Atheism in Nepal

A series of weak and short-lived central governments in Kathmandu have enfeebled the Constitution.
Keywords: Nepal, Religion, Constitution, Hindu, Civilisation, Christian, Atheism, Politics
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Evangelism deserves greater recognition as a foreign policy agenda of the US-led West in the post-colonial, post-World War II era. After the massacre of the Nepalese royal family (June 1, 2001), Pope Benedict XVI elevated the Church of Nepal to a Vicariate on February 10, 2007. Monsignor Anthony Francis Sharma S.J. became the first Vicar Apostolic and later the first Catholic Bishop of Nepal on May 5, 2007. On May 28, 2008, the new Constituent Assembly dominated by communist parties and backed by Left-leaning officials in India, abolished the 240-year-old monarchy and established a federal democratic republic.

Fifteen years later, Washington has been found promoting Atheism in Nepal, i.e., non-Hindu consciousness and identity, owing to the sharp rise in pro-monarchy sentiment and a yearning for the restoration of Hinduism as State religion, a reaction to rampant religious conversions and establishment of churches and madrasas across the nation. On November 23, 2023, thousands marched on the streets of Kathmandu, demanding the restoration of the monarchy.

The Atheism agenda was revealed by Congressman Brian Mast (R-Florida) who questioned the State Department as to why it had spent half a million dollars to promote atheism in Nepal. The funds were given to organizations to promote atheism and help atheists form networks to strengthen advocacy in this regard.

Although Nepal is predominantly Hindu (81.19 percent, according to the 2021 Census), evangelists have been emboldened by the abolition of the monarchy and Hindu kingdom. The new Constitution gives every citizen the freedom to profess and practice his ancestral religion, and no person is entitled to forcibly change the religion of any other person. The reality is different and official statistics may not tell the complete story.

As Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Accountability, Republican Brian Mast questioned Richard R. Verma, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, on March 21, 2024, about the justification for spending USD 500,000 of taxpayer money to promote atheism in Nepal.

Verma conceded, “It would not be appropriate to have a grant to promote any religion or non-religion (atheism) coming from the United States.” However, Verma claimed that the grant to Nepal was being misconstrued and insisted, “I have seen no evidence of any grant to promote Atheism in Nepal.” Observers point out that this grant amounts to “external interference” in Nepal’s internal affairs and is aimed at changing its religious demography.

Pointing to the official “request for grant” document, Mast said, “It says promoting and defending religious freedom inclusive of atheist, humanist, non-practicing and non-affiliated individuals.” The document stated, “This is the expected program outcomes – increased capacity among members of the Atheist and heterodox individuals to form, join networks or organisations, creating or strengthening networks of advocates for the diverse communities of atheists.” The term Atheism and different phrasings for the “promotion of atheism in Nepal” are repeatedly mentioned in the official document, the Congressman stressed.

This was stated on the front page of the grant request, Mast said; he accused Verma of disrespecting the committee by his repeated denials. He added, “Not only is it an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars, but the lack of transparency and honesty from the administration further erodes trust in our government.” Indeed, the Biden administration has granted large sums of money to promote atheism in Nepal by dressing it up as a grant for promoting the ‘Fundamental Rights of Freedom of Religion”.

American evangelists have taken great interest in Nepal after the fall of the monarchy. India’s UPA government gave them considerable freedom, and on January 28, 2007, at a meeting of Nepali Maoists in Paharganj, New Delhi, the chief guests were two US citizens, Comrade Peter and Comrade Mangoli. Also present were C.P. Gajurel, missionary preacher and ideologue of the Nepali Maoists, and Comrade Prachanda. The anti-Hindu bias was obvious when Comrade Peter intoned, “Brahmanvaad, Hinduvaad, Murdabad” (down with Brahmin and Hindu values). A banner declared: “Bharatiya vistarvaad murdabad” (down with Indian expansionism).

Sources point out that under the UPA, Maoists in Delhi maintained close links with Christian groups, and secret churches were established in areas where the Maoists lived. One church, the World Unification Movement, was visited by an unidentified foreigner, possibly from the US-based Republication International Movement which is active in Asia. These churches employed Nepalis to lure fellow Nepalis to the congregations every Sunday, where the Maoist newspapers, Dishabodh and Dishanidesh, were distributed for free.

Around this time, the US-based Global Recordings intensified conversion activities in all tribal dialects in Nepal. Maoist violence led to the closure of Sanskrit pathshalas and compulsory Sanskrit education in schools. There was also an attempt to make the rhinoceros the State animal, instead of the holy cow.

Since the proclamation of the Republic, many in Nepal feel that civilisationally Hindu India has abandoned civilisationally Hindu Nepal. India was in favour of democracy in Nepal, but today, Nepal has a communist-dominated regime with ideological ties to the Communist Party of China. Prachanda’s coalition partner, the Rashtriya Swatantra Party, is openly pro-US.

Many young Nepalis lament that the country was declared secular without a popular referendum and they favour the return of the Hindu state, which Washington is inhibiting by funding the Sherpa, Limbu, Janjati, and Dalit groups. As the preeminent power in the region, India must object to Washington interfering in the religious affairs of Nepal. The deliberations in the US Congress reveal the gravity of the situation in Nepal.

When contacted over the telephone, former Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey asserted that Nepal is secular because it has an 81 percent Hindu majority, but regretted that in recent times, there has been a concerted effort to promote religious conflicts in the country.

A series of weak and short-lived central governments in Kathmandu have enfeebled the Constitution. Provincial governments have also been unstable. Plagued by bad governance and economic recession, Nepali youth is seeking opportunities elsewhere. Prachanda is playing China against India with diminishing returns. India should ignore the Nepali communists and speak up in favour of a civilisational state.

References:

https://www.opindia.com/2024/03/biden-administration-accused-of-promoting-atheism-in-nepal/#google_vignette

https://np.usembassy.gov/2022-report-on-international-religious-freedom-on-nepal/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Francis_Sharma

https://ccbi.in/bishop-anthony-francis-sharma-s-j-retired-bishop-of-nepal-passed-away/

https://www.thetablet.co.uk/news/2894/the-father-of-nepal-catholicism-bishop-anthony-sharma-dies-of-brain-cancer-

https://www.thejaipurdialogues.com/global/why-is-the-us-funding-500000-for-atheism-in-hindu-rashtra-nepal/#google_vignette

Anti-India axis in Nepal, Sandhya Jain, The Pioneer, 26 December 2006
https://www.sandhyajainarchive.org/2006/12/26/nepal-in-anti-india-axis/

American pie in Nepal, Sandhya Jain, The Pioneer, 6 February 2007
https://www.sandhyajainarchive.org/2007/02/06/american-pie-in-nepal/

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Sandhya Jain

Sandhya Jain is a political analyst, independent researcher, and author of multiple books. She is also editor of the platform Vijayvaani

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