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New Federal map, where do Himali people appear?

Sources "The Himalayan Times" 12th March 08, (Typed; Tshering T. Sherpa)

Stan Stevens

The ink is now dry on the landmark agreement pledging implementation of a federal system with recognition of autonomous states that take into account geography, language, history, and the viability of indigenous nationalities. This may mark a turning point in a history marked by marginalization and discrimination against indigenous peoples. It may also begin to meet the commitments made by Nepal last year as the first Asian


country to ratify the 1989 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of the International Labor Organization.
ILO 169 established international standards for recognition of human rights of indigenous peoples which include respect for “the integrity of their values, practices, and institutions of these peoples,” “ownership and possession” of their lands, and their right to participate in the “use, management, and conservation “of natural resources. These and other rights to equality, self-governance, and self-determination based on culture and customary territory have been strengthened by the 2007 UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A federal map which includes not only a Madesh    state but    gerional political administration that takes into account the aspirations of the Limbuwan ,Khambuwan, Tamsaling, Magarat,Thaaruhat and Tamuwan    would be a significant step towards meeting these goals and standards. What will the map of federal Nepal look like? Many of the maps that have been produced thus far by proponents of federalism include autonomous region of states for indigenous peoples. Sadly, all fail to take into account the indigenous peoples of the Himalyas.
Where are the maps of a federal Nepal that show a great northern Himalayan Autonomous Region as well as a Madesh one? Why do none of these maps show an autonomous region for the Himali people of the high Himalayas? Why do the indigenous peoples of the north continue to be politically and geographically invisibles? Of the 59 indigenous peoples recognized by the government, 17 inhabit the high Himalayas while others are yet to be recognized. The most well-known are the Sherpas. The area they inhabit stretches the length of Nepal along the Tibetan border- from Humla to the high valleys below Kanchanjunga. It comprises over 17 per cent of the total land area of the country. Himali’s inhabit the high mountain and plateau above 2,000m. They all cope with challenges of high-altitude and share a common geography, economy, development challenges and opportunities; They share a common history of migration from Tibet; and a history of two countries of discrimination and marginalization. Recently, they have shared a common experience of assimilation pressures in a society which attempted to create a new national identity defined in terms of the values and beliefs of the Hindu society.
The Buddhist people of the high Himalayan are well aware of these geographic, historical, cultural, and economic commonalities. And they are awakening to the logic of sharing a political future. Is a Himali Autonomous Region a legitimate aspiration under the federal system of “historical background, language, geography, region and economic resources and viability of the ………..indigenous nationalities”? A strong case can be made on all counts. In some ways a stronger case fro a Himali Autonomous Region can be made than for some other proposed ethnically-based federal states. This is not the ethnically “infused and indivisible social mosaic” that may characterized some other parts. Himali people constitute around 95 percent of the population of the areas being envisioned as Himali Autonomous Region.
Is a Himali Autonomous Region viable? The short answer is yes. The natural resources to power economic development are enormous. Here is one of the planet’s greatest tourist magnets, with future development potential limited only by the concerns of its residents to protect their cultural and environmental heritage. High-altitude herbs, fungi (Yar-cha-Gun-bu) and animal products (musk,”Yak”cheese-now imported to the US) have tremendous international market potentials. There is possible economic opportunity from cross-border trade and transit with Tibet. And there is revenue from hydroelectricity if agreements were reached that some revenue from the Himalayan Rivers should returns to Himalayan people.
There will be challenges to link the region in terms of communication and transport. But in the 21st century these linkages no linger simply move up and down valleys-not in the age of aircraft, mobile phone, and the internet. The Buddhism people of the northern high Himalaya have been nearly invisible to Nepal’s Hindu society. It would be an injustice of Himalayan proportions if they remain so while the map of a federal Nepal is drawn.

Stevens, Associate professor of Geography, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, conducted his PhD research in Khumbu Nepal. Email:-    sstevens@geo.umass.edu

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