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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 31

End of Hindu Rashtra: Nepalese People Have Finally Stood Up!

Tuesday 22 July 2008, by Subhash Gatade


There are rare occasions when one is witness to the making of history before our own eyes. The dismantling of the 240-year-old Nepalese monarchy and the transformation of Nepal into a Republic has been one such occasion.

As rightly said by a senior Nepali leader, “A day comes once in a century. Today is day that Nepali’s long cherished dream has come true.”

It is true that it is a day of celebration for every justice and progress loving person on earth where people’s will has ultimately prevailed and Nepal has been turned into an independent, indivisible, secular, inclusive and federal democratic republic with sovereignty and state authority vested in the people.

But as far as the Sangh Parivar and its affiliated organisations are concerned, they have openly expressed their displeasure over these developments. Looking at their sectarian worldview and anti-human understanding of history this is not surprising. These are the very forces who supported the monarchy till the very end and were enamoured about the ‘model Hindu Rashtra’ in operation there that denied every right to the broad cross-section of the people. (People who still pat themselves on the back for the ‘successful Gujarat Experiment of 2002’ or who celebrate the demolition of a five hundred-year-old mosque as a ‘Day of Valour’ can have only such convoluted understanding of things.)

Jaswant Singh, the ex-Foreign Minister of India, who also handled the Finance portfolio for quite sometime, rather could not hide his displeasure in the recently held meeting of the BJP Executive.

Of course, the immediate provocation for the ex-Armyman was not because of any fresh move by his bete noire in Rajasthan politics, namely, Ms Vasundhara Raje Scindia. Nor did it have anything to do with the manner in which L.K.Advani had flatly denied any knowledge of his not-so-famous sojourn to Kandahar after the plane hijacking incident.

In fact he expressed himself over the latest happening in Nepal. He called the King’s ouster a ‘negative development’ and a ‘danger to India’s security’ and said that ‘as a believer in Sanatan Dharma he feels humiliated and as a Hindu, he felt diminished over the ouster of a Hindu King’.

Any close watcher of the Nepal situation would tell you that Jaswant Singh is not alone in having and expressing a negative opinion about the developments in the newest republic which has seen the end of a 250-year-old monarchy and the end of the ‘model Hindu Rashtra’ much espoused by the Sangh Parivar organisations. In one of his recent outbursts, Ashok Singhal, the International President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, is reported to have compared the jihadists and Maoists who would together bring further calamity to the tiny country.

It was expected that all such outbursts from the BJP and its allied organisations would be immediately rebuked by the Nepalese leaders. Rambahadur Thapa, a senior leader of the CPN-Maoist called all such utterances ‘anti-Nepal’ and an ‘intervention in the internal affairs of the country’.

Perhaps one needs to ask oneself: why does Jaswant Singh feel pertrubed over the end of a regime which concentrated all power in the hands of a small caucus centred round the King which denied basic human rights to a vast majority of Hindus and which condemned the followers of the other religions to a secondary status? Doest it have to do anything with the emergence of the CPN-Maoist as the single largest party in the new republic which has humbled all the other parties? Or is it because of the emergence of the most diverse and representative parliament in the world today? Independent observers have noted that the newly elected Nepalese parliament has more than one-third of women and another one-third representation is from the different ethnicities and oppressed castes.

Does Singh then think that while he and his formation can benefit themselves from participating in the democratic process, for the Nepalese people monarchy provides the best solution?

Jaswant Singh’s displeasure and the outbursts of other hotheads from the Sangh Parivar once again bring into sharp focus the special relationship enjoyed by them with the ( now defunct) monarchy. To be very frank, it was a relationship which benefited both the parties. While the monarchy let the Sangh Parivar organisations spread their network in the Himalayan kingdom, which at times brought them in conflict with the local religious heads who did not support their weltanshauung (world view), on their part the BJP and other Sangh Parivar organisations provided crucial support to the beleaguered monarchy on very many occasions.

It is now history how the VHP Working President, Ashok Singhal, had exhorted Hindus of the world to follow the great monarch in a conference of Hindu leaders from across the world and which was held in Kathmandu. He said: “It is the duty of 900 million Hindus the world over to protect the Hindu samrat (king)..…God has created him to protect Hindu dharma.” In this conference these leaders had deified King Gyanendra as the world’s only Hindu monarch. Singhal had also then proposed to organise a world Hindu meet in New York in the coming year under the leadership of King Gyanendra (The Indian Express, January 23, 2004). He added that the New York gathering would project Hindus as a global power..…with the Nepal King leading the way.

It did not matter to Singhal then that with his utterances he was showing loyalty to the King of another country much derided by his one-time leader and RSS ideologue Golwalkar. In his monograph Bunch of Thoughts Golwalkar had castigated Muslims, Christians and Communists as the country’s main enemies for their “extraterritorial loyalty”. It is worth noting that secular formations and individuals in this part of the world also did not try to put him on the defensive over such a sensitive issue.

