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With the Prez’s blessings

world Updated: Oct 12, 2008 00:02 IST
Anirban Roy

After the fall of the world’s last Hindu kingdom, Nepal is a secular nation now. But, even after the transformation, Nepal’s first President Ram Baran Yadav seems desperate to be a new avatar of the Hindu monarchy.

As the head of state of a secular democratic republic, Yadav on Thursday offered a tika (a mixture of rice, vermillion and curd) to people, a century-old tradition of the Hindu king of Nepal. Among others, Vice-President Paramananda Jha and Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam received a tika from the President. Kedar Prasad Giri, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and senior Nepal Police Army officials were also blessed by Yadav.

However, Prime Minister Prachanda abstained from the ceremony because as a radical communist leader, he wanted to maintain a secular identity.

“Is he (President Yadav) trying to replace himself as a head of state of a Hindu kingdom,” questioned Zuhed Shah, an entrepreneur, adding the President did not wish Muslims during Ramzan.

Shah said it was unfortunate that the President did not even host any Iftaar party and pay respect to the Muslims of Nepal. Interestingly, almost nine per cent of Nepal’s population is Muslims.

Moreover, Yadav has been regularly attending Hindu religious functions, including Indra Jatra and Phulpati, which for centuries have been the responsibility of the Hindu monarch.

A large crowd gathered at Nirmal Niwas (the palace of former crown prince) to receive the blessings of the ex-royal couple, Gyanendra and Komal Shah, including former ministers and former army personnel. “People in Nepal still have a soft corner for the king,” said Kamal Thapa, former Home Minister and chairperson of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Nepal).

The government is yet to respond to ex-king Gyanendra’s outing at Nirmal Niwas, viewed as an experiment to weigh the support base of the deposed monarchy.