Religion and Modernizing Imperatives of the Nepali State
In the 1950s, Nepal not only became a democratic state, but also entered into the international community of nations with its much celebrated membership in the United Nations and other regional and international forums. This was a time when the state, in a fairly celebratory mood, tried to become like other states. Its projection to the outside world was of a Hindu state claiming to have embraced the global values of “modernity”, such as human rights and democracy. In the 1960s, when it constitutionally adopted Hinduism as its religion, this did not change Nepal – as the discourses show – from claiming its adherence to the modern global values. The state’s modernization efforts during all the 30 years of Panchayat were deemed to be compatible with its Hindu identity. After this “first round” of Panchayat modernity was overthrown in 1990, Nepal became democratic state with a constitutional monarchy. New discourses of democracy and modernization emerged in this “second round”, yet the state continued to be a Hindu state. Eventually, after a popular movement in 2006 and the ensuing unfolding of political events, in 2008 Nepal was declared a federal democratic republic and a secular state. In this “third round”, secularism was claimed to be the right value compatible with modernity, and secular values became the dominant modernizing discourse.
In this line, this paper will attempt at making the comparative analysis of discursive shifts in three different junctures of Nepali history: the mid-1950s, mid-1990s and mid-2000s, in connection to linkages between the state and religion built on the undergirding values of modernity and progress. In addition to mainly depending on the archives of the state-owned Gorkhapatra and The Rising Nepal dailies, the paper will also analyse the speeches given by the state/government officials in these particular junctures of Nepali history – all in an attempt understand how the state constructed its self vis-à-vis the modernizing imperatives drawn from global actors and global audience.