08/07/2014, 00.00
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Nepal Hindu leaders against Modi for letting down their religion, not helping them

by Christopher Sharma
During his official two-day visit to Kathmandu, the Indian Prime minister suggested to his interlocutors to enshrine the state's secularism. By contrast, Hindu priests expected India to back their demand for the "Hindu revival" of their nation.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Nepali Hindu leaders reacted with "disappointment" to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit when, in a speech, he failed to call for a "revival" of their religion's original status.

However, if Hindu priests at the Pashupatinath temple felt Modi let them and their faith down, Nepali politicians instead stressed the secular nature of the state, pledging to include it in the constitution.

Nepal became a secular state in 2006, after centuries of Hindu absolute monarchy. Only recently, religious minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, were allowed to build their own places of worship and celebrate religious functions in public.

Today Hinduism is still the majority religion, 81.3 per cent of the population. At 9 per cent, Buddhists are the largest minority, followed by Muslims (4.4 per cent) and Christians (1.4 per cent).

For some Hindu radicals, this is no good and are putting pressure on the country's leaders - and those of the new Indian government - to restore matters as they were under the monarchy. For this reason, they have not appreciated Modi's statements on secularism in Nepal.

"Nepal is a sovereign country and it has right to decide about prioritising and de-prioritising any faith groups and minority rights," Modi said. Ultimately, "We want to see the promulgation of a new Constitution that will meet world norms."

"Our country has already been declared secular," said Agni Sapkota, spokesman for the Unified CPN-Maoist party. "We only have to make it official by writing it in the new constitution."

"There is no turning back. Indeed, from my point of view we should give our first priority to minority groups, a way to compensate them for what they endured in the past."

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