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Guest Column

Respecting Indigenous Knowledge

Bojindra Prasad Tulachan

Hira ThapaOne of the issues during the decade-long political conflict between Maoists and the state is of displaced, dislocated and disadvantaged nationals’ inclusion at all levels for genuine democracy in Nepal. This might in true sense be the exposition of marginalized minorities’ such as dalits, women and children, Madhesis and indigenous nationals and respect for their knowledge and rights, their need for national development, and living as the first class citizens – no more triple ‘othering’: not from the government, not from the so called higher religions or castes and not within the very religious or cultural localities they are living in.

A big push from intelligentsias, all the concerned forums, I/NGOs and civil organizations including voices of voiceless nationals in the new constitution are doomed to failure. Drafting a new constitution, building peace process to a logical conclusion and restructuring the country, and distributing the power from central to local level is further a Big Failure because of power dimensions, and their post-inter/intra colonial concept, developing hegemonic discourses Therefore, inclusion of suppressed and oppressed nationals and their emancipation in all forms. Great debate, discussion and roundtable talk have now been greatly realized among all political parties, civil society, I/NGOs and in international arena for sustainable economic growth and global development prospective.

Flashing back to the monarchial regime, government policies during that period including school education, for an instance, have promoted Hinduism as parameters of civilization and development while the least Hinduised groups in and out were regarded minimal, submissive and primitive by nature. Economic prosperity and development programs largely subdued by so-called elites have bypassed the disadvantaged and unwanted nationals in a number of ways. Moreover, the regional and local development projects, plans and policies of the nationals made have further displaced them and dispatched greater disparity in Nepalese society and even after the dethronement of the monarchy, access to planning institutions for subaltern groups is still out of reach, acting as that of very autocrats in one way or the other. This is not other than the marginalized minorities’ lack of inclusion based on their academic performance in various arenas.

The politics-led plans and policies, development practices and approaches of the past have marginalized Madhesis, women and children, ethnic and indigenous groups. The first Eight five –year- plan (1992 – 97) developed by democratic government elected through popular elections following the restoration of democracy in 1990 could not officially acknowledge the existence of suppressed portion of humanity until 1997. Therefore, the plans and projects brought into practice before were very impractical and unscientific to these groups. The Nepal government initiated plan for the ethnic groups only in the Ninth Plan (1997 -2002) even if the plan got introduced in 1956 for the first time in Nepal. It is obvious that the plan made lacked quantitative and qualitative targets as per thought. Similarly, the four-pillar poverty reduction strategy, social inclusion and good governance are the targets made in the Tenth Plan (2002-07). But because of civil unrest between the government and the Maoists initiating in 1996, the royal takeover in 2005, instable governments time and again, there appears no more improvement as expected in socio-economic and political phenomena of the powerless, marginalized groups in the country.

Nepal’s national development processes have failed to include meaningful participation of indigenous nationalities. Hence, consultations with and participation of indigenous peoples are required to discuss their development priorities and involvement in planning besides building a partnership for effective implementation and evaluation. Ratified ILO Convention No. 169 by the Nepal government, and Article 7.1, the indigenous nationals have got the right to decide their own priorities for processes of development as it affects their lives, beliefs, institutions and spiritual well-being and the lands they occupy, and to exercise control, to the extent possible, over their own economic, social and cultural development (ILO, 1989). In addition, the Nepal government should guarantee their participation in formulating, implementing and evaluating plans and the programs for national and regional development which might affect them directly.

On the whole, enhancing these peoples’ progress in all the forms, it is required to reshuffle the traditional knowledge system and practice the cultural dimensions of economic growth and development to a greater extent. Subaltern cultures, knowledge and technologies are embedded with ecology, agriculture and handicrafts. These activities no doubt boost up the productivity and enhance the resilience of those groups. More importantly, their own knowledge system shall be the milestone to enhance their self-esteem, sense of unity in diversity and sustainable economic growth and development in Nepal.

(The author can be reached at: [email protected])

(Editor’s Note: Nepalis, wherever they live, as well as friends of Nepal around the globe are requested to contribute their views/opinions/recollections etc. on issues concerning present day Nepal to the Guest Column of Nepalnews. Length of the article should not be more than 1,000 words and may be edited for the purpose of clarity and space. Relevant photos as well as photo of the author may also be sent along with the article. Please send your write-ups to [email protected])

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