On August 8, a human rights NGO reported a confrontation had taken place in Sunsari district between police and protesters demanding Nepal be declared a Hindu state, resulting in the detention of six protesters for several hours. Police reportedly assaulted a journalist who attempted to collect news about the arrests at the local police station. Local media associations condemned the police for assaulting the journalist. According to media and NGO reports, on September 14, a demonstration outside the Constituent Assembly building in Kathmandu by supporters of both the pro‑Hindu Rastriya Parajatantra Party Nepal and the Hindu Rastra Campaign (led by two Nepali Congress party leaders) became tense when protesters learned of the rejection of a constitutional amendment to declare Nepal a Hindu state. Police used water cannon on demonstrators and fired tear gas to expel them from a prohibited zone after demonstrators reportedly vandalized a vehicle belonging to the United Nations.
According to legal experts and leaders of religious minorities, the constitutional stipulation to protect the “age‑old religion” was interpreted by the drafters of the constitution to mean protection of Hinduism.
The government has not enforced the ban on converting others, according to Christian groups and legal experts. Christian groups have interpreted this ban as including a ban on proselytizing. Human rights lawyers and leaders of religious minorities expressed concern that the constitution’s ban on conversion could make religious minorities vulnerable to persecution for preaching or public displays of faith.
Some Muslim leaders stated they did not accept converts to Islam, as it would violate the law, according to their interpretation, and instead recommended that anyone seeking to convert do so in India.
Media reports stated some Christian social welfare organizations engaged in proselytizing while distributing relief supplies to communities affected by the April 25 earthquake. According to Christian groups, foreign missionaries did not declare to the government any intent to proselytize publicly. The government reportedly did not expel any foreign workers for proselytizing. There were no arrests for violating the anti‑conversion law, according to the Office of the Attorney General, but Catholic and Protestant leaders said foreign and local missionaries attempted to keep their activities discreet to avoid this possibility.
Christian groups reported encountering difficulties in registering as NGOs or nonprofits. A human rights lawyer stated the government had initially rejected the application of his client, a Christian organization, for registration as a nonprofit on the grounds the organization preached Christianity. When the lawyer submitted a revised application, the government approved it, but did not approve some of the “objectives” of the organization indicated in the application, including preaching, establishing churches, and helping the poor.
Christian leaders and human rights lawyers said a constitutional provision establishing the government’s authority to “make law to operate and protect a religious place or religious trust and to manage trust property and regulate land management” could allow the government to formulate legislation for the registration of Christian churches, and possibly of other organizations of religious minorities, as religious institutions.
Government authorities continued to permit the resident Tibetan community to celebrate Buddhist holidays and conduct other private ceremonies with cultural/religious significance, such as the Dalai Lama’s birthday and Losar (Tibetan New Year). Certain anniversaries considered more politically sensitive by Tibetan community leaders, such as Tibetan Uprising Day, were generally marked by small, quiet prayer ceremonies within Tibetan settlements. Abbots of monasteries reported Buddhist monasteries and their related social welfare projects generally operated without government interference.
According to Muslim groups, Muslims continued to be able to freely participate in the Hajj. A Central Hajj Committee under the Ministry of Home Affairs coordinated and facilitated logistics for the Hajj for all Muslims. Committee members included representatives of political parties, mosques, and civil society. Each year the government has paid for nine committee members to travel to Saudi Arabia to carry out their work.
There were no reports of arrests or confrontations with law enforcement officials on charges of violating the prohibition on cow slaughter.
The government‑funded Pashupati Area Development Trust maintained restrictions preventing Christian burials in a common cemetery behind the Pashupati Hindu Temple in Kathmandu. It continued to allow burials of individuals from non‑Hindu indigenous faiths. According to Christian leaders, the government did not always enforce the court ruling requiring protection of congregations carrying out burials. Some Protestant churches reported they had bought land for burials in the Kathmandu Valley in the names of individual parishioners, but local communities sometimes physically blocked access or exhumed bodies. Some Protestants in the Kathmandu Valley reportedly traveled to the countryside to conduct burials in unpopulated areas.
Catholic leaders stated most Catholic parishioners chose cremation due to the difficulties with burials, but some traveled to India to conduct burials of Catholics who had died in Nepal. Many Christian communities outside of the Kathmandu Valley were able to buy land for cemeteries, to conduct burials in public forests, or to use land belonging to indigenous communities for burials. They also reportedly received public land from the government for this purpose on occasion.
Muslim groups stated individuals in the Kathmandu Valley generally were able to buy land for cemeteries, but local Hindus sometimes refused to sell land to them. In the southern Terai region, where there were many majority Muslim communities, Muslim groups said they did not encounter such problems.
The government continued to permit Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim groups to establish and operate their own community schools. The government provided the same level of funding for registered religious schools as for public schools. Private Christian schools did not receive government funding. Some local officials reportedly tried to create obstacles to the registration or license renewal of some Protestant schools run by NGOs. Although religious education was not part of the curriculum in public schools, some public schools had a statue of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, on their grounds.
The Department of Education prepared curricula for the registered schools. According to the Department of Education, the executive office within the Ministry of Education, 745 madrassahs were registered with district education offices, a decrease of 561 during the year. According to the Department of Education and Muslim leaders, the decline was largely due to action by the government’s anti‑corruption authority against both religious and non‑religious public and private schools implicated in fraud, including registered schools that existed only on paper. Some Muslim leaders stated there were as many as 2,500–3,000 unregistered madrassahs. According to religious leaders, the reason for the large number of unregistered madrassahs, as well as Buddhist and Hindu schools, was that school operators did not want to be subject to government auditing or follow the government’s curricula.
Christian missionary hospitals, welfare organizations, and schools continued to operate without government interference, according to Christian leaders. Many foreign Christian organizations had direct ties to local churches and sponsored clergy for religious training abroad.