Megalith to Chorten Speak up for the Khas



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In northwest Nepal

lives a group that is

economically

backward, socially

oppressed, and

psychologically

pressured. The Khas

ofJumla are a group

that fell through the

cracks of history.

by Dor Bahadur Bista




Khas





Y

ou wouldn't know it when you meet them today, but the Khas people of jumla District are descendants of proudrulersofan empire that once stretched all the way from here to Kashmir, and from the Tibetan plateau to the inner tarai. The Khas are the progenitors of the Thakuri-Chhetri and of some of the hill Bahuns who traveled eastward to conquer the lands that would ultimately form the Kingdom on Nepal. The Nepali language,onceknownas Khas-kura, owes its origin to them, and the Khas al so lent thei r style of adopting Thakuri and Chhetri titles to other ethnic groups of the Nepali hills.

Despite the accomplished past with which they are associated, this once-proud people today survive asadocileand unaware class relegated to an undeveloped comer of the country, exploited by those who know better, and burdened by an identity crisis that is unique in all Nepal.

As an anthropologist who has studied and written about the people of Nepal for fou r decades, I have over the past three years been doing 'applied research' amongst these Khas of Jumla. My work proceeds under the umbrella of the Karnali Institute, based in

the Chaudabisa Valley, whose efforts have been geared to applying the theories of the social sciences and development studies to raise the social and economic conditions of the Khas community.


Above



and Right

Khas smoker

and Khas

schoolkids.

Working in Chaudabisa, it has become clear to me that sincere efforts to develop awareness, self-confidence and a sense of worth among backward populations immediately brings forth a reaction from the privileged classes. The more effective the

development activity, the more virulent and reactionary is the response. For an academician who decided to try and practise what he preached, it came as a shock to learn that the political, economic and priestly forces are predetermined to join hands to prevent empowerment of the downtrodden. This happens because true development work has the effect of snatching away privileges and income that these forces have enjoyed without




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