Saturday, May 7, 2011

Predicament of a Hindu Secularist

Predicament of  a Hindu Secularist

Although a mildly religious Hindu, i wasn't completely taken aback our nation jettisoned Hinduism as a state religion and frenetically decided to accept constitutional secularism as the way for a pluralistic and multi-religious Nepal.This sudden and colossal change in Majority Hindu country, however consternating us, and left us with lingering doubts over the success of this metamorphosis.Two instances, since the secularization of Nepal by the interim constitution, have already fortified our doubts.first is the Prachanda led government's unsuccessful attempt at meddling with the appointment of Mul batta of the Lord Pashupatinath temple. Second the recent and the poignantly sensitive issue of altercation between Pashupati Area Development Trust(PADT) and Nepalese Christian community over the burial at the Sleshmantak forest in the Pashupatinath area. Noticeably so , both these disputes relate to Lord Pashupatinath, the most revered God of the Hindus.
Definition of secularism is highly contested. While a western and restrained notion of secularism means an erection of well of separation between religion and state, in its expansive practice, especially as it has in India, it also refers to absence of state religious institutions and doctrines and equal indulgence of all religions.Are these notion of secularism fittingly adopted in Nepal? A cursory examination of the act establishing the PADT will provide us with a negative answer.PADT is a statutory body created bu Pashupati Area Development Trust act of 1987 with an object to maintain, preserve and develop the Pashupatinath area because of the significance of lord Pashupatinath temple as a center of reverence of Hindu solely.Under the act the prime minister of the country is the patron of the trust,minister of culture is the chairperson of the governing council of the PADT, and other government bureaucrats and certain members of legislature- parliament are ipso facto members of it. It is apparent that the Act blatantly rejects every notion of secularism: there is a direct government control over Lord Pashupatinath and akin to this a Muslim mosque, a Christian church or a Buddhist stupa is not patronized by the government which is discriminatory.
A predicament surface now whether in line with imported notion of secularism, the Lord Pashupatinath temple should be severed from government instruction?Should Pashupatinath temple be transformed inti private Hindu religious endowment?There are certain merits in arguing for separation of Lord Pashupatinath temple from the state. First this will evince that the country is avowedly secular and not only on paper.Second, a separation will ensue the Lord Pashhupatinath temple will no longer be a state institution, but private Hindu religious institution. A striking advantage will be garnered out of this.Non- Hindu will be precluded from asserting their fundamental right, particularly their freedom of religion of practicing their beliefs and rituals within he defined area of the Pasupatinath temple which could possibly include the Sleshmantakforest. Third it will also to a certain extent, incapacitate the government from interfering with the appointment of priest and Mul Batta of the Pashupatinath temple. Fourth the wealth of the Pashupatinath temple will not be embezzled by the government and will not be used to fund non Hindu purpose.
It is unimaginable that a bigoted state like Nepal will disconnect itself from the management and adminitration of Pashupatinath temple area.The reasons are tremendous for not to do so.Nepal has been a Hindu state for time immemorial and this connection between state and lord Pashupatinath has been one of the vestiges of Nepalese Hindu monarchical tradition.Although monarchy has been abolished, it will be destructively challenging for Nepal to completely adhere to all imported notions of secularism and introduce severance of state and Lord Pashupatinath temple.Arguably the mandate of Janadolan ii was also not secularism. further disassociation of Lord Pashupatinath temple with the state will raise a tricky question as to which group of Hindu people should be allowed to administer the temple.It is possible temple funds will be siphoned off for private gains and mismanagement exist.


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