BENEFICIARIES OF NSP AID
When NSP engaged in development activities in Nepal twenty-four years ago, the main objective was to provide assistance with primary school construction to poor Tamang communities in the hills of Kabhre Palanchok district in eastern Nepal.
The Tamangs are the largest ethnic community among the Tibeto-Burman speaking peoples of the Himalayan region. In Nepal, the Tamangs represent more than ten percent of the country's population. Although some Tibeto-Burman communities adopted Hindu customs and Nepali language, theTamangs observe their unique lifestyle and religious beliefs and speak their own language.
They also rank as the most underprivileged among the Tibeto-Burman speaking communities of Nepal. The low profile of the Tamangs and the poverty that marks their villages are the result of concerted exploitation by the elite class over the centuries.
Following the Gorkhali conquest of Nepal in the 18th century, the land owned by the Tamangs was taken away from them and distributed to the ruling Brahmin and Chhetri courtier-class. The Tamangs were then retained as bonded laborers and near-slaves to work these very lands. During the Rana rule, the Tamangs were used as menial labor by the rulers and the courtier-class. They were also prohibited from joining the British Gurkha regiments in India, although the men belonging to other Tibeto-Burman communities - the Gurungs, Magars, Rais and Limbus were permitted. Tamangs were also prevented to join Nepal's own government administration and the military.
Historically, the Tamang people settled in the strategically important districts surrounding the Kathmandu valley. Feeling threatened by this encirclement, the Kathmandu rulers brought them forcibly under central rule and exploited them enough so that they could never rise, as they have not been able to this day. The psychology of the Tamangs took a beating during centuries of economic deprivation, political discrimination, and social marginalization.
Generations of Tamangs have worked as porters in Kathmandu town, and today the majority of rickshaw pullers and the three-wheeler tempo drivers are Tamangs. The lowest grade jobs in the trekking trade are manned by Tamangs. Although they have proven themselves as adept climbers, mountaineering expeditions rarely allow Tamangs above the base camp. Tamangs make up more than 90 percent of religious thangka painting laborers, hired as contract artists by Tibetan and Newar businessmen, who reap the real profits. More than 75 percent of the Tibetan carpet weaving labor are Tamangs, and the majority of kitchen boys in Kathmandu restaurants are young Tamangs.
Even though the Tamangs represent the largest segment of
Nepal's population, as a people they are practically unrepresented in the country's
national affairs. The proportion of Tamang population in Nepal is about equal to the
combined population of the three elite communities - Brahmins, Chhetris and Newars. Yet
these three groups represent the following percentages in public life: 93% of key civil
service posts, 94% in the judicial system, 94% in the national administration, 83% in
senior professions such as doctors and engineers, 87% of all army officers, 60% of the
members of the Lower House of Parliament, and 70% of the Upper House.
At the time NSP was being founded, it became very clear that the Tamang people were the logical and a very deserving target for our development aid in Nepal.
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