Nepal’s new constitution – is secularism the answer?

While the Society for Humanism (SOCH) Nepal thanked the Constitution Assembly of Nepal for endorsing a secular constitution, “which is the key to protecting the rights and dignity of all minority groups of the nation,” and stated “Now, the Nepali constitution guarantees the right to accept any religion or leave as per the consent of individual,” (More) a piece published by Lapido Media offers a different perspective: “Recent polls indicate that the Nepali people who are mostly Hindu remain deeply suspicious of secularism – translated as dharmanirpekshata – literally dharma-neutrality. This is in no small part because the word dharma has multiple meanings in the dharmic-traditions which include Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism… The new constitution is unclear about a number of important issues. There are vague sub-clauses like the one that defines ‘secular’ to mean ‘the protection of religion and culture being practised since ancient times, and religious and cultural freedom’. And, while the state now formally allows for religious freedom and the fundamental right to choose one’s religion, it bars people from converting ‘a person of one religion to another religion’.”  More   

Nepal’s parliament last month overwhelmingly approved the new constitution, which sees Nepal divided into seven provinces. It has angered minority ethnic groups who fear discrimination and sparked protests in which 40 died. Hindu groups had also been demonstrating, demanding that Nepal be declared a Hindu state.