TOPICS : Globalisation and ethnic minorities, time to move on

Deepak R Joshi

The definition of a nation in the context of ethnicity — “a historically constituted stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life and psychological make up manifested in a common culture” — has been rapidly losing its significance. The expansion of globalisation, national and international migration, intermarriage, tourism growth, rapid technological advancement and vibrant media influence, have undermined the view of ethnic communities and could further weaken their conventional concerns.

The impact of globalisation is widespread. It has become a major factor for social and economic change. Without the cyber coolies of India, for instance, Bill Gates’ Microsoft cannot run and without computer devices from America, Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pardesh cannot prosper. All groups are interlinked and interdependent. Thus nterdependence is a major character of globalisation, which de-emphasises the ethnic- lingual rights and challenges its definition.

Anglicisation, westernisation and technological advancement are diluting the issues of ethnicity. The issues of ethnic subordination in Nepal are basically based on the argument that there exists a cast hierarchy and there is lack of language accessibility, educational and economic opportunity, among others, which means the state has not been able to bring the ethnic minorities to the mainstream. This traditional claim does not hold true anymore. People claim that Nepali language is helping Brahmans and Khastris who reap the existing benefits. However, every child, be it from Brahmin or Tamang community or Pahadiya or Madhesia, is being taught English as a mainstream language. English as an extra language, imparts the same burden for a Newari native or Thakali-native child. Today Nepali (Khas) language and culture is not in the mainstream, but anglicisation and westernisation has become dominant in our part of the world too. Khas, Bahun-Khestris are also equally eager to celebrate Christmas and Valentine Days as ethnic nationalities like Thakali, Magar, Gurung and the rest. Given the impact of globalisation, the long and hard effort of many activists wroking for ethnic minority rights to bring the oppressed, depressed and suppressed nationalities into mainstream, now needs to be altered. The activists either should consolidate their movement towards this global neo-imperialism or should change their views.

If we consider pre-unification era, we will find that those now considered ethnic and deprived groups were once in a dominant social position in their respective states. There were Tharu kings in Dang state, Sarki kings in Bhulu (now Acham district), Magar king in Ligligkot (now Lamjung and Gorkha). Dominant language, culture, values, rules and regulations change with time. Ethnic activists should facilitate the development endeavour, enhance the capacity of minorities to reap the existing opportunities from globalisation impact and to analyse current affairs rather than be a part of wrangle for anshabanda. Comparing events of hundred years back with the present state cannot solve problems. They should act according to the demands of the present.