Nepal: indigenous people want a stronger voice

Activists hope to harness the democratic process by forming their own party as an alternative to mainstream political forces.

By Surath Giri for Khabar South Asia in Kathmandu

August 22, 2012
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For Yograj Limbu, 38, August 9th is a special day, worthy of a day off from work.

  • Nepalese of various ethnicities gathered at an August 9th World Indigenous People's Day rally in Kathmandu. Activists representing the country's indigenous peoples say they are launching a new political party to become active starting in September. [Surath Giri/Khabar]

    Nepalese of various ethnicities gathered at an August 9th World Indigenous People's Day rally in Kathmandu. Activists representing the country's indigenous peoples say they are launching a new political party to become active starting in September. [Surath Giri/Khabar]

To commemorate the date which the UN declared as World Indigenous People's Day 18 years ago, Limbu joined a rally organised in Kathmandu by the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities.

"It is a special day for us," he told Khabar South Asia. "It is the day to promote our culture and our people. We [indigenous people] haven't received the recognition and rights we deserve yet."

Bino Lama, 36, agrees. "Indigenous people have been historically denied of power and access to state mechanisms," he said.

This year, the annual commemoration took place against the backdrop of a potentially significant new milestone. Leaders of the indigenous communities, saying they can no longer depend on the existing political forces to address their issues of concern, decided to launch a political party of their own.

The idea was originally floated during a July conference, attended by more than 1,200 campaigners for indigenous rights.

"The conventional leader-centric, top-down approach of political parties has failed to deliver," activist Krishna Bhattachan told Khabar. "So far, the trend has been a few powerful people form a political party and then try to reach out to the grassroots. We want to reverse this trend and begin from the grassroots."

Bhattachan, a member of a task force set up by the Nepal Ethnic Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, said the new party will formally become active in September.

"An ethnic political party is now a must for the indigenous people," Lama said. "It is our only way of being heard."

Some worry these new developments will not foster stability in Nepal. "I think issues raised by indigenous people are important to some extent, but I fear the country is heading towards ethnic conflict," grocer Ramesh Adhikari, 44, told Khabar.

"We already have too many political parties and ethnic parties will not cater to the aspirations of Nepalese in general."

But Bhattachan says common people need not be alarmed, as the new party will enhance rather than harm democracy. Its goal, he says, is to include all oppressed and marginalised groups.

"Our primary concern is how to create an alternative political force in the country when conventional political parties have failed to deliver," Bhattachan said.

Indigenous people's rights have been a thorny issue for many years. Their main demand, put forward by a special caucus in the now expired Constitutional Assembly (CA), has been for identity-based federalism. The caucus demanded formation of provinces along ethnic lines that would give them a demographic advantage in the provinces.

But the State Restructuring Commission (SRC), given the responsibility to come up with a federalism model, failed to reach a consensus.

The report from the majority proposed 11 states based on single-identity. The minority report proposed six states not based on ethnicity.

Although an alliance of two-thirds of CA members formed in support of the single-identity based federalism, the body dissolved before the issue reached a full vote.

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Reader Comments
  • shanta pahariJanuary 28, 2013 @ 07:01:04AM

    thank pahari haru lae

  • M.L. FrancisAugust 22, 2012 @ 12:08:34PM

    I appreciate the good news that are published in your esteemed Journal. It is my hope that this would continue to be the case in the coming months and years as well

  • Dirgha Raj PrasaiAugust 21, 2012 @ 10:08:48PM

    It is a matter of grief that the money-minded so-called ingeginious heads are going to defame this pious country. Christian missions have afforded the expensive lifestyle of Congress politicians the culprit man former minister Narhari Acharya, Prof. Krishna Hachethu- most suspicious man), the well-known communal-Krishna Bhattacham, antinationalist Prof. Krishna Khanal, Pro-Indian Prof. Lokraj Baral, Hari Sharma, Bishnu Sapkota, communal man Angkaji Sherpa among others. There are some activists of Civil Society. Syam Shrestha, KB Bhattacan, Padmaratna Tuladhar, Gauri Pradhan-(Brother in law of Padmarana Tuladhar) , Ashok Rai, Angkaji Sherpa and his groups including such culprits and some former ministers that receive dollars. It is understood that the countries investing in these matters are Britain, Norway, Switzerland and India. The issue of federalism is creating instability in the nation. The symptoms of disintegration can be seen in federalism. The nation is about to be divided into pieces before our very eyes. 'Ethnic marginalization has been exacerbated by the Maoist to weaken the canter and get support especially from Janajaties. They have pressed our every social fault line without any regard to the negative effects on the nation. The nonsense suspicious PM of Nepal-Baburam Bhattarai is asupporter of Christian and then he is lifting the Indeginious groups to break Nepal. withiout punishment such traitors, Nepal can't safe. OK ? Dirgha Raj Pasai Kathmandu

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