Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – About 50 members of Nepal’s constituent assembly representing tribal and Dalit groups have called for the one-horn rhino to symbolise the country in lieu of the cow. For them, the rhino is a “neutral” symbol whereas the cow is a religious and sacred symbol of prosperity for Hindus.
As the constituent continues its work, the draft constitution presented in June continues to be a source of major disagreement. Coming after years of parliamentary squabbles, the proposed charter has attracted all sorts of criticism from women’s rights activists, non-resident Nepalis, and Christian groups who fear religious discrimination.
Assembly members from parties representing the country’s minorities believe that an animal threatened with extinction, like the rhinoceros, is more suited to be a national symbol because it would embody the country’s secular nature, and help protect the endangered animal.
"The cow is the electoral symbol of a political party and is associated with a particular religion,” said Pemba Bhote, representative of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), and general secretary of the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities.
In his view, “The state could use the law to criminalise non-Hindus if they eat beef. This has already occurred in the past. Replacing the cow with the rhino will be acceptable to everyone.”
Even the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) considers the choice discriminatory, noting that adopting a cow as the state symbol violates the “spirit of secularism,” which should underpin the future Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
Under Nepali law, the monetary value of Hinduism’s sacred animal is the same as that of a human being. Anyone who kills a cow in a car accident is liable for a NR 500,000 fine (almost US$ 5,000). That is the same for humans, plus an additional NR 25,000 (US$ 250) for funeral expenses.