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Call for Hindu state worries Nepal’s religious minorities

The Himalayan nation has seen a rise in religious intolerance and Hindu nationalist politics in recent years
Supporters of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) waving their party flag shout slogans during a protest to demand the restoration of the monarchy and the status of a Hindu state in the Himalayan nation, along a street in Kathmandu on April 9, 2024. Nepal police fired tear gas and water cannons as thousands marched in Kathmandu demanding restoration of constitutional monarchy and a Hindu state.

Supporters of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) waving their party flag shout slogans during a protest to demand the restoration of the monarchy and the status of a Hindu state in the Himalayan nation, along a street in Kathmandu on April 9, 2024. Nepal police fired tear gas and water cannons as thousands marched in Kathmandu demanding restoration of constitutional monarchy and a Hindu state. (Photo: AFP)

Published: April 12, 2024 10:18 AM GMT
Updated: April 12, 2024 11:20 AM GMT

The growing calls from pro-monarchist Hindu hardliners to re-establish monarchy and abolish secularism to declare Nepal a Hindu state, is a threat to religious minorities, say minority community leaders.

They aired their concerns after thousands of pro-monarchy Hindu nationalists marched toward the national capital Kathmandu on April 9. The march, organized by the Hindu nationalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), the fifth largest party in the Nepali parliament, turned violent and the marchers clashed with security forces.

"It is unfortunate to see a regressive call and movement led by those who are responsible for safeguarding the religious and cultural rights of their citizens," said BP Khanal, an educationist, author and inter-faith coordinator of Nepal Christian Society (NCS), an ecumenical Christian forum.

Some media reports suggested that pro-Hindu groups in neighboring India, which is ruled by Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) since 2014, have funneled funds to hardline groups in Nepal. This resulted in a series of violence targeting religious minorities.

Last August, ethnic Christians in a village near Dharan town in eastern Nepal came under mob attack after a video of the indigenous community allegedly eating beef went viral on social media. 

Local churches were attacked and some Christians including a pastor were physically harassed.

This was a pre-mediated attack targeting local Christians, Khanal alleged.

Muslims are also facing the brunt of rising social hostilities at the local level, said Seema Khan, chairperson of Nepal Muslim Women Welfare Society. 

"It is unfortunate to see the political leaders raking up religion to motivate their voters and disrupting the social-cultural environment,"  Khan told UCA News.

In October, Muslims and Hindus clashed in Sarlahi of Eastern Nepal after a procession during the immersion of the idol of Hindu elephant god Ganesha turned violent.

In another incident in Nepalgunj in Banke district bordering India’s Uttar Pradesh state, a similar clash occurred between Hindus and Muslims over the use of 'indecent' language by a Hindu member against Prophet Mohammad.

"We are living under an environment that is both filled with fear and negativity towards each other, especially from radical Hindu to other ethnic-religious communities," Khan said adding, "It is sad to see that even intellectual community is showing religious intolerance both in their voices and actions."

Dharma Murti, a Buddhist and an interfaith expert said he is dismayed over a recent attack on a Buddhist monk by security personnel for walking on the street during a mass rally held in Kathmandu last week.

"This is a detestable incident which also reflects the degree of hate we are experiencing nowadays,” he said.

He urged religious leaders representing all faiths to come together to spread the message of religious harmony and peace in this difficult situation.

Nepal was a Hindu kingdom from 1768-2008. It became a federal republic after the absolute monarchy was abolished following decades of bloody communist insurgency and sectarian clashes.

Adopted in 2015, the Constitution of Nepal declares the country as a secular, inclusive, democratic, socialism-oriented federal democratic republican state.

However, Nepal’s post-monarchy era has been marked by political instability and corruption amid bitter rivalry among feuding political parties, intensified by a rise in religious intolerance and religious nationalism.

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