The political upheavals in the months preceding the expiration of the Constituent Assembly in May 2012, as well as the heated protests and counter protests regarding federalism and the nature of the Nepali State, demonstrated a remarkable expression of Tharu solidarity that took many actors by surprise. In Kailali district in the Far Western Region, large sustained demonstrations demanding a Tharuhat State were carried out by a range of Tharu organizations (including actors from a wide range of political parties and organisations) coinciding with the so-called ‘United Far West’ protests. Interestingly, several members of political parties were seen to disregard their respective parties’ public stance on this issue. At the same time, in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts Tharu protests resulted in clashes with the Nepal Police and other identity based groups (particularly anti-Federalist activist groups).
This Field Bulletin examines the motivations and history of Tharu activism in Nepal. It aims to demonstrate that their recent protests and demands for federalism are simply the latest phase of what has been a constant struggle for recognition of their distinct identity since the beginning of the Nepali State. The Field Bulletin describes the Tharus’ continued efforts to culturally and politically organize themselves in response to what they perceive as a history of exclusion. As a trend, the broader Tharu movement has become steadily more political and sporadically yet consistently more confrontational since its beginnings in the 1950s.
In the context of Nepal’s current peace process, this Field Bulletin sets out some of the structural issues that have driven the struggle by Tharu communities, which will need to be addressed if peace in Nepal is to become sustainable. In many senses the Tharu movement has been emblematic of the experiences and challenges of many so-called ‘excluded groups’ in Nepal. Lastly, this Field Bulletin will also examine some of the divisions and differing aims within the broader Tharu movement to underscore that it represents a wide range of issues and occasionally competing aims.