Indigenous Tamang people face a threat of being cut off from cultural roots

Monday 17 February, 2020   |   Socio-cultural Identity

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Indigenous Tamang people face a threat of being cut off from cultural roots

SUMI DARLAMI in Kathmandu

Nepal is hailed by conservationists and environmentalists the world over for enclosing nearly one fourth of its geographical area as national parks, wildlife reserves and buffer zones. But little do they know about the cost at which Nepal has created such an expansive network of protected areas.

Nepal has already displaced many indigenous communities from their ancestral villages in order to expand conservation areas, often cutting them off from their cultural roots. And now, more villages of indigenous people face a threat of displacement in the name of a national park expansion.

This is not the story of a village tucked away in a far-flung corner of the country. This is the story of five villages that are located inside Kathmandu, the federal capital of the country.

Nepal has already displaced many indigenous communities from their ancestral villages in order to expand conservation areas, often cutting them off from their cultural roots.

A government committee has recommended human settlements of Chilaune, Kune, Mulakharka, Okhreni and Sano Okhreni be relocated from the inside of Shivapuri National Park. Ever since the report was leaked, indigenous Tamang people living in these villages, which are just about 20 km from Singha Durbar, have been living in fear of displacement.

In its report, the committee has claimed that people living in these villages have been encroaching upon the land of Shivapuri National Park and polluting Sundarijal, the source of water that people drink in most parts of the Kathmandu valley.

The report has found takers in local governments, too. Ram Manandhar, the ward chairperson of Gokarneshwor-1, says that relocation of these settlements would be a win-win situation for both the park as well as local people.

Our ancestors protected the Shivapuri forest, now the State wants us to go away. Government authorities tell us that we do not belong here. 

Some local people also support the report, but they want to be relocated to convenient areas with compensation. However, others are adamant about not leaving, arguing that they have close cultural ties with their villages. They say that to leave their ancestral villages would be akin to forgetting their history, religion, culture and ethnic identity.

Our ancestors protected the Shivapuri forest, now the State wants us to go away. Government authorities tell us that we do not belong here. 

She adds: "We actually own this forest because it has been a source of our livelihood for ages. We are not a threat to the forest. In fact, we have always guarded trees and plants here. So, we refuse to leave where we have been living".

Karma Lama, 81, says:  "I was born here and I want to die here. I cannot live in the city. If I am taken to Kathmandu, I will suffocate and die".

-Indigenous Feature Service


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