15October 2016: Nine years on since the country was declared a secular state by the Interim Constitution, a senior politician from Nepal’s biggest parliamentary party has expressed his nostalgia for the erstwhile “Hindu nation” status.
Speaking at a Nepal Press Union event in Chitwan district, General Secretary of Nepali Congress Shashank Koirala asserted that he “never stopped advocating for a Hindu nation” because he was elected from a Hindu-majority constituency, southasia.com.au’s Kathmandu correspondent said citing local media reports.
Pointing out that it was not an official stand of his party, the renowned ophthalmologist-turned parliamentarian called for a referendum on the issue.
He also revealed that his party colleagues had been asking him to maintain silence on the issue of religion, reports said.
Analysts fail to understand as to why Nepali Congress leaders (there have been others who support Hindu nation theory) are now harping on the “Hindu nation” theory whereas it was the same party that played a key role in drafting and later enacting a constitution that guarantees “a secular state” to citizens of Nepal.
Mr Koirala, son of late writer-politician B.P. Koirala who was Nepal’s prime minister from 1959 to 1960, is the third in command of the biggest party in the Legislature Parliament.
He is not the only pro-Hindu state leader within the oldest party of the Himalayan nation. Another leader known for his “muscle power” within the party, Khum Bahadur Khada, also has been openly advocating for a return to Hindu state.
The Nepali Congress leaders’ call for a return to Hindu state is now adding voice to an already existing demand from pro-monarchy party, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal.
A public opinion held in July 2015 showed that majority of Nepalese people preferred the word “Hindu” or “religious freedom” instead of the term “secularism”. Local media outlets reported then that some of the recommendations (opinions collected) received by the then Constituent Assembly Secretariat even “warned” of religious conflict should secularism be retained.
It is curious that the call for a return to Hindu nation is resurfacing at a juncture when former monarch Gyanendra Shah has intensified his religious activities attracting huge crowds of supporters chanting slogans in his favour.
Recently, he even carried out a religious function which in the past used to be done only by reigning monarchs. The trustees of the historic Pachali Bhairav Temple, that lies less than five kilometres from the republican parliament in Kathmandu city, apparently called on Mr Shah to offer prayer in the capacity of a king. He happily obliged.