Social Science Baha

Unravelling the Mosaic: Spatial Dimensions of Ethnicity in Nepal

15 June, 2008

Pitamber Sharma
Unravelling the Mosaic: Spatial Dimensions of Ethnicity in Nepal

Nepal is a country of minorities. The ethnic problem in contemporary is basically a problem of identity, inequality of opportunities and discrimination at the hands of a state that has historically been partisan to the interests of upper-class Bahuns and Chhetris. The spatial distribution of population groups at the VDC level according to the 2001 census shows that major ethnic groups in the hills and mid- and far-western Tarai have geographical domains in which they form the dominant (but not necessarily the majority) groups. In the eastern Tarai, dominant language groups define geographical domains. But the Tarai is not a contiguous geographical, cultural and linguistic region. Migration in the last several decades has significantly affected regional ethnic/caste demography in the hills as well as the Tarai. As a result there is greater ethnic diversity particularly in the eastern hills and the Tarai. The implications of the ethnic/caste and linguistic mosaic of for the proposed restructuring of the country under federal lines are that federal units, however conceived, cannot but be multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic. Management and recognition of minority identity, rights and opportunities, inclusive development, and devolution of power to the lowest level are therefore the key concerns in addressing the question of ethnicity and federalism. Ethnic identity is only one part of the problem of ethnicity; the other part is the method, process and pace of development itself.

* * *

Listen to or Download lecture in audio format

Born in Phalebas Khanigaun in Parbat District in 1947, Pitamber Sharma, former Professor of Geography at Tribhuvan University, holds a PhD in urban and regional planning from Cornell University and is a graduate of  Edinburgh University and Tribhuvan University. The main areas of his professional interest include urbanisation and migration, mountain tourism and development, and economic and environmental planning. Among his publications are the recently released Unravelling the Mosaic: Spatial Aspects of Ethnicity in Nepal (2008), Market Towns in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas (2001), Tourism as Development (2000), and Urbanization in Nepal (1989).