Hindus call Nepal closure to save the cow

May 19th, 2011 - 4:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, May 19 (IANS) With only nine days left for a constitutional crisis in Nepal and Hindu groups renewing their demand for the restoration of a Hindu state, protesters have called a nationwide shutdown as part of their “Save the Cow” campaign.

Hindus regard the cow as sacred and the slaughter of the animal remains banned in Nepal, once the only Hindu kingdom in the world.

Though a pro-democracy movement saw the Himalayan kingdom become secular in 2006, slaughtering the cow still remains a punishable offence. The cow is the national animal of Nepal.

This week, the World Hindu Federation (WHF), a Hindu group demanding the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion, staged protest marches in Birgunj, Nepal’s industrial capital, after police arrested two men for slaughtering a cow and selling its meat.

Now a group calling itself the Independent Civil Traditional Youth Organisation Nepal has declared a general strike May 27, asking the public to observe the day as “The Holy Cow Preservation Day”.

The campaigners said on that day they would also publicly worship the cow in Kathmandu’s adjoining Lalitpur city.

The announcement came even as the WHF and other Hindu organisations staged a demonstration in front of Nepal’s parliament Wednesday, demanding the restoration of a Hindu state.

Padam Bahadur Sapkota, WHF secretary in charge of international affairs, said there would be further demonstrations May 22-24.

The Hindu unrest comes even as Nepal hurtles towards a constitutional deadline May 28.

The government and parliament were to have promulgated a new constitution on that day but admitted they would not be able to meet the deadline.

The new constitution was expected to strengthen Nepal’s secular nature and restructure the state into federal states that would ensure better participation by the disadvantaged communities and women.

However, with the government failing the first deadline of May 28, 2010 and now unable to complete the task even after being given a year’s extension, Hindu organisations have renewed their clamour for a Hindu state.

Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, the only party in parliament openly supporting the restoration of a Hindu state with a Hindu king, is also demanding that the 601-seat parliament be dissolved for its failure and fresh elections be held to form a new house.

Deposed king Gyanendra has also thrown his weight behind the call for a Hindu state, conferring with Hindu spiritual leaders who have been holding prayer meetings in the capital to ratchet up pressure on the government.

In a bid to defuse the tension and dissipate the public feeling of uncertainty about what would befall the country after May 28, Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal has asked parliament to extend the May 28 deadline by yet another year.

However, with the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress, and some more parties Thursday saying they would not allow the extension unconditionally, there is growing speculation that the three-month-old Khanal government may fall.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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