Deepening federalism

Post-federal analysis on marginalised communities in Nepal's Tarai region

Summary:

This report uses the experiences of the Madhesi Dalit, Muslim and Tharu communities in Nepal's Terai region to analyse the dynamics of marginalisation and opportunities post-federalism. It is the second of two reports based on a study conducted by the Sundar Santa Nepal project.

Madhesi Dalit, Muslim and Tharu communities are the three major marginalised groups in the Terai region. These three groups share some common forms of marginalisation and exclusion: socio-economic deprivation, exclusion from the state power and lower political representations. They also have group-specific experiences of discrimination and injustice, and stories of collective struggles for their rights.

Poverty, landlessness, lack of land-ownership certificates and citizenship cards, higher drop-out rates of schoolchildren and early marriage are some of the major problems faced by the Madhesi Dalits in the study areas. The state, mainstream political parties and development agencies have failed to address the collective marginalisation of the Madhesi Dalits.

If federalism is to work for empowering the Madhesi Dalits, given the stronghold of the caste system and patron–client relations between the Dalits and the dominant groups, then the recent configurations of power relations, which seem to be working in favour of the traditional dominant caste groups, and continued complete exclusion of Dalits from the meaningful positions of power warrant serious attention from policy-makers and development agencies.

For Muslims, their collective vulnerability as a religious minority and political marginality is a major concern. Similarly, socio-economic deprivation, recognition of Madrasa education as an alternative form of formal education by the state and ‘perceived’ insecurity are other important concerns of the Muslim communities. Muslims feel that non-Muslims, particularly the dominant groups, always view them with suspicion and doubt that they are either full ‘Nepali’ or ‘Madhesi’ or ‘nationalist’. For a religious minority, such lack of trust has serious social and political consequences, including discrimination and various forms of violence against them.