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Modernization, the State, and the Construction of a Tharu Identity in Nepal

  • Arjun Guneratne

Extract

In the lowlands of nainital district in northwestern Uttar Pradesh, occupying discrete and adjacent territories, live two ethnic groups known as the Tharu and the Buxa.1 Both are indigenous to the area. They have much in common, in their dress, language, and ritual practices, and their origin myths even posit a shared ancestry for both groups (Hasan 1979). Despite these similarities, the two groups consider themselves to be distinct peoples or jāt (Stewart 1865, 148; Hasan 1979); they do not intermarry, although elopements (socially disapproved unions) are not uncommon. Both are listed as Scheduled Tribes in the Indian Constitution, a status that entitles them to special protection and benefit in education and government service. The Buxas live in the westernmost part of the district, while the Rana Tharu to their east also live in large numbers in the adjacent Nepali district of Kanchanpur.

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