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Bryn Mawr College

Publication Date

Fall 2009

Program Name

Nepal: Social Entrepreneurship in the Himalayas


Over the last 20 years, Nepal has faced a series of political challenges that have impacted communities across the nation. From the restoration of democracy in 1990, to the instigation of the Maoist’s People’s War in 1996, finally leading to the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) in 2006 - the Nepali government continues to negotiate the future of Nepal’s political landscape. The process has been long and tumultuous; with a history of violence and instability, every corner of Nepali society has invested interests in the success of the peace process and the building of a new constitution. While the government continues its struggles in the political capital of Kathmandu, services and resources remain centralized and Nepal’s more remote areas have increasingly begun to express their own stake in the process.

During the Maoist movement, it was in these rural areas where much of the activities of the Security and Maoist cadres was carried out. Still, today, very few governmental services reach these areas. In the aftermath of political violence and in the midst of potential change, this study attempts to take a deeper at the effects of the conflict and its resulting restructuring of state on communities at the village level. In line with the notion of a political context, I have focused my study on the role of traditional local governance systems. With the vast diversity of cultures across Nepal, many communities have their own system of local governance; however, this study examines only one of these systems, and that is the Khyala system of the ethnic Tharu group, located in the Terai region of Nepal. This study looks at two districts in the Western Terai region. Both the Dang and Bardiya districts are historically populated by Tharu communities. These districts were also locations with a high occurrence of Maoist and Security activities during the People’s War. In the Bardiya district, I visited the V.D.C Manpur Tapara and some small surrounding villages. In Dang, I stayed nearer to the District Headquarters, as I was based in Ghorahi and visited a few neighboring villages.

My intent throughout this study is to understand the traditional structure and role of this local institution, the effect of the Maoist movement on this system as well as the role played by local leaders during that time, the role played, or potential for a role, in the peace process in these communities, and the current changes and challenges facing this traditional institution in the context of a changing Nepal. By examining the relationships between this local governing system and the various governmental and non-governmental actors in these regions, I seek a better understanding of the dynamics of national and local political activities. As a whole, I attempt to convey the link between the changing state at a national level and at the rural level, and its implications for local, traditional, and cultural institutions.


Political Science


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