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Opinion | Nepal’s illiberal liberals and secularism

Trailokya Raj Aryal

Trailokya Raj Aryal

Opinion | Nepal’s illiberal liberals and secularism

None of the pieces by democratic and liberal writers advocating secularism in the country calls for letting people decide whether they want a secular or a Hindu state

Among other things, some liberals and pseudo-liberals are hell bent on portraying PM KP Oli as trying to re-establish Nepal as a Hindu country—and I personally hope PM Oli is indeed working toward that objective.

But again, Oli has been blamed for many things, some justifiable, some ludicrous. For some blaming him is a passion, for some a fashion and for some wannabe copycat liberals, blaming or suspecting Oli for the things he is yet to do is the only way to establish their liberal credentials. And when you attack both Oli and Hinduism and the majority’s aspirations of a Hindu state, it becomes doubly easier for you to gain the membership of the “elite liberal club of the most bigoted liberals” and be seen as the most enlightened thinker. 

Let’s be clear: Just because they have issues with the Hindu state does not mean the whole of Nepal has problems with it. You illiberal liberals of the leftist kind could have problems with Oli providing a couple of millions to one of the holiest Hindu temples in the world, Pashupatinath, or his insistence on Lord Ram being born in Nepal, I don’t, and nor do many of us. We see it as Oli finally accepting the fact that the majority of Nepal is Hindu and it makes no sense to alienate us with the irreligious leftist ideology that has only caused misery wherever it was/is practiced.

But why are you self-professed liberals concerned though, beats me. On the one hand you argue that Nepali people are aware and revolutionary and secularism is an achievement and no Nepali wants to do away with it. But on the other hand, you feel threatened by PM Oli’s moves. Isn't that contradictory? If the majority doesn’t want to revert to Hindu state like you all argue, then, why do you feel threatened by Oli supporting a major Hindu temple and or insisting Ram was born in Nepal? Maybe it’s because liberal left’s favorite pastime is to create contradictions and indulge in senseless ramblings.

The problem with the mainstream Nepali media is that it is dominated by a group of ultra-leftist thinkers in liberal garb. Their views are repeated to the point that people who feel differently have to think 10 times before arguing against them—that is if they get the chance/space in the media to present their views. Freedom of expression is understood and practiced as freedom to promote leftist ideology and that has led to silencing of the rational other-than-leftist liberal voices. That is why we are bombarded with pieces highlighting the dangers of doing away with “hard won” achievements including the secular state. And it gets funnier: we are made to believe that if we revert to non-secular state, Nepal will witness the Indian Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS)-brand of militant Hinduism, and the minorities’ rights would be curtailed and all sorts of liberal nonsense.

But what they don’t tell you is that the leaders did away with Hindu state despite the majority population opposing it. If we go by the number of letters sent to the second Constituent Assembly, most letter-writers wanted to retain Nepal’s Hindu country status. But in this land of bizarre democracy their suggestion was ignored, thereby going against the very idea of a constituent assembly. The hastily written constitution was imposed by a group of leaders and their (i) liberal narrative setters and no wonder it is failing.

And no, Nepal will not be importing or influenced by the RSS-brand of “militant” Hinduism if we become a Hindu country. There is absolutely no evidence to support it. Even when it was a Hindu kingdom, we seldom experienced religious clashes and not at all the gruesome kind a la India. Even the rare occurrences of religious clashes in old Nepal are increasingly rarer in today's “new” Nepal because Nepalis of all faiths are going to the Islamic countries to work and are sharing rooms with each other and getting to understand each other more. And let’s not forget the most gruesome and excruciating violence we witnessed in Nepal had nothing to do with religion but with the radical leftist ideology.

We have far more violent radical left youth organizations and not a single RSS-like organization in the country. So, the whole argument is absurd and inserted just to show the writers know what is happening in the neighborhood, and we should take them seriously for their worldly views—or it could be that they need to meet the word-requirement for an article and in the absence of real rational arguments, they just write all things irrational to bring the word count up to 1,000. That's another reason for you, the readers, not to take these pieces seriously.

Further, none of the pieces by democratic and liberal writers advocating secularism in the country calls for letting people decide whether they want a secular or a Hindu state. If you are so democratic and believe in the people, why not use your privileged status of a narrative setter and opinion maker and use the media space generously provided by the equally “liberal” and “enlightened” editors to call for a referendum on the issue and settle it once and for all? No constitution is un-amendable and if you are so threatened by the Hindu state and yet believe that the majority of rational Nepalis will vote against doing away with the hard-won secularism, why not argue for a referendum so that you and the group you represent feels validated? If you win, more power to you.

And as for the argument, suspicion rather, that PM Oli is working in cahoots with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to do away with secularism and we should oppose it, what happened to your patriotism and pride when your revered leaders were working with the Indian establishment to do away with monarchy and Hindu state? So working with foreigners to promote your agenda is fine and even democratic and patriotic, but when it's against your and your agenda, it's a betrayal and regression?

This is more of your frustration at India for not opposing PM Oli's moves than anything to do with secularism and Hinduism. Had India opposed PM Oli, you would be the ones singing PM Modi’s praises. You illiberal liberals are the ones inviting foreign intervention and that India chose not to intervene on your and your leaders’ behalf has made you lose your sanity, so to speak. And you see a conspiracy.

Come on, give us a break! Go ahead, call me a rightist or hurl whatever colorful adjective you can think of. Make my day, illiberal liberals. I expect nothing less.