"Do not take away our homes from us" say Chepang indigenous families

Wednesday 12 August, 2020   |   Law and Human Rights

Print This   |   Font Size + -

Admin

Admin

indigenousvoice

"Do not take away our homes from us" say Chepang indigenous families

No country for Indigenous Chepang

Indigenous Chepang people are now up in arms against the government after their houses were burnt down by the Chitwan National Park (CNP), and after the death of Raj Kumar Chepang at the hands of a Nepal Army team patrolling the protected jungle. They say they are agitated not just by the recent attacks on them, but by a history of systematic injustice and exclusion.

To help understand why Chepang people feel so excluded and wronged, Indigenous Voice has presented the personalized stories of two poor and landless Chepang people living in the Kusum Khola area of Chitwan.

Som Bahadur Praja

I was born in 2001 B.S. All my life, I have been a landless squatter. My grandfather did not have land to his name. Nor did my father legally own land. When I was just 11 years old, our house built on public land was swept away by flood. Our family then migrated to Jutpani area of Chitwan district in search of a new home. In Jutpani, we settled down on the banks of a river. We did not have our own land to cultivate, so we began working as agriculture laborers.

We settled down on the banks of a river. We did not have our own land to cultivate, so we began working as agriculture laborers.

After my father's death, our family split. I left Jutpani area for Samitar in Korak. My younger brother went up to Siddhi village in Chitwan. Korak was also vulnerable to flooding. During one monsoon season, my house submerged under water and I began looking for a new place to settle down. That was when I heard about Kusum Khola. Someone told me: there is a vast area of free and fertile land in Kusum Khola, where landless people can live forever. So, I migrated to Kusum Khola in 2053 B.S.

I have had seven children. But my oldest son is no longer with me. He died some nine years ago. I still do not know the cause of his death. He had gone to jungle to bring fuelwood that he could sell and pay off the loan, which he had taken to buy meat for Dashain festival. While cutting fuelwood with an axe, he began vomiting blood and died shortly afterwards. His wife is now working in the Gulf. His children have left us. Now I and my wife are living alone.

I recently suffered from tuberculosis. After taking medicine for nine months, I recovered but the disease left me too weak to work. I cannot work. Managing two meals a day has been a huge challenge for me. To add to my woes, the local administration has repeatedly tried to destroy my house.

We Chepang people have not demanded electricity, drinking water, road or hospital from the government. We have only one request to the government: don't demolish our shelters, don't make us homeless time and again ! But the government does not listen to us.

Flood has caused trouble for me all my life. Two years ago, my house in Kusum Khola was destroyed by flood. Then, the Madi Municipality promised to build house for landless Chepang people in a nearby village called Rai Khola. But the municipality only provided land. I built house on my own. But the Chitwan National Park authorities are threatening to drive us from here as well.

We Chepang people have not demanded electricity, drinking water, road or hospital from the government. We have only one request to the government: don't demolish our shelters, don't make us homeless time and again ! But the government does not listen to us.

 

Dip Bahadur Chepang

I am 51 years old. After my house was destroyed by flood in Lothar of Makawanpur district, I moved to Kusumkhola area of Chitwan in 2053 B.S. When I came to Kusum Khola, it was hardly habitable. The place was in the middle of a dense jungle of bush. We constantly lived in the fear of being attacked by wild animals.  

However hostile Kusum Khola was, I settled down there. I had nowhere else to go. I raised my four children there. My house was destroyed by wild animals time and again. Whenever I went to the jungle to bring timber to rebuild my house, I was chased away by the army. On two occasions, they chased me to my house and demolished it.

Kusumkhola is so remote that we cannot buy even paracetamol or Jeevan jal. We have to walk two kilometers to buy essentials like salt. We have to cross many seasons rivers to reach there.

In 2058 B.S., the Chitwan National Park authorities destroyed our housed with 12 elephants. They set fire to our houses. We narrowly escaped the arson attack. We had no homes, so we lived in tents by the river for seven months. Life was extremely difficult for us. Left with no choices, we returned to Kusum Khola. 

Kusumkhola is so remote that we cannot buy even paracetamol or Jeevan jal. We have to walk two kilometers to buy essentials like salt. We have to cross many seasons rivers to reach there. During elections, politicians come and promise to protect us. But they do not care about us after elections.

(Stories of Som Bahadur Praja and Dip Bahadur Chepang were originally published in Naya Patrika. These are just summarized transitions.)


Conversations
Total Comments:

Related Posts

Books

  • UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (IN VARIOUS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE)

    UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (IN VARIOUS INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE)

    Read More
  • परम्परागत संस्थाः एक अध्ययन (नेवार, थकाली, माझी, धिमाल, थारु, ह्योल्मो, ज्यापू र मगर)

    परम्परागत संस्थाः एक अध्ययन (नेवार, थकाली, माझी, धिमाल, थारु, ह्योल्मो, ज्यापू र मगर)

    Read More

Helping Hands

Like us on Facebook