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ICC Note: Christians could face less discrimination if Nepal became a secular state. The monarchs of Nepal have continually sought to impose their adherence to Hinduism on the rest of the population.

From Hindu Kingdom to Secular State

by Prakash Dubey

AsiaNews 905/16/06) – The ad interim Nepalese premier, Girja Prasad Koirala, has accepted to consider a request by ethnic groups to give Nepal a secular status. The Constitution, which provides for freedom of worship, describes Nepal as a “ Hindu Kingdom ” although it does not lay down a State religion.

The prime minister’s statement came yesterday as hundreds of members of the Indigenous Nationalities Joint Struggle Committee (INJSC) protested outside his residence. This group, which includes several religions and ethnicities, presented Koirala with a memorandum that calls for the transformation of the Kingdom into a secular state.

Prithvi Subba Gurung, one of the INJSC leaders, told AsiaNews that guarantees for change, handed down by the premier, “have aroused great optimism among ethnic Nepalese nationalities”. He said: “We firmly believe that only a secular Nepalese state could end numerous implicit and explicit discriminations that ethnic groups have been vulnerable to, by guaranteeing equal rights and opportunities irrespective of one’s faith.”

Pushar Tamang, a Buddhist, said Nepal is a mosaic of ethnicities. In 2001, 61 were registered, speaking a total of 120 languages between them, with different religions, and they make up 50% of the population. Just about half of Nepalese citizens speak the Nepalese language as their mother tongue and nearly 20% don’t speak it at all. Right from the beginning, from the time of the foundation of the unitary state of Nepal in 1769, the monarchy of Kathmandu , deriving from high Hindu castes, has always sought to impose not only its language, but its cultural and religious matrix on the rest of the country. The most widespread slogan is: “One nation, one dress, one language!”

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