America portrays Nepal as soft on Tibetan Buddhists, hostile to Christians and supportive of Hindus

The report of the State Department also accuses India’s Bharatiya Janata Party and groups associated with it of pressuring and funding Nepali leaders to reinstate Hindu state in Nepal.

US President illuminating light on the occasion of Diwali on October 24, 2022. Photo from President Biden’s Twitter page.

NL Today

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Kathmandu: In the 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom, the United States Department of States has raised question about unequal treatment to Christians and accuses Nepali politicians of taking money from the BJP for promoting Hinduism.

The report cites NGOs, civil society members, religious leaders, among others, to support its claims.

The report mentions that Tibetan Buddhist community was able to celebrate some religious and cultural holidays without police interference and the government allowed Tibetan Buddhists to celebrate nonpolitical events including Losar (Tibetan New Year), the Dalai Lama’s birthday, and other religious events. “In a departure from previous observances of the Dalai Lama’s birthday, government authorities did not prohibit the display of the Dalai Lama’s portrait as the highest spiritual leader and former head of the state of Tibet,” says the report.

The report blames royalist/monarchist parties for spreading anti-Christian sentiment in Nepal. “Christian religious leaders continued to express concern about the anti-Christian sentiment of the Royalist/Monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), which seeks to reestablish the country as a Hindu state,” says the report. “Christian groups said they continued to face difficulties buying or using land for burials, especially within the Kathmandu Valley.”

Discrimination against Christians, including on social media, continued, says the report.

The report says that the Rastriya Prajatantra Party used anti-Christian sentiment to garner populist support during the November 2022 elections. Says the report: “The major political parties did not incorporate Hinduism in their public political manifestos, and senior leaders did not argue for reinstating Hinduism as the country’s official religion in their campaign speeches. However, in its manifesto, the RPP called for a Hindu kingdom based on the Sanatan Dharma with religious freedom for all faiths. Civil society sources stated that some RPP politicians continued to use anti-Christian sentiment to garner populist support.”

The report of the State Department also accuses India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and groups associated with it, of pressuring and funding Nepali leaders to reinstate Nepal as a Hindu state. 

“Civil society leaders said influence from India’s ruling party, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and other Hindu groups in India continued to pressure politicians in Nepal, particularly the RPP, to support reversion to a Hindu state,” says the report. “Civil society leaders said what they characterized as right-wing religious groups associated with the BJP in India continued to provide money to influential politicians of all parties to advocate Hindu statehood.”

The report says that small numbers of Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) supporters endeavored to create an unfriendly environment for Christians on social media and encouraged “upper-caste” Hindus to enforce caste-based discrimination at local political rallies.

It says that the government-funded Pashupati Area Development Trust prevents Christian burials in a communal cemetery behind the Pashupati Hindu Temple in Kathmandu while allowing burials there of individuals from Indigenous faiths (such as Kirats). “Protestant churches continued to cite difficulties gaining access to land they had bought several years prior for burials in the Kathmandu Valley under the names of individual church members,” says the report. “According to the churches, local communities continued to oppose burial by groups perceived to be outsiders but were more open to burials conducted by Christian members of their own communities.”

The report also mentions Bhim Rawal’s opposition to using Christian symbol in school textbooks. “On June 9, in remarks in the House of Representatives, Member of Parliament Bhim Rawal publicly criticized a preschool textbook in which a depiction of Jesus was used as a symbol for God. Rawal said that the Western community was spreading Christianity in the country and that Western influences attacked the ancient Hindu religion and the traditional culture of the country,” the report says. “On June 10, the book’s publisher, the Abhyas Nepal Education Foundation, issued a press statement saying it would cease distribution of current editions immediately, would not include the image in future textbooks, and apologized for its use.”

The report says that anti-Christian propaganda, misinformation, and discriminatory and divisive religious content appeared on Nepal’s legacy media.  

Earlier, State Department published the 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and country reports on terrorism (2021)   both of which are critical about the human rights and security situations in Nepal.

[Related: US State Department’s report on terrorism paints bleak picture of Nepal’s security system

[Related: United States’ 2022 country reports on human rights practices find faults with Nepal on several fronts]