Identity Crisis, Anarchy and Gargi’s Sentiments
Makawanpur Interrupted – Identity Crisis, Anarchy and My Sentiments
– Gargi Sharma
I was supposed to leave for Makawanpur today. It was a sudden decision from the central office. I had not asked people at home and I knew it would a shock. However, I will not get to go. Although I could have gone via Sisneri to avoid the anarchy created by the tharu identity crisis, I would have to step into Chitwan for work so my travel for now has been interrupted. Darn it I was excited!
Anyway, back to the Tharu identity Crisis. Looking closely at the cultural-geographical boundaries of Nepal, one will find that there is a distinction between Madhes itself and Bhitri Madhes. Valleys like Chitwan and Dang (where one argument follows that the Tharus hailed from) form a part of the inner terai marked by distinct cultural features from the bordering towns of Madhes. Arjun Gunaratne in Tharu ra Rajya (Tharus and the state), states that a very minimal number of Tharus reside in the Indo Nepal boarders. The Tharus that reside across the borders tend to identify themselves as the descendents of Sakyamuni Buddha whereas the ones in western Nepal mainly Chitwan see themselves as Hindus. Gunaratne however does not believe that the Western Rana, Dangaura and other Tharus have been what shrinivas calls Sanskritized -the Hinduism of the Tharus is also markedly different from the other castes of Nepal. It may seem from the discourses surrounding Tharus that they have what identity theorists term as “ambiguous identity”but the ordinance that has categorized Madhesis has classified them in terms of sharing the correlated ligual, cultural, regional space of Madhesh. According to the ordinance then the little number of Tharus sharing cultural and liguial similarities to the Tharus of say the lowlands near Naini taal would indeed be Madhesis. But then the Tharus of Dang with more cultural affinity to the hills of Nepal would not be Madhesis. So the anguish of “hill Tharus” (used here to refer to the Tharus who are culturally different from the ones who have cultural affinities to those residing in the Terai of India and Bangladesh) is understandable. It must be taken into account that Madhes is a cultural distinction and not a geographical one.
The larger problem is that of categorization. Although the Madhesi movement brought to the forefront the plight of Nepali Madhesis, it made stark the issue of ethnic identity which many understand can downplay nationalism. The further categorizations (which will help increase madhesi representation) can only bring forth a chaos of identity issues which in a multicultural, multi ethnic country like Nepal causes sentimental anarchy. What I think is that the categorizations should not have been made.
Identity can be a subjective issue and a sentimental one and fixing it into boundaries and criterion can only be a sticky option. I detest the idea of “ek madhesek prades” and also the idea of “tharuhat rajya” and I don’t support the idea of Khas pradesh either. Identity politics shifts the national concern from issues of development and progress towards power play and anarchy. Its up to the leaders to pull the nation away from sticky issues of ethnic, geographical and cultural identities and commit to a substantial development.
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