One Nation Redefined: Tharu Identity and Activism in the Tarai

Julia Rosenheim, Yale University

Nepal: Development and Social Change


In Nepal, members of the Tharu community face myriad barriers to social mobility and economic resources, and they are an underrepresented group in Nepal’s government. Many Tharus have protested Nepal’s recently ratified constitution, citing provincial borders and a lack of proportional representation as just some of the ways the new charter marginalizes the Tharu population. This study explores further how recent Tharu activism can be understood as a challenge to dominant nationalist discourses in Nepal, a response to larger histories of discrimination and marginalization, as well as a call for greater recognition of this ethnic group. This study is centered in two distinct locations, in the western part of the Tarai in Bardiya and in the central Tarai in Chitwan. Within these contexts, this research also examines the relationship between local community associations and affiliations with a larger Tharu ethnic identity and the extent to which this ethnic identity impacts or is reflected in recent Tharu activism.