Sufferings of indigenous people

April 7, 2009 at 9:19 am 2 comments

Sufferings of indigenous people

By SORREL RETCHFORD

Thomas Jefferson’s declaration “that all men (and women) are      created equal” is finally going global with mixed success. Most people now have the right to vote freely but that’s not enough if governments then trample on basic rights. Take Nepalese example: in the recent days there were mounting protests from Tharu community. Let’s not look this issue from the point of autonomy and delineation of states. The roots lie in their hundreds years of sufferings.Tharu people are scattered in the Tarai-belt from east to west, showing variations in their language, customs, traditions, music, dance etc., but one thing remains common, that is they are mainly farmers. Tharu people I met in Sauraha were quite different from those in Dang, even the Tharus of Dang and Deukhuri differ, though they belong to the same district. What’s worth noticing here is, mostly those residing in the western Tarai are backward and suppressed.

Tharu is predominantly patriarchal community but the supremacy of males seems only perfunctory. From the point of ethnology this indigenous group is rich. Their faith though seems similar to Hinduism as they utter the names of Hindu deities in their prayers and women worship Krishna, is very distinct. In their prayer room they have mud model of horse and a deity with human features. Their wall paintings that they worship picture boats, trees and dancing men and women. Tharu language is written in Devnagari, still is not only a dialect. This well developed language is rich with ancient stories of gods, their mythic origin, history, folklores and legends. They have songs for all seasons, festivals and occasions. The music they play and the dance they perform vary with feasts. Dashain (their Dashain is a day ahead of actual Dashain) and Maghi, their New Year’s Day, are two most important festivals. Rosary of coins, glass and metal bangles, stone necklace, silver armlets and anklets are their jeweler items women use. Women wear long skirt-like garment consisting of many pleats in the front; and a backless blouse. Men on the other hand used to wear vest and loincloth in the past but now prefer shorts and shirts. By tradition they are farmers and everything is a ritual for them – sowing seeds, weeding crop, harvesting and storing grains.

A man from Tharu community who works for the landlords in the western lowlands of Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur is termed as a kamaiya and Tharu woman as a kamlari.  Almost every house in places like Dang and Deukhuri where the practice is rife, has at least one of the Tharu women or girls indentured as domestic laborer. They are even sent to cities like Kathmandu and Butwal to work as domestic servant. The deal is made in Maghi, the Maghe Sankrati feast of Tharus for the kamaiya and kamlari, and they have to work days and nights for an entire year till the contract lasts.

One can conceive the emptiness in the life of the Tharu serfs, who are deprived of education and forced to labor in alien places.

Khima, a Tharu girl of 13 years, worked as a bonded laborer for three years in Kathmandu and was sent home when her monthly cycle began. How could the Brahmin family keep the “unclean girl”? Her master’s daughters, many years older than her, had asked, “What will you do in your village?” She was confused for a while then blushed. “I’ll marry.”  There, she was given an opportunity to study, dress well and eat good food. She performed all the household chores like washing, cleaning etc. though she seemed satisfied with her life. She even speaks broken English to visitors and says her new home is better than the previous one.

Back at home, her alcoholic father usually beats her mother who works from dawn to dusk to earn a living for the family of eight. No one assists her except Khima. The little girl wakes up before dawn, goes to forest to collect firewood, comes home at noon, hurriedly gulps her food and then takes the cattle to the pastures.

Sunpure does not remember what he said to his master when he was his kamaiya many years ago, but his master, a retired journalist, can still enumerate those words: my wife has given birth to your kamlari. The bareness of statement shook the educated man nevertheless what could he do to eradicate the social malaise. If he did not employ the Tharu man as his kamaiya, the poor family would starve. Later he used his connections to register barren land in Sunpure’s name and employed him on the basis of 50-50 sharing of cultivation. Land was his and labor was to be done by Sunpure. This practice is rife amongst the Tharus of west-Tarai, which looks like leasing farm land, however, what’s frustrating is, they have to do landlord’s work without any remuneration.

When we look at the ground realities, politically empowering them is not enough. More Tharus in the state mechanism in general, would benefit on personal level only. The most important thing is to provide them job-oriented training and education. Similarly, something must be done for their poverty reduction such as helping them to buy seeds or cattle.

From my observation I have come to realize, those people are outcast who are poor and illiterate. I found rich and educated Tharu sharing the same kitchen with privileged class. And I saw no eyebrows raised when the Tharu CA member had access inside Brahmin’s house.

source::http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=154091

 

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  • […] Madhesi – United We Stand added an interesting post today on Sufferings of indigenous peopleHere’s a small readingSufferings of indigenous people By SORREL RETCHFORD Thomas Jefferson’s declaration “that all men (and women) are      created equal” is finally going global with mixed success. Most people now have the right to vote freely but that’s not enough if governments then trample on basic rights. Take Nepalese example: in the recent days there were mounting protests from Tharu community. Let’s not look this issue from the point of autonomy and delineation of states. The roots lie in their hundreds […]

  • 2. Topics about Dance » Sufferings of indigenous people  |  April 7, 2009 at 10:34 am

    […] Madhesi – United We Stand put an intriguing blog post on Sufferings of indigenous peopleHere’s a quick excerptSufferings of indigenous people By SORREL RETCHFORD Thomas Jefferson’s declaration “that all men (and women) are      created equal” is finally going global with mixed success. Most people now have the right to vote freely but that’s not enough if governments then trample on basic rights. Take Nepalese example: in the recent days there were mounting protests from Tharu community. Let’s not look this issue from the point of autonomy and delineation of states. The roots lie in their hundreds […]

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