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Tharu Autonomy: When the Slaves Rise Up on the Nepal Plains

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Post 13 May 2004, 19:02
From A World to Win News Service

Tharu Autonomy: When the Slaves Rise Up on the Nepal Plains

Revolutionary Worker #1240, May 16, 2004, posted at

We received the following from A World to Win News Service:

03 May 2004. A World to Win News Service. Since the People's War began in Nepal eight years ago, it has shaken the entire foundation of the country and stirred the very soul of its people.

In the western lowlands of the country, the Tharu ethnic community has long been dispossessed of its land and the Tharu people have been turned into serfs by wealthier migrants from the hilly regions to the north. These powerful landlords, or Zamindars ,as they are called, are more often than not members of so-called higher caste groups, mainly Brahmin and Kshetri, who also have access to political power. These Zamindars wield positions in the bureaucracy, the military and business. Moreover, they control the mass media. In short, they represent the most important section of the ruling class in Nepal.

Having appropriated the land from the Tharu community, the Zamindars subjugated the Tharus and turned them into bonded laborers (in return for food, clothing and shelter) on the very land they previously owned. This is a system of slavery known as the kamaiya system.

The Tharus are an aboriginal people who inhabit the western plains of Nepal. They constitute a sizeable minority of the population, a national minority (around 1.2 million), who at one time were self-sufficient farmers. Several years ago National Geographic magazine graphically portrayed these people as exotic beings with their very quaint customs and traditions. For many years the Anti-Slavery Society, based in Britain, has been trying to reach a wider audience about the Kamaiya system in Nepal. In 1997, the Times of London carried an exposure on the plight of the Tharu people under the Kamaiya system.

Since the People's War reached the Terai (lowlands), it has greatly inspired the masses of the people, especially the dispossessed and the downtrodden, who rose up to reclaim their ancestral land. The programme of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) calling for the seizure and redistribution of these lands found resonance among the underdogs in the southwestern plains of Nepal. The party's words and deeds aroused a great deal of revolutionary enthusiasm among these formerly deprived, who readily joined Maoist cadres and the fighters of the People's Liberation Army. At the outset of the People's War, the party announced its programme, which includes the slogans, "Land to the tiller" and "Land to the landless." For the first time, women as well as men were able to own land. Indeed, this programme, part and parcel of the new democratic revolution led by the CPN (Maoist), the first stage of a revolution which will eventually open the doors to socialism, was given effect and made meaningful through the People's War. It has proved to be the real harbinger of freedom from oppression and slavery for the people of the Terai... continue this article here
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