MAASINYA DASTOOR - 2020

  Friday 13th of December 2019
  Kathmandu, Nepal
 
14 min read

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MAASINYA DASTOOR

Following the 2015 earthquake, I was a part of a community art project
initiated by Artree Nepal in Bhaktapur. During this six-month long
initiative, I worked closely with local children & ritual mask-making
artists. We created an installation Bhadakuti (toy utensils), which
captured the children’s individual experiences of the earthquake in a
collective narrative while using disappearing indigenous newa mask-
making techniques. This project made me realize the importance of
indigenous knowledge and skills in relation to our identity and social
ecosystem; in addition to highlighting my own lack of knowledge about
my indigenous Tharu roots. Upon researching the community all I came
across were recurring stereotypical ideas. We were just "water snail
eaters, jungle dwellers, alcohol drinkers, and an honest tribe," that was
our identity. This made me question:  why has the history of the Tharus
been marginalized?
 
At the end of the 10-year Civil War and the consequent peace
agreement, there was hope for identity based federalism with equal
rights and representation. This envisioned an end to centuries of ethnic,
gender and racial discriminations faced by marginalized communities
such as Tharus, Madhesis, Muslims, Women, and Dalits. Moreover,
there was an intense effort to make the new constitution inclusive with
amendments to the Interim Constitution. But when these amendments
failed to address people’s hope, they felt betrayed. They felt it was
discriminatory, thus they protested against it on multiple occasions. Such

protests lasted for months in the Far-West led by the Tharu community.
They demanded an equal and identity-based federalism in the new
constitution, but the state suppressed the Tharu movements in Tikapur,
Kailali  with curfews, often firing tear gas to control them. Unfortunately,
on August 24, 2015 a mob killed eight policemen, which was a much
politicized incident. However, amidst the controversial draft constitution
and the fresh trauma of the earthquake, the Nepali Government
suddenly promulgated the new Constitution of Nepal on September 20,
2015. The Tharu demands were ignored and the State portrayed the
Tharu community as cruel perpetrators of violence. This kept me
thinking: are the Tharus really criminals?
With this thought I visited Tikapur, and other Terai districts. I talked with
locals, activists, researchers and learned about the endless
discrimination meted out to the Tharus by the State. Their daily agony
had persisted for hundreds of years. 
 
My artworks revolve around displacement and resistance of Tharus and
the discrimination our community has faced at the hands of the State.
Innumerable questions keep hovering in my mind. Why has our history
been kept in the dark in Nepal? How do we come to terms with our
struggles? How do we value our resistance?