Till May 18, 2006, Nepal was constitutionally ‘a Hindu Kingdom’. Many people interpreted the notion as Hindu Kingdom because more than eighty percent population followed Hinduism. So why Hindus enjoyed certain more privileges then the other religious people. For example, many Hindu festivals were declared national Holidays, including Dashain on which national holidays are declared for nearly half a month. (Nowadays, the period is reduced to ten days.) However, in recent years, when non-Hindu communities including indigenous protested, the notion was defined as a Hindu Kingdom because only a Hindu and an Aryan could become King.
This could not suffice the long withstanding worries of non-Hindu and indigenous communities. Hence a movement for a secular Nepal was envisaged immediately after the 1990 constitution declared Nepal as a Hindu Kingdom. As a distress against the existing Monarchy, that was meant to uphold Hinduism, the secular movement moved ahead along with the movement against Monarch Gyanendra’s autocratic rule, particularly, in the last three years. Consequently, both the movements succeeded with overwhelming public participation and support this April. And Nepal was declared SECULAR by May 18 Parliament Proclamation.
Nepali Christians are observing their first Merry Christmas in secular Nepal today. However, though the top leaders including Prime Minister have expressed their best wishes on the occasion of Christmas, the state has failed to rightly identify Nepal as secular. The state observes the holiday of ten long days during Hindu’s largest festival Dashain. However, it has even failed to declare a holiday for Christians, let alone a national holiday.
Particularly, when it comes to my case, to be frank, I too have been a little biased towards not only Christians but towards all Non-Hindus. When many of my friends wished Merry Christmas, I just replied, ”Thanks, but I am not a Christian.” And I didn’t even wish them a Merry Christmas. Now I think, my friends must have been disappointed with my answer.
I have ever been frank on my beliefs. I have been trying to overcome such biases including gender but my Hindu and patriarchal enculturation is so strong that, it is simply very difficult to avoid. However, I am trying. I was very happy when the parliament declared Nepal as a secular country. But biases remained at some level of mind which was expressed during Merry Christmas wishes. I feel sorry to all my friends and want to say Merry Christmas to all of them. As a self apology, I also promise to advocate for national holidays during major festivals of all religions.
Still, I hope Christmas in Secular Nepal might have been Merrier than ever.