A sense of hope

Understanding post-federal dynamics among marginalised communities in Nepal's Tarai region


Nepal’s transition to federalism – which materialised after more than a decade of political instability fuelled by many social movements and violent protests, and the devastating impact of the 2015 earthquake followed by the border blockade – has created a shared sense of optimism and hope for the people. Many see the evolving federal system of governance as a genuine opportunity to address the long-standing grievances and marginalisation of various groups, regions and genders, and to strengthen good governance and state–citizen relations. However, the actual implementation of federalism, as the experiences of the first year indicate, is fraught with many barriers and challenges. Nepal’s long history of centralised governance and the continuation of historically institutionalised structural forms of inequality and exclusion still pose challenges for making federalism work for the empowerment of marginalised people living in marginalised communities. Therefore, it is imperative to identify the potential subnational conflict drivers, and to draw evidence to demonstrate how marginalisation is evolving in the new context and understand the key factors driving it.

This is the first part of an explorative study conducted in Nepal’s Tarai in order to understand the evolving context and the process of marginalisation. The second report, ‘Deepening Federalism: Post-federal analysis on marginalised communities in Nepal's Tarai region’, addresses the process of marginalisation in post-federal contexts in Nepal.

The fieldwork for this study was conducted over two weeks (January 2019) among the Tharu, Muslim and Madhesi Dalit communities in the three provinces.

Research suggests that federalism has opened up new political spaces and opportunities for the minority groups and created a heightened public expectation. The minority groups under this study, Madhesi Dalits, Muslims and Tharu, share a sense of both optimism and scepticism regarding the emerging post-federal contexts in their specific locales.