Indigenous peoples of the northernmost Himalayan region of Nepal have common ancestry, language, culture, and religion and similar opportunities and challenges. Although they share many commonalities and live next to each other, they have been segregated for at least several decades. This segregation continues to exist because national policies, priorities and different social systems and cultural values still encourage them. Some of the most visible factors that have created distance among the Himalayan indigenous groups are the division of Nepal into different (vertical) development regions, zones and districts.
According to the declaration of the Himali Autonomous State, Himalayan indigenous peoples are spread in 19 different administrative districts from Taplejung in the East to Darchula in the West. Out of 59 indigenous groups recognised by the government, 17 of them live in the northern Himalayan region of Nepal. All of these indigenous groups either fall under the endangered or the marginalised category as shown by the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN). The Himalayan region of Nepal has rich cultural and natural resources with high historical significance to researchers for the advancement of knowledge about human civilization and adaptation, as well as great potential, through the development of the tourism industry, non-timber forest products, medicinal and aromatic plants, to provide employment and economic opportunities for income generation for local people. Addressing the new Nepal, Professor Stevens (2008) wrote, â€œThe Buddhist people of the northern high Himalaya have been nearly invisible to Nepalâ€™s Hindu society. It would be an injustice of Himalayan proportions if they remain so while the map of a federal Nepal is drawn.â€ Some of the reasons why these peoples have been invisible are firstly, the rugged terrain and the distance of the region from the capital, secondly, the lack of opportunities for communication and interaction among the indigenous peoples in the region and thirdly, programs, policies and social systems that continue to widen the gap between these indigenous peoples.
New Nepal has come with lots of hopes and promises for the people of Nepal especially for indigenous peoples who have been discriminated for decades. The success of the peoplesâ€™ movement of 2006 paved the way to building a new Nepal and restructuring the nation in order to end further loss of cultural resources resulting from cultural homogeneity and monolingualism of the country. In order to build an inclusive and an equitable new Nepal, our leaders in the Constituent Assembly should also discuss, include and ensure the fundamental rights of the Himalayan indigenous peoples of Nepal along side the rights of other indigenous peoples. At this crucial moment in the history of Nepal, with a new constitution being written and the map of a new federal Nepal being drawn, the Himalayan indigenous peoples must not be further ignored if there is to be true justice.