Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pluralism, Ethnic Groups and Demographics

Cultural Key: Pluralism in Nepal

Because Nepal is a democracy, all members of the society are inherently entitled to the same basic rights and opportunities. However, some racial minorities maintain and promote their cultural distinctiveness. The challenge for the state is “allowing cultural differences to persist without violatnig common and socially defined rights... the challenge consists of finding a viable compromise, for the state as well as the citizens between equal rights and the right to be different.”

In Nepal, membership in distinct ethnic, religious and cultural group is are applauded. Freedom is granted to preserving diverse heritages, languages and religions. There are several cultural categories of people in Nepal:

ParbatiyasGroups considered caste Hindus, the “untouchables” 39%
JanajatisHill and moutain ethnic groups22%
NewarsFollowers of both Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions5%
Madhisespeople of the plains (include caste Hindus, Muslims and plains ethnic groups)32%
OtherMarwari, Bangali, Sikhs, Christians and “unidentified” caste and ethnic groups2%

From 1768 through 1951, the people of Nepal were categorized into 5 distinct hierarchical ranks. Now the castes do not formally exist, but there is a fairly uniform order of caste ranking today that is prominent:

1. Caste group that wears a sacred thread known as tagadhari
2. Groups of ‘non-enslavable’ liquor consuming caste, called masine matwali
3. Groups of ‘enslavable’ liqour consuming caste, called masine matwali
4. Impure but ‘touchables’
5. Untouchable castes (the dalits)--economically marginalized and discriminated against

While the caste system still exists, the restoration of the multiparty democratic system has allowed many dissenting voices of different communities to surface.

Nationality: Nepalese
Population: 29 billion (2011) or #41 in the world
  • Growth rate: 1.596% (2011), doubles approximately every 30 years
Age structure:
  • 0-14 years: 34.6%
  • 15-64 years: 61.1%
  • 65 years and over: 4.4%
  • Life expectancy: 66.16 years
Ethnic groups:
  • Chhettri 15.5%, Brahman-Hill 12.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Muslim 4.2%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, unspecified 2.8%
  • Hindu 80.6%, Buddhist 10.7%, Muslim 4.2%, Kirant 3.6%, other 0.9% (2
  • Languages:
  • Nepali (official) 47.8%, Maithali 12.1%, Bhojpuri 7.4%, Tharu (Dagaura/Rana) 5.8%, Tamang 5.1%, Newar 3.6%, Magar 3.3%, Awadhi 2.4%, other 10%, unspecified 2.5%

Source: ("Nepal," 2011)

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