Nepal: The real Hindu Sthan?

August 02, 2003

Anil Chamadia And Subhash Gatade

Which is the state in the world where the `one nation, one people,
one culture' weltanschauung of the Hindu rashtra is already in place?
To put it more bluntly, which is the state in the world which has
made religious conversion an offence and where the slaughter of the
official national animal, the cow, can be punished by 18 years of
rigorous imprisonment or where the state has imposed its own version
of `sanatan dharma' on the vast multitude of the people?

Well, this may sound like a future scenario of a Modi-sque Gujarat
but at the moment it is none other than Nepal which bears all these
characteristics. Thanks to the "special relationship" which India
enjoys with Nepal, to date the internal social-cultural situation of
Nepal has never become a cause of concern here.

But what are the hard facts pertaining to Nepal today? Being a Hindu
rashtra, autocratic rules still persist in the Himalayan kingdom. Its
constitution makes the Hindu way of life a basic part of Nepalese
life. It states: "Nepal is a multiethnic, multilingual, democratic,
independent, indivisible, sovereign, Hindu and Constitutional
Monarchical Kingdom". The richest people in this Hindu rashtra are
the royalty, priestly class and the outsiders. The monarchy is so
privileged that, according to the constitution "... No question shall
be raised in any court about any act performed by His Majesty".

In order to preserve its Hindu character, conversion to any other
religion is prohibited. Until 1963, the Nepali state upheld Hindu
jurisprudence formally at least. Fourthly, in view of this ban on
conversions 90 per cent of the population is stated to be Hindu.
Fifthly, being a Hindu rashtra, all royal claims are legal. The Hindu
king can do no wrong. Also, though the constitution guarantees that
there won't be any discrimination based on caste, the age-old
stranglehold of this institution continues. Untouchables, who
constitute 22 per cent of the Nepalese population, are the worst
victims. For centuries, Nepal's untouchables have had to stay out of
Hindu temples, refrain from drawing water at village wells and have
even changed their children's names so that they could get an
education. There is no qualitative difference in their status till
date. The status of Dalits and backward communities is the same as it
was in India 100-125 years ago.

This Hindu rashtra has become the single biggest supplier of people
to other countries. The system trains young workers and soldiers for
other countries. Statistics of persons leaving this `Ram Rajya' on
account of poverty and migrating in search of jobs is really mind-

Sudheendra Sharma, a social scientist who has written extensively on
the religions of Nepal, rightly underlines that "...cultural
isolationism from India meant that Nepal was also shielded from
influence of the 19th century Hindu renaissance. Furthermore, within
the territorial bounds of the nation-state, this policy meant
aggressive Sanskritisation and cultural integration of hill ethnic
communities based on an orthodox Hindu framework."

It is widely known that Nepal was ushered into a constitutional
monarchy as a consequence of a people's movement against the
partyless panchayat system in 1990, when a new constitution was
adopted by the parliament. But very few people are aware that when
the constitution of 1990 was written, there was pressure to make
Nepal an officially secular state like India. It could be called the
only key demand which was put forward by the Dalits, tribals, women
and people from other faiths like Buddhism.

The pressure generated was so great that at one point of time the
members of the constitution committee even had to concede to the
demand that Nepal won't be declared a Hindu state. This demand
created dissensions within the constitution committee as well.
However, in the end, the views of the Hindu establishment won the
day, and the constitution was decided in favour of making Nepal a
Hindu country.