Last week, an honorary ADC to the king made a very startling statement. Brigadier General Bharat Keshar Simha asserted from a public forum that a Hindu king had no need to follow a constitution as he was bound by higher norms of his religion.
Gen Simha has a reputation of being somewhat of a gadfly, hence the usually vociferous civil society of Kathmandu chose to ignore his remark. But in an age when even the gods have to conform to the laws of the land, there seems to be method in the madness of those bent on transforming a nominal Hindu kingdom into an obscurantist regime.
Since King Gyanendra was declared 'the emperor of the world's Hindus' in September 2002 all kinds of Indian godmen have given their stamp of approval to his political moves. Despite extreme sensitivity to interference in our internal affairs whenever the subject is human rights and democracy, the royal regime extolled this endorsement by communal Indian politicos like Yogi Adityanath and Ashok Singhal. These are views that even the BJP finds too radical. The president of the World Hindu Federation in Nepal accepting sermons of sundry holy men from across the southern border on divinely ordained statecraft is extremely worrisome.
We need to be worried about the RSS-brand of Hindutva that resulted in the destruction of the Babri Mosque and the Gujarat pogroms. Despite an overwhelming proportion of our population being Hindus, Nepal is a country of tremendous racial, religious, linguistic, cultural, and ethnic diversity. Religious fundamentalism, political authoritarianism and social racism are interrelated. People with democratic aspirations have to begin by separating their private beliefs, which can be religious, and public behaviour that has to be secular.
Intolerance is a by-product of politicised religion, the hallmark of Hindutva fundamentalism. For Nepal, further deepening of existing fissures is sure to be catastrophic. If accident of birth or adoption of faith be the arbitrator of fate, nothing can stop a 'low-born' or a non-believer from rebellion.
We lay grandiose claims to over 700 years of religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. But as the September riots last year in the wake of killing of innocent Nepalis in Iraq showed, our veil of urbanity is thin. There is great risk of inflaming the passions of a seething urban population. Already in the grips of a senseless class-war, we can't afford to open the far more dangerous front of a communal flare up.
Once let loose, it is a genie that won't easily go back into the bottle. And religious fundamentalism in any form anywhere is inimical to peace everywhere. The only way to fight fascism is to prevent it from raising any of its three heads: fundamentalism, authoritarianism and racism.