Tharus are native to the southern part of Nepal. In the 18th century, when autocratic rulers sought to consolidate their rule from Kathmandu over the rest of Nepal, Tharu lands were distributed as rewards to royal administrators and bureaucrats. Tharu groups themselves were categorized as Maasinya Matwali or “enslavable alcohol drinker” castes in the Muluki Ain or national code of 1854, which divided all of Nepali society into a caste-based hierarchy with separate rights for different groups. This left the majority of Tharus landless in their own homes. Systems of bonded labour, system called kamaiya and kamalari were introduced; in these systems, Tharu men and women were treated as commodities. They could be owned, bought, sold and exploited by “higher caste” landlords to work in the fields like oxen or other livestock. AFter great struggle, notably the Tharu andolans or movements of 2000, 2002, and 2006. Despite this, the Tharu community is still fighting for basic rights and services.
‘Tamasuk’ means deeds. People from my community placed their fingerprints on deeds in return for loans. They were never sure what they were signing on to. These deeds led to lifelong debts that were then passed down generations.
On 24 August, 2015, when protests against the constitution were sweeping parts of the country, in Tikapur, Kailali seven police officers, a young child were killed. In the reprisals that followed, more than fifty people from the area — all Tharu — were killed. The state terrorized the Tharu community through a campaign of illegal detention, extrajudicial killings and the burning of houses. I feel a need to contextualize my community’s anger and frustrations. I find strength in unearthing what has remained silent, especially in the media, the state, and civil society. On the ghailas [terracotta pots], I have carved words from a report on the incident produced by the Lawyer’s Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples and words from the new constitution.
Text extracted from the Lahurnip report:
The indigenous Tharu people were in peaceful protest demanding for a separate province on the basis of the equal rights of their indigenous, cultural, economical and geographical identity. During the peaceful protests, for demanding these rights the Government used force and later announced a curfew in the area targeting only a particular community, which is against the International Law. During the Investigation it was found that the unnecessary suppression was so high by the government that their community had to flee and migrate from their own place.
Text extracted from the new constitution:
According to constitution number 18 –Right to Equality
The State will not differentiate within its republic according to caste, economical status, religion which is not clear(detail) in another paragraph and is also not applied in practice.