Secularism in Nepal and SOCH Subhash Chandra Kattel SOCH Youth
Nepal is a secular, democratic federal republic state. It was a Hindu state before May, 2006. And, it was also a kingdom since 249 years, before May, 2008. Interim constitution and constituent assembly have provisioned and declared Nepal as a secular and republic country. King was used to taken as envoy of god Bishnu of Hindu religion. Now, that symbolic conception has been a false myth. At the moment, Nepalese society is in a way of political transition and socio-cultural transformation. Constituent assembly has been formed to make a new constitution within 2 years.
There are many aspects to be addressed properly by the constituent assembly through making new constitution for a peaceful, prosperous and scientific Nepal. One of these aspects is about the religion and secularism in ‘New Nepal’. Here are still enormous practices of Hindu-featured activities in every level of society and the state. It exists in Nepal Army, Police, civil servant, ministry and many more. Superstition is one of the most shameful practices of this less-scientific Himalayan society. Even the then last king of Nepal, Gyanendra Shah – who had a modern education and experiences of developed society, is a significant example of superstitious mentality and practices. He gave lots of animal sacrifice in the temple, lots of offering in the name of god, left country for some days and went to Africa in an official visit to be safe believing the advice of royal astrologers, etc. But, nothing could sustain his crown and kingship; neither god helped him to save his autocracy. One of the greatest challenges in the future of peaceful and prosperous Nepal is concerned with the secularism and its practice in a fair, ethical and humanistic way.
State role to practice it, is vital. What is secularism? Question itself have now two dimensions; one is whether it is about not to talk about the religion. Or, it is about the equal treatment to all religions by the state. Separation of religion and politics is another greatest challenge for new Nepal. Because here are seen few groups openly and secretly who have challenged to re-declare Nepal as Hindu state. Their major back-up are the then strict royal followers and Bharatiya Janata Party of India which clearly have the religious cadres base in politics. This situation can lead the Nepali society in division, violence and instability. Political parties are the major player and responsible for securing the legal provision to block the co-working of religion and politics to fulfill their interest of winning the political calculation. Unfortunately, like other parties and politicians around the world, Nepalese are also very skeptical to talk about the religion. Because all political parties are keen to get vote from everyone following any religion. Greed of vote doesn’t allow them to talk about religion and secularism openly in the society.
Now, Constituent Assembly in Nepal is in process of making new Nepal- expected to be peaceful, justifiable, and prosperous. There should be a better, if not the best one, provision to secure the Nepal as secular country. Only this can lead Nepal towards the will of people on humanistic principle and practice of 21st century. We are proud to say that Society for Humanism (SOCH) Nepal is nearly single active humanist organization in the country. So, we feel the strong responsibility to talk about the secularism and its understanding as well as practices.
SOCH Nepal has been running workshops in policy level on secularism. SOCH has been successfully organizing national level workshops on ‘Secularism: Law, Practices and Challenges’. Target participants of this workshop were Constituent Assembly members of vary political parties. National political figures including the Speaker of the parliament and also the chief guest at program Subhas Nemwang, ex-minister and the member of Peace Talk Committee Pradeep Gyawali, Honorary member of National Human Right Commission, General Secretary of Young Communist League Sunil Prajapati, Secretary of Inter-Religious Group Keshab Cahulagain, University Professors and intellectuals were also present and opined their view in the program. During the workshop, SOCH has also conducted an indoor research on secularism related issues using questionnaire method of data collection. It will be converted soon in statistics and be incorporated in the book being published in near future.
We have expected that the book will be a reference document during constitution making process. SOCH also published bulletin in English and Nepali language. It organizes college seminars. We are producing and airing fortnightly FM radio program. These all publicity materials and programs are focused to introduce humanistic perspective, life stance and practice. Secularism, its need and significance in our country, prevailing practices and future challenges are covered in the materials and programs. Participants in the programs have appreciated SOCH – initiation for interacting ‘secularism’ in public domain. We want Nepal to be ensured as secular in real manner rather than making it a play ground of religious-political-leaders from in-and-outside Nepal. SOCH Nepal is advocating, lobbying and rising awareness about secularism.
SOCH has now completed 3 national level workshops. Workshops are focused on about the expected provision by new constitution. So, we are working with constituent assembly members, professors, religious leaders and government representatives. Our focus now is to establish secularism in Nepal in a rational and practical manner rather only in the writings.