Historically, the military in Nepal was closely associated with and loyal to the institution of the monarchy and was intended to operate in the interests of the palace. However, the military was forced to confront political change in 1990 as the power of the king beyond that of the constitution was scrapped and Nepal was limited to a constitutional monarchy. Consequently, the military theoretically came under civilian control with the advent of the end of a partyless political system and the establishment of a multiparty democracy. The palace reluctantly accepted this change but covertly continued consolidating power by using the military. Hence, the already cemented mistrust between political parties and the military mounted. Political parties viewed the military as a royal army and the military perceived political parties as unpatriotic and aligned with foreign powers. This hidden tension remained and was reflected in many instances until the abolition of the institution of the monarchy in May 2008 by the Nepali parliament. From 1990 to 2010, the military endured very difficult periods such as continuous combat (February 1996–November 2006) with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)], the royal massacre (the entire family of King Birendra was assassinated), sharp criticisms of its armed conflict related to human rights violations, a cessation of military support from the international community, the abolition of the monarchy, which had existed in Nepal for 240 years, confinement along with CPN(M) ex-combatants per the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), tensions with the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), attempts by the CPN(M) government to politicize the military, and the removal of the military chief. In all these events, the military was indirectly and directly dragged in political maneuvering. In some cases, it fully dragged while in others only partially so, and in some cases, it failed entirely. Further, in the past three decades, from 1990 to 2020, the military has been sharply criticized for engagements in business beyond its traditional military role and for not respecting civilian supremacy. However, the military has also been highly praised for its acceptance of the republican system. All Nepali citizens have praised the military’s natural disaster relief work during floods, earthquakes, avalanches, fires, landslides, air and other transportation disasters, its search and rescue operations, medical assistance and evacuation efforts, air rescues and mass evacuations, flood control, reconstruction of damaged vital infrastructures, and construction of temporary shelters for homeless citizens. It is clear that the Ministry of Defense and the military require further security sector reforms and better civil–military relations as well as ensuring parliamentary oversight in the spirit of the National Security Policy and Nepal’s constitution.
Bishnu Raj Upreti
Rina Verma Williams and Sayam Moktan
With over one billion adherents worldwide and 15% of the world’s population, Hinduism is the fourth largest, and among the oldest, of the major world religions, with important political aspects that reverberate well beyond South Asia. Yet it is perhaps the least studied of the major world religions. Hinduism is also one of the most geographically concentrated religions of the world. The majority of Hindus are concentrated in two South Asian countries, Nepal and India, where Hindus constitute 80% or more of the population. Small but politically influential diasporic communities of Hindus are found throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada. Key characteristics of Hinduism that set it apart from Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), especially politically, include its polytheistic nature and lack of one single authoritative text; the tremendous variation in its practice across locality and caste; and its frequently informal practice beyond the confines of official institutions such as temples. Hinduism has been compatible with a range of regime types over time in India and Nepal, including empire, monarchy, and democracy. Both India and Nepal are officially secular countries, but the status of secularism in both countries is contested by the forces of Hindu nationalism, a movement that seeks to institutionalize the political, social, and cultural predominance of Hinduism. Religious conversion is expressly prohibited in Nepal; in India, it is increasingly under legislative attack. The politics of caste are an important political aspect of Hinduism in both India and Nepal. While politics in both countries remain dominated by upper castes, important lower-caste political mobilization has appeared in India, but has yet to take hold in Nepal. A better understanding of Hinduism’s political aspects has enormous potential to enhance knowledge of religion and politics more broadly.