NC and Sanaatan State: Myth or Reality

Published On: February 23, 2024 08:30 AM NPT By: Dr Chhering Yonzon

Back in 1990 AD (2046 BS), after the people’s movement had established multiparty democracy, a new constitution of the country was drafted quietly by a handful of lawmakers, all hailing from the dominant khas arya community. They decided to continue Nepal as a Hindu state after the then king had abdicated absolute monarchy.

This decision dismayed certain groups in the left wing political block who had also participated in the people’s movement. The dissuaded group went underground and decided to wage a people’s guerilla revolution in early spring of 1996 AD from the rustic, impoverished districts of far western Nepal.

Almost a decade later, this guerilla group known by then as the Maoists joined forces with other mainstream political parties to overthrow the last king of Nepal in the 2nd people’s movement in 2006 AD (2062 BS). The Maoists signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord, ending a decade-long armed insurgency.

An interim constitution was drafted declaring Nepal a secular state subject to resolution from the Constituent Assembly. And finally in 2015 A.D when the nation was healing from a devastating earthquake that had taken lives of thousands of people; the 2nd Constituent Assembly voted to turn Nepal from a Hindu monarchy to a secular republic.

In fact, 92% of the lawmakers in the Constituent Assembly (barring few pro Hindu monarchy members) voted to turn Nepal into a secular state. A new era had been ushered in the nation’s history. This culmination of a new federal democratic republic had resulted from the sweat, blood and tears of thousands of people visible and hidden, living or dead…leaders, followers, revolutionaries, law makers, journalists, gun toting cadres, stone pelting masses, peasants and students from town streets to universities and from jungles to rural fields.

Fast forward to 2024 AD and now quite reminiscent of the few lawmakers who had decided to continue Nepal as a Hindu state back in 1990 AD; around 22 Nepali Congress (NC) party members mostly belonging to the khas arya group declared Nepali society as 90% sanaatan Hindu.

Is this true or false?  

Let us dissect our society methodically.

Nepal’s population now is a little more than 30 million. And out of this number, around 38% is aadivasi janajati even by conservative estimates.

Are janajati groups sanaatan Hindu?

Some janajati groups are a mixture of Hindu as well as Buddhist faith followers i.e. Newar, Gurung, Magar.

Historically, the Gurung and Magar groups were culturally colonized as Hindus by the Shah rulers and their invading army. These hilly indigenous groups in Nepal faced the same fate as Filipinos getting threatened and converted to Catholic faith by Spanish colonial masters.

The vast remaining majority of hilly and mountain janajati groups are Buddhists.

So when a major chunk of janajati groups do not fall in the sanaatan category; the claim seems erroneous. From 30 million Nepali souls, a well over 15% are pahadi and tarai dalits.

What was their status in the past cannot be disputed; they were beaten for entering temples and touching idols, lynched for marrying the so-called ‘upper caste’ women, would not get rented room as tenants in cities, struggled to sell their buffalo’s milk in town markets, playing ceremonial panchay baja during king’s coronation. This was their position in the former Hindu sanaatan state. It appears desperate to use this traditionally discriminated group’s number to add up to their 90% sanaatan society.

Approximately 27% of the population comprises madhesi community subtracting 5% tarai and pahadi Muslims. The madhesi population in yester years despite being Hindu was shunned from Nepali mainstream society. Their traditional attire dhoti never got national recognition unlike daura suruwal.

As a consequence of systematic discrimination in the former Hindu state; the madhesi community had successive identity movements demanding federalism. It is conspiratorial to include the madhesi community in the sanaatan group now as they ironically faced ugly racism during the former Hindu panchayat regime.

The Buddhist faith followers of this country who make up 8% of the population and 2% kiratis were misleadingly clustered as sanaatan groups.

Buddhists or even Sikhs and Marwari Jains of Nepal are separate faith followers recognized under United Nations global religio-cultural charters. They are not Hindus.

This is predatory and usurping other group’s faith as a sect of theirs.

How can Buddhist and kirati communities without their approval root for a vedic sanaatan state when they do not belong to this group?

This is a desperate and cunning attempt to use population count of traditionally deprived groups i.e. dalit, janajati, madhesi as sanaatan sect to justify their Hindu state motive.

It is pure propaganda fraught with lies and contradictions.

‘Nepal is not Bhutan’

In Bhutan, the predominant group is Drukpa and the king hails from this community. Their language Dzongkha, their culture and religion are recognized as official national Bhutanese identity.

Any non Dzongkha speaker i.e. Nepali or Assamese is considered a migrant and arguably a de facto 2nd class Bhutanese citizen.

Here in Nepal, during 240 years of Hindu monarchy, the Shah rulers wrongly and fatalistically elevated the position of khas arya group to that of a privileged 1st class ‘Drukpa like’ socio-political status.

The ‘one language – one religion – one culture’ mahendra mala indoctrinated policy systematically decimated the religio-cultural identity of scores of janajati, madhesi, and other linguistic minorities.

However, like I wrote, Nepal is not Bhutan.

Through the annals of history, Nepal has always been a diverse society…multi ethnic, multi religious, multilingual and multicultural long before Shah rulers invaded villages and valleys.

We are a nation of minorities, no group is an outright majority. We have always embraced pluralism for thousands of years.

It’s the subconscious Freudian ego of certain khas arya individuals who are still in denial of a secular republic because of their inherited ‘Drukpa like’ privileged perception that they seek to sabotage the historic verdict of the Constituent Assembly declaring Nepal a secular republic. Hence their cry for a sanaatan Hindu state.

During the 1st Constituent Assembly exercise, all NC lawmakers thwarted Maoist’s federal structure i.e. Tamsaling, Limbuwan as so-called ‘jaatiya rajya’ is unacceptable in a multi-identity nation.

Then following the same political reasoning, how is ‘dharmik rajya’ accepted in a multi-identity nation?

It is sad and shocking to see the NC that always propagated ‘pan Nepali’ socialism…regressed and decayed to a sectarian outfit promoting the medieval era like ‘one religion state’.

And equally shocking is the hypocritical, double standard stance of NC leadership remaining silent and observing the rise of right wing Hindu supremacist elements metastasizing inside the party like a malignant tumor.

This betrays all other non Hindu faith followers of the country that had always supported and kept much of expectation and hope from the party.

A lot of deep soul searching ideological exercise must be done inside the core of the party or else the once ‘pan Nepali’ organization will rot to a right wing supremacist outfit.  

This course of action from the party will only encourage reactionary forces in our society. And it will predictably result in inter community conflicts and sectarian riots in our so far harmonious and pluralistic nation. 

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