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Secular Nepal makes some Hindus uneasy

world Updated: Sep 27, 2008 23:07 IST
Anirban Roy
Anirban Roy
Hindustan Times
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Come Dashain, the biggest religious festival in Nepal, and the Hindu population is uncertain about the future of their centuries-old religious traditions.

On May 18, 2006, the then Girija Prasad Koirala-led caretaker government had declared Nepal as a ‘secular nation’. Till then, the Himalayan Nation was referred to as the only Hindu Nation in the world.

Though there was euphoria over the transformation, Hindus believe that Koirala’s decision was a ‘whimsical decision’, and has pushed the insurgency-ravaged country to an era of uncertainty.

Traditionally, the King of Nepal had important religious roles to perform on Dashain, especially applying tika (red vermilion) on the foreheads of devotees.

But now, Hindus do not know who would apply the tika. Till last year, King Gyanendra had applied tika on people’s forehead at the Narayanhity Palace.

“The decision to declare Nepal as a secular nation was taken in haste,” said Yavaraj Ghimire, editor of the Kathmandu-based English weekly Newsfront.

The Maoist-led government’s decision to stop funding to the Hindu religious institutions for animal sacrifices witnessed protest in Kathmandu as members of the Newar community were out on the streets.

Later, the government was forced to bow down before the demands of the Newars.

“Will President of Nepal apply the tika this year?” Rajesh Shrestha, a trader asked. More than 80 per cent of Nepalis are Hindus, he claimed.

Shrestha said that they strongly believe that political changes in Nepal will not have any impact on the centuries-old religious rights of the Hindus.

Moreover, a large number of pro-Hindu organisations, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Shiv Sena, have declared a war against the government to make Nepal a

Hindu Nation again.

“Who authorised Girija Prasad Koirala to declare Nepal as a Hindu Nation?” asked Arun Subedi, a Hindu fundamentalist.