Nepal has long been thought as a poor cousin of Bharat by most of us. If you ask a common Bharatiya about Nepal, she/he probably would be unable to speak more than a few lines which might include the facts that it was once a Hindu Rashtra, a monarchy, and now is run by Communists. Many would be able to tell you about Pashupatinath temple and a few words about bravery of Gorkhas. Given the recent incidents, they might know that Nepal has a boundary dispute with Bharat and has published new maps in retaliation. Perhaps, only a few would know anything about the Constitution of Nepal and what it can teach Bharat.
Nepal and Bharat share many religious and cultural similarities. The is true specially for Himalayan and Terai areas of many states of Bharat that border Nepal. Indeed, when Nepal was unified for the first time under great King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 18th century, he proclaimed his country to be the “Asal Hindustan” i.e. the “real Bharat/Hindustan” or “real homeland of Hindus”. His point being that many areas in Bharat were then being ruled by Muslims and Hindus had a safe sanctuary in Nepal. Despite many ups and downs in the politics of the country, including the power being captured by atheist communists, Nepal has maintained its Hindu identity.
Constitution of Nepal
The constitution of Nepal was promulgated in 2015 when communists were in power. They tried to make a secular constitution, which it nominally is, but were met with firm resistance from the people. Ultimately, many provisions for protection of Hindu dharma were incorporated in the constitution. Bharat can learn a lot from Nepal in this respect.
The meaning of secularism
Article 4 of the constitution of Nepal declares it to be “an independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular, inclusive democratic, socialism-oriented federal democratic republican state.” However, the definition of the word secular is given in the constitution as :-
For the purpose of this article, ‘secular’ means protection of religion and culture being practiced since ancient times and religious and cultural freedom.
What this means is that as a secular state, it shall have to protect Hindu Dharma and Bauddh Dharma, both of which are being practiced in Nepal since ancient times. This definition of secular may sound a bit weird to Indian liberals, because the version being followed in Bharat is a gross distortion.
If you read the recent articles on change in land laws of Jammu and Kashmir, you might have read the commentary that the new laws in Kashmir are violating secularism. The reason advocated is that these laws seek to change the demographic character of Kashmir. Regardless of whether the charge is true or not, preserving the demographic character seems to be a key marker of secularism. In that case, Nepal’s definition of the term “secular” is more appropriate. However, it seems that Indian liberals apply this definition in case of Muslim majority areas and have another standards for demographic change in Kerala, Bengal, Assam, Mewat and other areas. Of course such a definition would also support CAA and NRC explicitly.
In case of National symbols too, Nepal acknowledges its Hindu heritage. The national flag of Nepal is a modified version of its old flag used by Hindus for several centuries. Keeping its Hindu tradition, the flag is made up of two triangular parts and of the crimson red color. Triangular flag of red color has been a Hindu symbol of victory for millennia and can be commonly seen on Hindu temples in Bharat even today. The National animal is cow and national color is crimson red. Naturally, killing a cow is punishable by law and gets 12 years in jail.
The fundamental rights in the constitution of Nepal are much like the fundamental rights in our own constitution. However, many rights are limited by the condition that they should not bring disharmony amongst various castes, ethnicities, religions etc. The result is of course that the vitriolic hate by Marxists, radical Ambedkarites, Islamists and Evangelists against Hindu Dharma would not be allowed in Nepal.
The constitution also gives the right to religious freedom under article 26. However, it says in the clause (2) that :-
Every religious denomination shall, maintaining its independent existence, have the right to manage and protect its religious places and religious trusts in accordance with law. Provided that it shall not be deemed to have hindered to make law to operate and protect a religious place or religious trust and to manage trust property and regulate land management.
Thus, although the state can make law for managing religious places and their properties, but that is true for all religions and not just Hindu Dharma. Also, it says in the clause (3) that :-
While exercising the right as provided for by this Article, no person shall act or make others act in a manner which is contrary to public health, decency and morality, or behave or act or make others act to disturb public law and order situation, or convert a person of one religion to another religion, or disturb the religion of other people. Such an act shall be punishable by law.
Thus, proselytization and dawah are banned by law in Nepal. Foreign NGOs cannot send money legally to convert Hindus of Nepal and if caught doing this illegally, they have to face the law.
Nepal thus shows the way that secularism need not mean suppressing the religion of majority community. Secularism in a multicultural, multireligious society can be meaningful only when all religions are treated the same and one is not prioritized over another. Unfortunately, certain clauses in our constitution do exactly that.
Unlike Nepal, Bharat’s constitution does not prioritize the protection of its ancient heritage, religion and culture. It discriminates against Hindus by not giving them right to manage their own religious places and not allowing them to provide religious instruction to their children. It also allows soul-vultures to prey on Hindus, often with the help of foreign money. The result is that the share of Hindu population has been continuously decreasing all over the country. If not stopped, the demographic change is going to bring grave social problems in future.
Bharat can learn a lot from the constitution of Nepal on how to preserve and protect Dharmic and Indic religions and how to preserve the character and culture of the country. Just like the Nepal of 18th century, that declared itself “Asal Hindustan”, today’s Nepal again shows way to the Hindus of Bharat.
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