Nepali Times Asian Paints
Constitution Supplement
'We are sons of Newars'

What was your profession before becoming a CA member?
I used to farm and also work as a carpenter. I used to make doors, windows, tables, benches, beds and cupboards.

How did you feel when you got nominated for the CA?
Obviously, I was happy.

How many are you in the CA?
I am the only CA member from my community. Thamis are not even in higher posts in the bureaucracy or security bodies.

What is the total population of Thamis?
According to the 1991 census, they are 13,000. But it is not the correct data. They are about 80,000 across the country who live in 55 districts. Thamis live in 22 VDCs in Dolakha. They can also be found in Sindhupalchowk and Ramechhap.

What do Thamis want from the state?
We lagged behind in terms of economy, politics and education due to the centralised unitary system. To improve the plight of Thamis, we need an autonomous region with political prerogatives in the regions where they are in the majority.

In which proposed provinces are you?
I am in Tamsaling province. But we want a separate autonomous region within the province combining 22 VDCs of Dolakha and 13 VDCs of Sindhupalchok. A Thami should be the chief of the region and others should be given lower positions only.

What if other communities demand similar identities and prerogatives?
Other communities have the right to demand their identity. There are about 800 Surel in Thami autonomous region. We can create an autonomous unit at the VDC or settlement level. They should be given autonomous regions where they are in the majority.

Constitution 2010, Nepali Times coverage of issues related to writing the new constitution

1. pravasi nepali
This comment has been removed by the moderator.

2. Sagar Onta
I respect the diversity of Nepal, but its just not feasible to provide autonomous region for every small group in Nepal. The problem with Nepali attitude is that, this kind of issue should have been resolved two years ago when CA was formed. The fact that CA members still don't understand the infeasibility of such demand shows why things are not progressing in Nepal.

3. ripvanwinkle
i agree with sagar. and its quite clear that the maoist have been promising a lot of things to get support and leverage. im just waiting for it to backfire. and since most of the maosit colaborador are the one who believe that voilence is the only way. once the maoist take power its will be a perfect recipe for genocide.

4. Arthur
The interview mentions that even for 800 Surel in a Thami autonomous region, an autonomous VDC or autonomous settlement(s) could be established. This confirms that autonomy at different levels is feasible for almost all communities and conflicts can be avoided.

Naturally smaller communities can only have less extensive forms of autonomy at lower levels than a full autonomous republic or state with a right to self-determination. But there is no reason why any settlement that speaks a different language or has a different culture from its neighbours should not be able to make its own local decisions on matters that can be decided at that level instead of being forced to accept the decisions of a larger but different community that has a majority at a higher level, while also being part of the higher level region participating in decisions at that level along with the rest, and all being part of the same country making decisions that apply to Nepal as a whole.

What is unfeasible is forcing every small or large group to pretend that it the same as everyone else.

Respect for autonomy results in the differences becoming less important over time until "identity" becomes completely irrelevant. Oppression of minorities results in them clinging to separate identities for much longer.

The purpose of autonomy is not to divide communities but to unite them by helping the differences become less important over time instead of hindering that natural development.

5. timothy

the only way to empower small marginalised groups is to devolute power to the local government and not to create racial states(naming by ethninic names). Let us give maximum power to the VDCs and NPs.Name the states by cultural geographic names ,boundriesoften overlapping then wo,nt matter. Then the bone of contention is minimized.


6. Arthur
timothy, I agree that the most important thing is to decentralize power to local communities. In the case of communities of different nationalities, autonomy is a more extensive form of decentralization than devolution. Devolution implies that the powers are delegated from the higher level to the lower, so the higher level can always overide its delegate if it considers this necessary. Autonomy implies that the lower level has its own "autonomous" powers that cannot simply be overidden. (Naturally not all powers can be exercised autonomously).

As for names, and overlapping boundaries, that is up to the people concerned. Others deciding for them cannot minimize contention.

7. Rambhakta
I could not understand the relevance of the title "We are sons of Newars" for this interview. In the interview published here, Mr Thami never mentioned that Thamis are sons of Newars. Can someone explain what is the meaning behind this title?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)