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After the Movement for Autonomous State: The Tharu Indigenous Struggles and the Permanent Democratization in Nepal
The demand for semi-autonomous states by different ethnic and indigenous peoples in Nepal rose especially after the end of civil war and the declaration of federal republic in 2007. However, the movement demanding federalism based on ethnic and indigenous identities was virtually defeated when, in 2015, the new constitution was promulgated with the boundaries of federal states drawn in such a way as to preserve the dominance of high-caste Hindus of hill origin. The paper seeks to evaluate the significance of the movement for semi-autonomous state by the Tharus, indigenous people of the southern Tarai plains of Nepal. The demand for Tharuhat/Tharuwan federal state, which gained its momentum after 2008, came to a tragic end when 7 police officers were killed during its massive demonstration in Tikapur in 24th August 2015. The paper locates this movement within a longer history of Tharu struggles in Nepal since the 1950s to the present. The peripherization of Tharus began with the introduction of malaria eradication program and subsequent immigration of hill Nepalis into the Tarai plains. The paper revisits social movements that originated within Tharus from the 1980s and analyze how they transformed into demands for autonomous state after the civil war. The paper also discusses variety of attempts by Tharu activists to engage with democratic federal system after 2015 while also trying to preserve and strengthen Tharu cultural practices. The paper seeks to analyze these processes using a concept of mediation and an expanded notion of universal human rights.