Nepal Hindu group demands poll on secularism
Mar 11, 2007 - 2:55:16 PM

Kathmandu, March 11 - A controversial Hindu organisation in Nepal, regarded as loyal to King Gyanendra, has started a movement demanding a poll on secularism.

The World Hindu Federation -, that was among the first to welcome King

Gyanendra's power grab two years ago and urged Hindus worldwide to support the king since he was the monarch of the only Hindu kingdom in the world, Sunday staged a sit-in at New Road, a prominent shopping and commercial centre in the capital, demanding the rollback of parliament's revolutionary step last year to declare Nepal a secular state.

'About 82 percent of Nepal's population are Hindus,' said Bhola Nath Jha, president of the national chapter of the WHF. 'Most of them want Nepal to remain a Hindu state.

'We want the government to hold a referendum or add this issue too to the elections to be held in June (when voters will choose between monarchy and a republic.

'We are sure an overwhelming majority will vote for a Hindu Nepal.'

Besides having Hinduism as the state religion, WHF also wants monarchy to stay.

After King Gyanendra's 15-month direct reign triggered a public revolt, the new government that came to power promulgated a new constitution in which the 238-year-old institution of monarchy has been 'suspended', keeping no function for the king in the government.

The seven-party ruling alliance has also pledged to hold an election by mid-June, where for the first time, Nepali people will be given the power to decide to keep the king or abolish monarchy.

'The current parliament has no right to declare Nepal a secular state,' says Dinabandhu Arryal, a WHF member who was law minister in Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's government in the 1990s.

'It did not come to power through an election. The members are nominated. Therefore it doesn't have the mandate of the people.'

Arryal says his organisation is supporting Hinduism and monarchy, not King Gyanendra as an individual.

The WHF will keep up its protests, twice a week to start with, with the next demonstration to be held on Wednesday.

After King Gyanendra's reign, the WHF lost its allies in India, parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who advocate the cause of Hindutva.

Bhola Nath Jha says the WHF movement is not dependent on the Indian parties.

'There are two billion Hindus worldwide and we have branches in 42 countries,' he says.

The WHF refuses to think religious issues have become passe with the advent of modernisation.

'Hinduism will not hamper the creation of a new Nepal,' Jha says. 'As a Hindu state Nepal set an example to the world. Different religions lived here in harmony without sectarian violence.

'Now foreign powers are trying to foment violence by instigating the change into a secular state.'

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