Apart from the mutual support they derived from each other, the Hindu Rashtra in Nepal under the rule of the King served a deeper ideological purpose for the Sangh Parivar. It acted as a ‘model’ for its own project of nation-building. And the internal social-cultural situation suited its purpose well.

For the Sangh Parivar and its affiliated organisa-tions it was the only state in the world where the ‘one nation, one people, one culture’ weltan-schauung of the Hindu Rashtra was already in place. It had made religious conversion an offence and where the slaughter of the official national animal, the cow, could be punished by 18 years of rigorous imprisonment or where the state had imposed its own version of ‘Sanatan Dharma’ on the vast multitude of the people.

The hard facts pertaining to Nepal then were for everyone to see. Being a Hindu Rashtra, autocratic rules still persisted in the Himalayan kingdom. Its Constitution made the Hindu way of life a basic part of Nepalese life. It stated: “Nepal is a multiethnic, multilingual, democratic, independent, indivisible, sovereign, Hindu and Constitutional Monarchical Kingdom”. The richest people in this Hindu Rashtra were the royalty, the priestly class and the outsiders. The monarchy was so privileged that, according to the Constitution, “... No question shall be raised in any court about any act performed by His Majesty.”

In order to preserve its Hindu character, conversion to any other religion was prohibited. Until 1963, the Nepali state upheld Hindu jurisprudence—formally at least. Fourthly, in view of this ban on conversions 90 per cent of the population was stated to be Hindu. Fifthly, being a Hindu Rashtra, all royal claims were legal. The Hindu King could do no wrong. Also, though the Constitution guaranted that there won’t be any discrimination based on caste, the age-old stranglehold of this institution continued. Untouchables, who constitute 22 per cent of the Nepalese population, were the worst victims. For centuries, Nepal’s untouchables have had to stay out of Hindu temples, refrain from drawing water at village wells and have even changed their children’s names so that they could get an education. The status of Dalits and backward communities was the same as it was in India 100-125 years ago.

This Hindu Rashtra had become the single biggest supplier of people to other countries. The system trained young workers and soldiers for other countries. Statistics of persons leaving this ‘Ram Rajya’ on account of poverty and migrating in search of jobs was really mind-boggling.

Sudheendra Sharma, a social scientist who had written extensively on the religions of Nepal, rightly underlined that “...cultural isolationism from India meant that Nepal was also shielded from the influence of the 19th century Hindu renaissance. Furthermore, within the territorial bounds of the nation-state, this policy meant aggressive Sanskritisation and cultural integration of hill ethnic communities based on an orthodox Hindu framework.”

It is widely known that Nepal was ushered into a constitutional monarchy as a consequence of a people’s movement against the partyless panchayat system in 1990, when a new Constitution was adopted by the parliament. But very few people are aware that when the Constitution of 1990 was written, there was pressure to make Nepal an officially secular state like India. This was perhaps the only key demand which was put forward by the Dalits, tribals, women and people from other faiths like Buddhism.

The pressure generated was so great that at one point of time the members of the Constitution Committee even had to concede to the demand that Nepal won’t be declared a Hindu state. This demand created dissensions within the Constitution Committee as well. However, in the end, the views of the Hindu establishment won the day, and the Constitution was decided in favour of making Nepal a Hindu country.

All that is passe now. And despite all the pious wishes and attempts of the BJP leaders and Sangh Parivar organisations, the model Hindu Rashtra has finally been given a decent burial and Nepal is now a secular democratic republic with Maoists at the helm of affairs. Perhaps the agony and pain experienced by the likes of Jaswant Singh and other Hindutva acolytes could be compared to the shock and disbelief experienced by all people believing in justice and progress—over the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Of course, it needs to be underlined that the Sangh Parivar and affiliated organisations made last-ditch efforts to save the monarchy despite the overwhelming majority going against them. When the Terai region in Nepal witnessed a violent agitation recently the role played by Hindu extremist organisations had also come under the scanner. Bharat Bhushan had specifically commented on this aspect in one of the writeups in The Telegraph:

Nepalese political observers also point to the role being played by Hindu extremist organisations from India in fomenting trouble in the Terai to save the King. A high-ranking Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh representative from Nagpur is believed to have held a meeting in Gorakhpur with several royalists, including Upendra Yadav and members of the Sadbhavna Party. The role played by the local Indian MP, Mahant Avaidhyanath, is also being questioned by some in this regard. (‘Royalists Fish In Terai Trouble’, January 29, 2008, The Telegraph)

But as things unfolded before us, all their not-so-pious wishes and attempts could not stop the wheel of history in taking a forward turn in Nepal. In fact, despite all the displeasure shown by the likes of Jaswant Singh, a New Nepal is before us. And now it is upto them to decide whether they would welcome this new face of Nepal or still maintain nostalgia over the bygone era.

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