Kathmandu : A proposal to revert Nepal as a Hindu state was overwhelmingly rejected by the Constituent Assembly which declared that the Hindu-majority nation will remain secular, triggering violent protests amid an already volatile situation over federal structure.
More than two-thirds of lawmakers in the 601-member Constituent Assembly turned down the proposal by pro-Hindu Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) to amend the Constitution to restore Nepal as a Hindu state.
The lawmakers declared that the country should remain secular as the Constituent Assembly resumed voting on articles of the draft Constitution clause by clause. RPP-N Chairman Kamal Thapa had registered the amendment proposal demanding to reinstate Nepal as a Hindu state in Article 4 of the revised bill of the new constitution.
However, the proposal on restoring Nepal as Hindu state was rejected as it did not secure the required 10 per cent of votes, according to party sources.
Two-thirds majority votes were required to endorse the proposal. After Assembly Chairman Subas Chandra Nembang announced that the proposal has been rejected, Thapa demanded split voting, but his proposal for a vote received the support of only 21 lawmakers and the voting was not done as the CA Rules require 61 persons to undertake the process.
Nepal was converted into secular state in 2008 through a Parliament declaration, when monarchy was abolished from the country following the success of the People’s Movement.
During a public opinion collection held in July, majority of the people preferred the word ‘Hindu’ or ‘religious freedom’ instead of using the term ‘secularism’. Protesting the rejection of the proposal, RPP-N and some religious organisations staged demonstration outside the Parliament and demanded Nepal be re-declared a Hindu state. Some 2,500 pro-Hindu activists carrying yellow and saffron flags marched on the street chanting pro-Hindu slogans and clashed with the police as they were prevented from coming close to the Parliament building.
The protesters attacked passing vehicles, including one of the United Nations. Police resorted to light baton charging and water cannons to disperse the crowd.
Nepal entered the final phase of promulgating its new Constitution with the three major parties going ahead with clause-wise voting on the final draft of the statute despite a boycott by Madhesi parties and violent protests that have claimed nearly 40 lives.
The Madhesi parties are protesting against the seven province model of the federal structure as proposed by the major political parties. Southern Nepal has witnessed turmoil since lawmakers from major political parties struck a breakthrough deal on August 15 to divide the country into seven provinces.
Shirish B Pradhan