." Gurung continued: "With the advent of the 1990 Constitution, minorities had started breathing some freedom to profess and live their faith and culture. However, the fact the country was defined as a Hindu state by the Constitution imposed particular restrictions on religious minorities, including Christian ones."

"With this resolution, parliament is moving towards justice, pluralism and harmony," added Pasang Sherpa, secretary-general of the Confederation of Indigenous and Ethnic Groups of Nepal. "In a democracy, minorities cannot be marginalized. Nepal is starting a new chapter now."

Sushil Shashank, a scholar of tribal culture, said the hegemony of the Hindu religion has weighed heavy on the psyche of the population for more than two decades. "A State religion means dominion of a culture, of a language and of some castes, and it goes against the potential of a society arising out of its pluralism. This is one of the reasons why our country passed through violence."

A Buddhist monk, Sukhdev, added: "Imposing a religion on a population is practicing violence. Violence is never only physical. Other than faith, even imposition of ideas means violence. Buddha himself prohibited even this sort of ideological violence."

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