A Nepalese Hindu priest performs rituals during Kuse Aunsi, or Nepalese Father’s Day, at the Gokarneshwar Hindu temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo)
Nepal’s lawmakers on Monday voted against an amendment proposal in a draft of the country’s new constitution to declare the Himalayan nation a Hindu state, triggering protests in the capital Kathmandu.
Only 21 members of the 601-strong constituent assembly voted in favour of the proposal forwarded by the right-wing Rashtriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal. A proposal needs two-thirds majority to be adopted.
Nepal, a secular nation now, was a Hindu state for centuries until the abolition of the monarchy in 2006. Protesters demanding restoration of the monarchy and Hindu nation status for the country clashed with police outside the constituent assembly building after the voting on Monday. Police used water cannons and baton-charged the protesters.
The protesters damaged a vehicle belonging to the United Nations. No one was stated to have sustained serious injuries in the clashes.
Nepal’s constitution drafting process, which began in 2008, is expected to be completed within the next few days with clause-wise voting on the final draft beginning on Sunday.
Over three dozen people including 10 policemen have been killed in clashes between protesters and security personnel in the past month.
Many people in Nepal believe the kings were a reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. Despite Nepal becoming secular state, a section among the country’s majority Hindu population supports becoming a Hindu state and the restoration of monarchy.
The Rashtriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal which contested the 2013 election on both these planks managed to become the fourth largest party in the constituent assembly.
While there is anticipation about the new constitution, protests continue in the country’s southern plains where Madhesis, Tharus and other marginalised communities are agitating over federalism.
Worried that the decision to carve out seven states would affect their political representation, 11 parties from the region have quit the constituent assembly.
Nepal has had an interim constitution since pro-democracy protests forced the then king, Gyanendra, to give up authoritarian rule and turn the country into a republic. A constituent assembly elected in 2008 failed to draft a new constitution, and another assembly was elected in 2013.
(With inputs from agencies)