Now the Kusundas

Three members of the Kusunda tribal community are in Kathmandu to seek citizenship certificates. Like the Dayaks of Borneo, the Masais of Kenya and the Todas of Ooty in India, this community, unique in its own right, was identified by researchers such as B W Huxley as far back as 1848 as inhabitants of Tanahu and forests in Gandaki Zone along Satto Bhatti and west of Chepetar and surrounding areas. Although a subject of scholarly studies with a 124-member strong population (2001 census), this tribe is on the verge of extinction. esearchers, however, have not been able to identify more than 28 of them as genuine members of this community. As much as they continue to interest scholars, they have also been an inseparable part of the Nepali folklore. But as times would have it, mere recognition of their existence by the government and the academic lot did very little to bring any affirmative change in their struggle to eke out livelihood. Hard and difficult as it were, they always were on the move and scouring jungles for food.

Now that three of them have felt the need for a citizenship certificate, the government must do all it can to provide them this piece of testimonial at the earliest. The fact that they were without it for so long is intriguing in itself. Despite all the right to own one, what direct tangible benefit they will derive by possessing the said document is not as obvious as how the government and agencies working to preserve such a unique tribe could have actually done to transform their lives by providing it with free education, health care and other facilities. The powers-that-be should realise that a citizenship certificate is not the last stop on the way to prosperity for them. Instead, the academia and the government must understand the importance of preserving the rare culture of this tribe. Besides, there is a fear of this unique gene pool from being diluted forever although the reason behind this depletion in genetic diversity is believed to be the reluctance of the Kusundas to marry within their community. This is an area where the scientific community could loose some sleep with justification.

It is amazing that a gamut of projects have come and gone in the name of improving the lot of the marginalised communities in the country. But there has been very little change for these groups, if at all any. Of late, the Kusundas want to get settled in a fixed location. This underscores the desire of the community for prosperity. And those working to eliminate disparity among the backward communities will have to intensify their efforts for their betterment. Else, it will be rank injustice to play a blind host to these native Nepalis.