Secular Nepal – Challenges Ahead

Nepal is the youngest secular country in the world. With the interim constitution moving farther away from the nitty-gritty of constitution making, the so-called secular Nepal lingers farther away on the horizon. The politicians are busy manifesting the new but failed doctrine in the name of national consensus to make the national government, merely for the sake of power. Paradoxically, the pro-Hindu faction keeps on demonstrating and chanting against the abolition of the Hindu kingdom, the religious icon of Nepal.  There are hundreds of ethnic groups based on particular religions. Ethnic diversity prevails along with the geographic diversity of Nepal. The society is inevitably polarizing in terms of caste, region and religion.  Is this the notion of the new secular Nepal? The Nepalese are totally in the doldrums. Democrats, Republicans and progressive communists are busy showing their insane parade in the lust for power. But above all, it’s the politics that rules and it’s the people who are ruled. Nevertheless, the change that we accept with the peaceful revolt should be sustainable and institutionalized. It must be build upon the solid foundation of democratic and modern society.

Changing Nepal from the Hindu kingdom to the federal republic was not only a political saga. It was a transformation of people’s mind and thoughts for the revived aspirations for sustainable social change. It was one of the extraordinary political achievements of our time, with peaceful political demonstration historically abolishing 200 years old kingdom and shifting to a secular federal Nepal.  It was all about transformation of the whole country, the society from the ill-fated kingdom to completely a new paradigm, the democratic republic and secular Nepal, the huge shift in political equation.

But what has been achieved so far?  Are we institutionalizing the notion of a secular country to the people’s aspiration? Are we empowering the local community? Are we making the classless society in terms of religion? Are religious gaps widening or narrowing?  Are we making the constitution? As human right activists are busy writing reports about human rights violations everyday, there will be another incident that’s already happening in the other corner of the society. It’s most of the time about witchcraft, dowry, and religious riots that not only create social disharmony but also polarize society. 

Penalizing the violators could be a sort of post-action that is necessary; in many cases the recommendations get piled up in the state cabin with dust and the government is simply apathetic to penalize the perpetrators. Impunity has been the common issue every government is facing and the right activists are always asking the government to be bold. On the contrary, neither the government nor the human rights organization does any comprehensive research on these issues to come up with preventive measures to keep a multifaceted society in harmony.

Making a secular country is a huge challenge for the politicians in Nepal yet we must applaud them for taking such a bold step on transforming the entire political system to the aspiration of common Nepalese people. However, in the country where more than one hundred different dialects are spoken, the caste-system prevails, and Hinduism rules, the multi-layered aspect of society in terms of socio-economic and cultural aspects looms. Writing a word “secular” in a constitution is merely a political drama for political gain.  All political parties must revamp their ideologies to address the common people of Nepal and to bridge the social, economic and religious gap among them. The aspiration of common peoples is classless societies, gender equity, and religious harmony. The need of the hour is not only to institutionalize the notion of being secular but also to strengthen the achievement of a sustainable secular state to create a wonderful history.

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