Madhesi people (Nepali: मधेशी) is ambiguous.
Anthropologists use the term for people of Indian ancestry residing in
Nepal and comprising various cultural groups such as
Hindu caste groups, muslims, merchants and indigenous people of the
Terai. Many of these groups share cultural traditions and
marital ties with people living south of the international border in
Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. In recent times, some
politicians and journalists have used the term for all Nepali citizens
of the Terai.
Migrants to the
Terai from the hills in
Tharu people do not
consider themselves as Madhesi.
Madhesi people comprise caste
Dalit as well as ethnic groups such as
Maithils, Bhojpuri and
Bajjika speaking people. Indian immigrants
settled foremost in present-day eastern
Terai since the late
18th century, when the rulers of
Nepal encouraged deforestation and
agricultural development of this region.
3 Demographics of the
4 Nepali citizenship
5.3 Marriage system
6 Tharu culture
7.1 Indian influence in
8 See also
10 Further reading
The word madhesh is thought to be derived from the Sanskrit
मध्य देश "madhya desh" meaning "middle country", which
refers to "the central region, the country lying between the Himalayas
and the Vindhya mountains".
Since the late 18th century, the Shah rulers of
Indian people to settle in the eastern
Terai through a series of
subsidies granted to new settlers. A severe flood of the Koshi River
followed by a drought caused famine-stricken Bihari farmers in the
1770s to 1780s to migrate to the
Nepal Terai, where they converted
forest to agricultural land. Immigration of people from neighbouring
India increased between 1846 and 1950. They settled foremost in the
Terai together with native
Terai peoples. In the mid
Muslim people from the
Awadh region were invited to
settle in the far-western
Nepal Terai, where they received large
forested areas for conversion to agriculture.
Since the late 1940s, the term 'Madhes' was used by politicians in the
Terai to differentiate between interests of the people of the
Terai and of the hills. In the 1950s, the regional political party
Terai Congress advocated more autonomy for the Terai,
recognition of Hindi as a national language and increasing employment
opportunities for Madhesi people. During 1961 to 1990, the
Panchayat government enforced a policy of assimilating diverse
cultural groups into a pan-Nepali identity. Legal directives made it
an offence to address inequality and discrimination of ethnic
groups. After the Panchayat regime was abolished following the
People's Movement in spring 1990, disadvanted groups demanded a more
equitable share of political resources such as admittance to civil
Nepal Sadbhawana Party started lobbying for socio-cultural,
linguistic and political rights of Madhesi people. The discussions on
rights and demands of
Madhesi people increased after the end of the
Nepalese Civil War, in particular among Madhesi intellectuals and
political elites. The political parties Janatantrik
Morcha and Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum advocated the idea of an
Madhes province stretching all over the
Terai and organised
violent demonstrations in 2007 to enforce their demands. The
United Democratic Madhesi Front formed by Madhesi organizations
pressured the government to accept this concept of autonomy under the
Madhes One Pradesh". Several ethnic and religious
groups in the
Terai opposed and resisted this policy under the
leadership of Madhesi parties, foremost Tharu and Muslim
Conflicts remain between
Madhesi people and ethnic groups indigenous
to the Terai, between Madhesis and muslims, and between high caste and
low caste Madhesis.
Demographics of the
Terai totals 33,998.8 km2 (13,127.0 sq mi),
about 23.1% of Nepal's land area. As of 2001, about 48.5% of Nepal's
population lived in the Terai, which had the highest density in the
country with 330.78 people per sqkm. As of June 2011, the Nepal
Terai's human population totalled 13,318,705 people comprising more
than 120 different ethnic groups and castes.
In 1952, a
Nepal Citizenship Act was passed that entitled all those
immigrants to obtain Nepali citizenship who had stayed in the country
for at least five years. The Citizenship Act of 1963 entitled
immigrants to receive Nepali citizenship if they were engaged in
business and could read and write Nepali.
In 2006, the
Nepal Citizenship Act was amended to the effect that
people born before 1990 and residing permanently in the country
obtained the right to Nepalese citizenship. About 2.3 million
people received citizenship certificates. The Constitution of
Nepal 2015 contains provisions for a Nepali citizenship by
naturalisation, which can be acquired by:
foreign women who are married to a Nepali man;
children of a Nepali woman and a foreign man.
The culture of Madeshi people is complex and diverse. The
indigenous peoples speak their own languages and have distinct
cultural traditions that differ from the
Hindu caste groups. Latter
comprise at least 43 distinct groups.
