Social Problem

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CHAPTER 3 SOCIAL COMPOSITION OF THE P OPULATION: CASTE/ETHNICITY AND RELIGION IN NEPAL - Dr.Dilli Ram Dahal*

3.1

Introduction

In Nepal, though the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) already conducted ten decennial censuses since 1911, the taking of census considering the social components of population such as language, religion and ethnic/ caste groups is relatively a recent phenomenon. The inclusion of these social components in the Nepali census gradually started along with the advent of democratic revolutions in Nepal. The democratic revolution in Nepal in 1950(which threw the autocratic Rana regime) motivated to include two important social components in the census taking; the 1952/54 census provided information on language (on the basis of mother tongue) and religion. The other important social component such as caste/ethnicity was included only in the 1991 census after the onset of democracy in Nepal in 1990 (the king became the constitutional monarch). There could be several reasons why the CBS has remained little skeptical throughout its history in providing such important data on language, religion and caste/ethnicity. • Sensitive Nature of the Data: The Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) is a government organization. Before 1950, the Rana government wanted to show Nepal as a homogenous country in terms of language, religion and ethnic/caste structure. The government advocated the single language and religion policy within the framework of larger Hindu nationalism and ideals. Considering the sensitive nature of the data, which could harm the larger Hindu nationalist sentiments, the government did not encourage the CBS to publish such sensitive data, though the CBS started collecting such data since the 1911 census in different formats. The CBS continued collecting the caste/ethnicity data up to the 1952/54 census but they never published them officially. Not only that the CBS simply deleted the question column on caste/ethnicity in the 1961 , 1971 and 1981 censuses, considering such data are not very useful for planning purposes. • Politically Unstable Government: After 1950, the frequent changes in the government structure and the short- life of the elected democratic government in 1959-60 could not provide enough space for the people. The Panchayat regime (1960-1990) absolutely maintained Hindu supremacy and values and did not provide space for the participatory *

Dr. Dahal is Professor of Anthropology at C enter for Nepal and Asian Studies (CENAS), Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal.

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political culture of people considering their language, religion and culture. So it is natural that the democratic government formed after 1990 encouraged the CBS to provide information on caste / ethnicity in Nepal. • Macro policy and lack of vision in understanding Nepali society and culture : Even today, many politicians, planners and academics think that the development of Nepal is possible only from the macro perspective. Many of them believe that detailed information on various groups of people could lead towards disintegration than integration of Nepal. Because of this kind of pungent feeling of national integration and vision of development, there is still a strong tendency in Nepal to provide information on macro framework, particularly about the Nepali society and culture or present development model as if all cultural groups are the same. In Nepal, every census is considered an improvement of the previous census in terms of providing scientific information to the people. But the census of 2001 has to face some serious problem in collecting the household- level individual data in many areas of Nepal. The CBS could not collect the household- level individual data in 80 villages of eight Maoist insurgency affected districts: Salyan, Kalikot, Jhapa, Surkhet, Mugu, Humla, Jumla , Dolpa and Sindhupalchok. The most affected district was Salyan where the CBS could provide the detailed household-level...
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