The obstruction of the Constituent Assembly created by the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N) finally ended on Saturday after top leaders of the four major political parties agreed to delete the clause “freedom to remain away from any religion” from the draft constitution. This clause was inserted in the section of the fundamental rights of citizens. RPP-N had been obstructing the CA meeting discussing the draft constitution tabled by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). The RPP-Nepal, which emerged as the fourth largest political force on the agenda of Hindutva, agreed to end its obstruction to the CA after the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN-Maoist and Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum-Democratic assured the agitating party of implementing the agreement while preparing a Bill of the new constitution after collecting public opinions on the draft constitution. This became possible after CA chairman Subas Chandra Nembang took the initiative to convene a meeting of top leaders of the four major parties signing the June 8 16-point agreement and RPP-N chair Kamal Thapa.

Conversion of religion should be strictly punishable by law as there are countless cases of conversion under monetary and other temptations

After the meeting the signatories of the 16-point agreement which paved the way for delivering the new constitution on a fast-track basis realised the fact that religous conversion cannot be accepted as a fundamental right. The parties have realised that the right to freedom to remain away from any religion can be misinterpreted as the right to conversion, which has emerged as a serious issue given the socio-economic condition of the country. After the parties agreed to delete this clause CDC chairman Krishna Prasad Situala clarified that his committee had added nothing new but “religious conversion shall be made punishable by law” which carries the spirit of an overwhelming majority of the CA. Thapa had accused the CDC of inserting the controversial clause without the consent of the committee members. Sitaula also made it clear that the provision of “freedom to remain away from any religion” had been proposed as a “right to remain an atheist”.

It may be recalled that the country was declared a secular state after the then King Gyanendra bowed down to the second people’s movement and announced the revival of the then dissolved House of Representatives on April 24, 2006. A meeting of the revived House of Representatives, held on May 18, declared that the country shall be secular. Many leaders had objected to the decision even then, and they were stressing the need to hold a referendum before taking any final decision on such a serious issue associated with the vast majority of the Nepali people’s sentiment. Still, some of the CA members from within the ruling parties have also stressed the need to replace “secularism” with that of “religious freedom”. Conversion of religion should be strictly punished by law as there are countless such cases, particularly in the rural areas where innocent and illiterate people are lured to change from their Sanatan and indigenous religions to alien religion under monetary and other temptations and false claims without their pre-informed consent.

Clean Bagmati

The Bagmati River could be pollution free in a matter of three years if its eight polluted tributaries were cleaned, claim experts. The Bagmati Clean-Up Mega Campaign has now crossed its 100 week. It has helped make the river clean but the polluted tributaries of the Bagmati River are making it difficult to keep this river pristine. Locals tend to dump garbage and sewage on the tributaries which mixes with the Bagmati River. Hence, the participation of the locals is essential if we intend to make the Bagmati River pollution free. Meanwhile, the concerned municipal bodies, too, are expected to come with plans to keep the tributaries clean.

Although some stakeholders have come up with schemes to keep the tributaries clean, most of them have yet to begin. Meanwhile, it is disconcerting to learn that the water treatment plants set up at Sundarighat, Kodku and Hanumante are damaged. Clean-up campaigns are certainly helpfule to repair these water plants at a l as they also help to raise awareness among the people, but such campaigns cannot be a substitute for a sound official clean-up policy and its rigorous implementation.