Muslim Madhesis claim origins in India, Afghanistan,
Persia. They are influenced by the hierarchy of the Hindu caste
system, with the difference that it is not based on the principle of
pollution and purity, but on occupation.
The National Population and Housing Census of 2011 knows of 123
languages spoken in all of
Nepal and lists:
3,092,530 Maithili speaking people (11.7% of Nepal's total
population), of which 3,004,245 lived in the Terai;
1,584,958 Bhojpuri speaking people (5.98%), of which 1,542,333 lived
in the Terai;
1,529,875 Tharu speaking people (5.77%), including 1,479,129 in the
Bajjika speaking people (2.99%), including 791,737 in the
691,546 speak Urdu (2.61%), including 671,851 in the Terai.
Muslim Madhesis speak Urdu primarily, but also Awadhi, Bhojpuri,
Nepali and Maithili, depending on whether they live in the western,
central or eastern Terai.
Religions practised in the
Terai according to the National Population
and Housing Census of 2011 are
Hinduism with 11,308,620 followers
Islam with 1,105,533 followers
Buddhism with 472,469 followers
Kirat with 190,458 followers
Christianity with 137,723 followers
Prakriti with 63,747 followers
Jainism with 2,169 followers
Bon with 1,379 followers, less than 900
Bahá'ís and less than 500
The religious practices of the majority of
Madhesi people are a
mixture of orthodox Hinduism and animism.
Muslim Madhesis practise the traditional nikah marriage, which is
recognised by law. Many practise endogamy.
In 1989, a study on food consumption pattern was conducted with 108
people in a village in Chitwan district. Results of this study showed
that the people consumed seven food items on average.
almost half of their daily food intake, supplemented by vegetables,
potatoes, milk and dairy products. Less frequently they consumed meat,
fish, eggs and fruit. About 13.7% of the total food intake of men was
alcohol, whereas females consumed far less alcohol.
Maithil cuisine predominates in the eastern Terai, and Tharu cuisine
among the Tharu people. Further west, the
Muslim people around
Nepalganj prepare Mughlai-influenced Awadhi food.
Fruit commonly grown in the
Terai include mango, lychee, papaya,
banana and jackfruit.
Taro root is an important crop,
of which the leaves and roots are eaten. Sidhara is a
mixture of taro root, dried fish and turmeric that is formed into
cakes and dried for preservation. Freshwater snails
are cleansed, boiled and spiced to make ghonghi.
Immature rice is used to make a kind of gruel maar.
Rice and lentil
dumplings are called bagiya or dhikri. The cakes are broken up and
cooked with radish, chili, garlic and spices to accompany boiled
Main article: Tharu people
Tharu people do not consider themselves as Madhesi, but are indigenous
people of the Terai. They are resistant to malaria because of
inherited alpha-thalassemia. They are mainly involved in
farming. They decorate their houses using only natural materials
like clay, mud, dung and grass.
Some Tharus practice the badghar system and elect a village chief,
whose task is to work for the welfare of the village. Rana Tharus
in the far-western
Nepal traditionally live in longhouses
with big families of many generations and pool their labour, income
Although democracy has been reinstated in Nepal, the Madhesi community
has called for a more inclusive democracy as they are fearful of
remaining an underprivileged group. Some
Madhesi people want
Nepal and have formed various organisations and groups
to help achieve this aim. For example, the Janatantrik
Morcha is a separatist organisation founded in 2004 by Jay Krishna
Goit with the aim of gaining independence for the
Terai region from
Nepal. Organisation members have been responsible for various acts
Terrorism including bombings and murders. Other armed outfits
have appeared that also demand secession through violent means
Madhesh Mukti Tigers and the Tharuwan
National Liberation Front. There is also a movement
that is demanding the secession of the
Madhesh region led by C. K.
Raut, called the Alliance for Independent Madhesh.
The major Madhesi national political parties are:
Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum, Nepal
Madhesi Youth Forum
Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Madhesh
United Democratic Madhesi Front
Indian influence in
Nepalese Constituent Assembly
Nepalese Constituent Assembly election, 2008, Indian
politicians kept on trying to secure strategic interests in the Nepal
Terai, such as over hydropower energy, development projects, business
and trade. By supporting the 2015
India tried to
dominate Nepal's internal politics and foment the conflict in the
Demographics of Nepal
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