The Mustang locals would not have created obstruction in the research work had the team taken them into confidence

Until the restoration of democracy in 1990, Lo Manthang, or Upper Mustang, was off-limits to foreigners. They still require special permission from the Department of Immigration to visit the Hidden Kingdom so as to protect the local tradition from outside influence as well as their environment. The rain-shadow region is dominated by Tibetan culture and Buddhist religion; caves and stiff cliffs are decorated with paintings and ancient carvings dating back to the 13th century and beyond. The region has attracted many archeologists from all over the world to find the hidden historical truth buried inside theses caves, mounds and open sites. However, the locals are sensitive to their culture and religion, and any kind of research or excavation works to be carried out there by outsiders is looked at with suspicion.

Recently, the locals of Thingkar village obstructed a team of American scientists from carrying out historical research on Buddhist-era archeology of the region. The irate locals obstructed the excavation work being carried out by a team of U.S. scientists, led by renowned anthropologist Mark Aldenderfer at the University of California, at the Kapte archeological complex. The study being conducted on an openair site was halted after a group of villagers intimidated and verbally harassed the archeologists and the Nepali sirdar at Kapte. It was being carried out by a team of five women archeologists in coordination with the Department of Archeology (DoA).

Despite vigorous efforts of the DoA to convince the villagers that the team had obtained prior permission from the DoA to launch the excavation work at Kapte, they turned hostile and demanded that the team leave the site by handing over the materials collected from there to them. The researchers had tried their best to convince the locals that research was important and worthwhile in its goal to explore the ancient history of Nepal and Mustang. There was no problem in carrying out previous archeological studies in the caves.

But the locals became infuriated after the scientists started excavating the open-air site or mounds.

Some of the locals believe that excavation had to be halted largely due to lack of proper communication at the grassroots level. The locals believe that the excavation work would bring them bad luck, and they are also not sure the findings from the archeological sites would be kept safe. This kind of problem would not have arisen had the researchers and the DoA representatives spent enough time with the locals explaining them about the importance of learning about Mustang's past and understanding its origin and history. The UK-based Durham University has been conducting archeological research in the Lumbini area and Tilaurakot since 2013 in close coordination with the Lumbini Development Trust and the DoA. There is no problem in conducting research and excavation works as the locals have full confidence in the research team, which has greatly helped in unearthing the hidden truths related to Buddhism.

The locals of Lo Manthang would also not have created obstructions in the research work had the researches and DoA taken them into confidence before the start of the study.

Unemployment issue

An estimated 7 million Nepalis work abroad, many of them in harsh working conditions, because Nepal cannot create enough employment opportunities back home. Every year, more than 400,000 youths are said to join the labour force, but enough jobs cannot be created in the country, so they have no option other than to head overseas, mostly to the Middle Eastern countries, to support their families.

This has been going on for decades now, and it is high time that job opportunities be created within the country while addressing the problems seen in the foreign employment sector. The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security has thus formed three taskforces towards this end.

Right from the time of the partyless Panchayat days, creating employment in the country has never been a priority of governments or the political parties.

They never felt the need for creating jobs at home because India in the past and now the Middle East and Malaysia as well as some other countries absorb the vast pool of unemployed youths. Formation of taskforces alone is not going to solve this problem at home unless job creation becomes the major agenda of the parties during election time.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 10, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.