Royal Hindutva

India's Hindu right does not like what it sees taking place in Nepal. Angry that the country is headed towards becoming a secular, democratic republic, it can see its traditional influence in Nepali politics waning. A terminal blow has now been dealt to the two pillars central to what the Hindutva-wallahs have cherished about Nepal: a Hindu rashtra with a Hindu monarchy. But Hindutva leaders from both India and Nepal have not given up. They have been brainstorming – at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office in New Delhi, the Gorakhnath temple in Gorakhpur, and at the residence of royalist politicians in Kathmandu – as well as with King Gyanendra at the Narayanhiti Palace. However, the Indian and Nepali Hindu right recognises the limits of its capacity, and does not have a clear rescue plan as yet.

Nepal always was an unusual 'Hindu kingdom' – not merely because it was the only one in the world, but also because it was not a typical theocracy. It did not insist on a unitary identity for the entire population, though close to 80 percent of the population was identified as Hindus in the national census (a figure that has been contested by ethnic groups); it did not deprive minority groups of political and civic rights, such as freedom of expression and voting; and the state was not governed by dharmashastras, or a Hindu code, but by a democratic constitution. At the same time, however, for many these were little more than disconcerting clauses. The very fact that Nepal was regarded by the establishment (and constitutionally) as a Hindu state alienated a large section of the populace, especially the country's many ethnic groups. There was a ban on conversion and cow slaughter; the state promoted the use of Sanskrit; and the head of the state, the king, could only be a born Hindu, with claims to being Vishnu incarnate.

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