Biddhya Devi Bhandari took part in a number of public Hindu celebrations, promoting Vedic values. Christians, Buddhists and Muslims note that Nepal is a secular state and that the government should not be in favour of any one creed.
Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepal’s religious minorities have slammed the president and members of the government for favouring Hinduism over other religions in violation of the secular character of the state.
After 240 years of Hindu monarchy, Nepal adopted a Constitution last year that defines the state as "secular federal republic" based on the equality of all religions before the law.
However, minorities are increasingly upset after President Biddhya Devi Bhandari – wife of former Maoist leader Madan Bhandari – took part recently in a number of Hindu festivals, promoting Vedic values as a priority for the country.
"Religious minorities have suffered for years because of the lack of religious freedom,” said C B Gahtraj, a Christian leader. “Now the secular state has brought hope for an end to discrimination and the achievement of equal dignity. Still some differences remain, such as the fact that we have no graves according to our religion, nor celebrations at Christmas. "
Muslims and Buddhists also did not like the president's visit to the Hindu festival. "In a secular state, government authorities should remain silent on the subject of religions,” said Muslim leader Nazrul Hussein.
For guru Karmapa Lama “Neither the president nor other government officials should participate in public religious events that promote disharmony and only one religion”.
Nepal’s last monarch, Gyanendra Shah, waded into the debate in an address to the World Hindu Conference. Deposed in 2008, the former king has been leading a campaign to restore the Hindu monarchy. He criticised minorities for their “politics of negation which do nothing but instigate a sense of rebellion" in the population.
On the Catholic side, Fr Bill Robin said that “Secularism is a good idea but it must be done in good faith. When government officials and departments promote one religion or encourage a specific group, this creates dissatisfaction and can lead to protest."