Protests in Nepal to reinstate Hinduism as state religion

Katmandu, Nepal - Hindu ascetics and activists protested in the Nepalese capital on Sunday to urge the government to reinstate Hinduism as the state religion and reverse its decision to declare the country a secular state.

About 200 protesters, including ash-smeared saffron-clad holy men known as sadhus, demonstrated in front of the central secretariat building which contains the prime minister’s office and other ministries.

“More than 82 percent of the population in Nepal are Hindus. How can the handful of members of the so-called parliament take such a big decision that erases Nepal from the world map as the only Hindu kingdom in the world?” asked Hem Bahadur Thapa, general secretary of World Hindu Federation’s Nepal wing.

“We would (have) accepted the decision if it had been taken after a referendum,” Thapa said.

A minister said the government’s decision would stand and that no religion would be given preference in Nepal.

“The state has no religion. It is up to everyone to follow their own belief. The nation will not give any special treatment to any religion and all individuals are free to follow their religious faith,” said Transport Minister Ramesh Lekhak. The protesters also carried banners that said Nepal should continue to have a king.