Dignity Post: Shadowed by the increasing global pandemic of COVID 19, amidst the epidemic of corruption, Nepal continues to exploit the violation of inalienable cultural rights of religious freedom.
It has been well known that the groups of religious minorities, especially the Muslim and Christian communities have been facing multiple discrimination and government apathy. There have been court cases and imprisonment based on false allegations, and misinterpretation of religious practices of the minorities.
A recent case of Pastor Keshav Raj Acharya is an example; On 23 March, a day before the government imposed nationwide coronavirus lockdown, Acharya was arrested by the Kaski district police for his prayer video of his saying coronavirus virus could be healed in the name of Jesus which was uploaded on YouTube on 22 February, a month earlier.
Acharya managed to pay bail amount of 5,000 rupees ordered by the district administration on 29 March but he was rearrested right away for his glossolalia, a common practice in Christian prayer in the same video.
After weeks of detention, Acharya was freed on bail of 500,000 rupees but rearrested for the second time from the court premises and was taken to Dolpa, a remotest north-western part of the country for another accusation of proselytizing and religious conversion. After going through multiple hardships, Acharya was bailed out on 30 June with bail amount 300,000 rupees.
In all these cases, Acharya was persecuted under sections 156 and 158 of the Nepalese Penal Code while Nepal’s constitution article 26.1 still guarantees fundamental rights to religious freedom to practice, protect, and adhere to one’s religious belief.
Being one of the popular preacher in Nepali Christian community, Acharya was able to get support from individuals and institutions, especially from the Nepal Christian Society (NCS) to manage his release. But it would have been out of the imaginary level if that was a case of a common faithful.
The situation wasn’t better in the past either while the country was an only Hindu nation in the world but Nepal’s new secularism has put religious freedom further on the verge.