One cannot say that the May 18 announcement that declared Nepal a secular state was a bombshell. The question of whether Nepal should be secular has been discussed over many years. However, the current representatives have ‘rushed where angels fear to tread’. Surprisingly, there was not a single voice of dissent when the announcement was made. Nepal has been identified as a place for meditation or even to take sanyas. In previous centuries, a large number of Hindus had come up North to Nepal to flee the Muslim invaders in India. Nepal has, however, on the whole remained relatively free of religious tensions. Except for the incitement to burn ‘non-Brahminical’ religious scriptures by misguided Hindu priests during the Licchavi period, there were no real threats.

We should keep in mind that it was through Nepal that priests from Rome went to China to convert people to Christianity. We learn this from Jonathan Lindell’s book Nepal and the Gospel of God. It was only later, when King Prithvi Narayan Shah was on a bid to unify the country, that the Christian missionaries fled from Bhaktapur in Kathmandu to Raxaul on the Indo-Nepal border as the King believed in the dictum, “With the Bible comes the bayonet, with the missionaries comes the musket.” Some time later even Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, came and stayed near Balaju for sometime. During that time, a number of mosques had been built in Kathmandu and elsewhere for the benefit of the Muslims.

Though Hindus constitute a majority, the uniqueness of Nepal lies with the broad-hearted characteristics of its people. One has only to think of certain deities who were in the

past worshipped by people of different faiths or religions. There is a lot of religious tolerance in the country. Hindus go to Buddhist places of worship such as Swoyambhu and Bouddha. Buddha is accepted by many Hindus as a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu as are Ram and Krishna.

Killing a cow or a bull by accident or design was liable to imprisonment in the only Hindu rashtra of the world. This is an example of “neo-Hinduism” and a misguided effort of being ‘holier than thou’. Even in the Vedas there is instruction to kill the ‘fatted calf’ for the guests. A certain pious king named Rantideva is said to have killed about 2,000 heads of cattle daily to feed the poor. The ban on cow slaughter must have come after this. One can only deduce, therefore, that the cow and the bull became animals on the endangered list, as these were the powers to draw the plough and till the fields. The tractor has or is gradually replacing the horse or the ox as the plough power in Europe and Asia respectively. It was thus only rational for the Hindu communities in the previous centuries to think of ways and means to save their power source. The forbidding of cow slaughter can be taken in this context.

The picture of the 21st century is changed. Thus it is rational for the Hindus to sell their tired cows and worn out oxen to agents from across the borders at Damak and elsewhere to ensure a supply of ‘Calcutta fillet’ to the various eating places of Kathmandu.

The government should decide whether we become secular or revert back to being the only Hindu rashtra. Is it a Hindu, secular or a shanta rastra that the Nepalis want? Perhaps a

referendum on the issue may not be out of place!