Buddhist monks rally supporting secular state. (Rajan Parajuli/Asia Calling)

Asia Calling, Kathmandu - Some 1,000 people are gathering at a popular protest spot in Kathmandu. They’re carrying Hindu symbols on flags and banners - chanting “No secularism, we want Hinduism”

54-year-old Yogmati Karki was among them, said, “We have the largest number of Hindus in the world. Who will be pinched and who will be hurt if we are Hindu country?”

The word “secularism” is now being debated in the process of drafting the constitution.  Thousands of voters have opted to remove the word “secularism” from the document.

The protest was lead by Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal (RPP-Nepal), the country’s fourth-largest political party.

“Secularism has been accepted as a license and misused to make people convert to religion. People were lured, forced, manipulated and misguided,” said Kamal Thapa, president of the party, adding that the number of Christians has reached the hundreds of thousands from a handful of people.

But 36-year-old Dhiraj Gautam says that he was not forced by anyone to convert to Christianity. He said he was disappointed by the caste system in Hindu.

“In my childhood, we were not allowed to go inside the temple. And I found out that because we are untouchables. We were invited into the religious festival by so the called upper caste. But we were placed separately from them. How can God could discriminate between us humans?” he said.

“Later I was exposed to Christianity and I liked it. I liked it from my childhood,” he added.

Nepal was once a Hindu Kingdom, but it was declared a secular state in 2007 after the success of People’s Movement in 2006.

Anthropologist Dambar Chemjong says the particular practices of Hinduism drive people to convert to other religions. “Five categories in the same caste system. Like best humans, humans, less humans, little humans and non-humans; it’s kind of a dehumanization process of the whole hierarchy. So people actually seek for liberation from this kind of strata.”

According to the 2011 Census, 81.3 percent of the Nepalese population is Hindu. After Hindu, there are followers of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and other religions.

Another protest was held by religious minority groups to declare Nepal a secular state. Around 1,000 people gathered there.

One of them is 56-year-old Durga Maharjan  - a Buddhist monk, carrying a banner to support religious freedom. “We want Hindus and we want Buddha also. Buddha was born in our country. We need to save Buddhism. That’s why I am here,” he said.

C. B. Gahatraj from the national Christian group, says forced conversion is a baseless charge against Christians. “If anyone tries to force others by any mean to become Christian, he himself cannot be Christian. It’s against the law,” he said, adding that the constitution should ensure rights to choose religion for every individual.

Another term being proposed for the new constitution is “religious freedom” instead of “secularism”. The draft constitution is now being tabled by the Constituent Assembly. The word “secularism” has to be endorsed by two thirds of the assembly members in parliament.

Anthropologist Dambar Chemjong says it’s important to respect minority groups during the drafting process. “You may be a Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian, but as a citizen of the democratic country,” he said.

He added, “The state makers’ main concern should be how they can draft the constitution which will be owned by every citizen of the country, all different religious group, and cultural group of the country.”

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