How Kathmandu Elites Capture Nepal’s Progressive and Political Agenda

By Ashesh
UWB Guest Blog

The elite group of Nepal includes people from different ethnic groups and various places. The richest people in Nepal are still from Madhesi, Newar, Thakali and Thakuri groups, apart from Bahun-Chhetri. Likewise , based on access to land, government services and education, elites of different ethnic groups are far ahead of an average Nepali person.

Some handful elite families from various ethnic groups and castes were privileged to study in high quality English-medium schools and renowned educational institutions abroad. They benefited the most from the Rana and Panchayat regimes and continued to do so in democratic times. Today, they are the most influential class in Kathmandu with deep political and financial interests. In the past couple of decades, they have coined a jargon “hill upper caste ruling elites” to pose as advocate for marginalized people as they saw movements targeted against them.

The “progressive elites” have become successful in creating an illusion among foreigners that these poor and rural folks are the ‘demonic ruling elites’ of Nepal and they, the real elites who benefited the most from the Nepali state since centuries, are the agents of change and progress.

Read: Madhesi Groups Have the Highest Representation in Government Jobs

This coinage has successfully helped them shield themselves from the rights-based movements by creating a “new” enemy.  In their narrative, the oppressors are the ‘hill upper caste ruling elites’ while oppressed are the marginalized ethnic, regional communities. And they ‘courageously’ side with the marginalized ones to attack the ‘hill upper caste ruling elites’, euphemism for the poor and rural Bahuns and Chhetris.

This is a letter to all these Kathmandu elites to remind them who they are and that there are many out there who don’t believe the narrative that they have been selling.

Dear Kathmandu elites,

  • Given that you and your families are part of feudal ruling elite class, you may think all Bahun-Chhetri enjoyed similar privilege. But hard facts like HDI figures and other research show there are many poor Bahun-Chhetri people. People of diverse communities have enjoyed more access and privilege from the Nepali state.

Read: Nepal, Where Progressive Agenda Gets Hijacked By “Progressive Elites”

  • You and your family may have acquired Birta land (land obtained or possessed by King’s decree and wholly exempt from the tax). This is why you often repeat that King Mahendra gave land to Pahade people to settle in Terai/Madhesh. It was you who got the land but you have created the impression that it was the poor Pahades who got. Not a fair and accurate portrayal of the truth. The fact is people from Pahad migrated to Terai to search better life as Terai is has been more developed compared to Pahad and easier to live. Hill districts suffered from drought and landslides and low productivity. Hilly areas lacked facilities like irrigation, hospitals, schools and industries for employment. Also, not only a few select Bahun-Chhetri but also a few select people from all other castes got Birta from then Kings. And these select people- you- from all caste groups but mainly from Bahun, Chhetri, Thakuri and Newar – collectively the Kathmandu ruling elites – who got such material and other indirect benefits from the state have been dominating Nepali politics in Kathmandu for decades. You are the ones who have enjoyed control over power, influence, and resource.
  • Specifically you are the ones born with silver spoon in your mouth. Not all Bahun-Chhetri families were part of ruling class in modern Nepal. In recent attempts to paint all Bahun-Cheetri as rulers, you manufactured an enemy and marketed a phrase: hill upper caste ruling elites. But you never to into details and identify who these “hill upper caste ruling elites” are? That’s because you know who they are. Who are ruling elites other than you and your own family members? Are you trying to shift blame from your family to all Bahun-Chhetri? Is it fair to put you and the poorest Bahun-Chhetri people in the same basket?

Read: खस क्षत्री–बाहुनको बकपत्र

  • You suddenly advocate individual rights when people start to criticize you. But the phrase “hill upper caste ruling elites” is against the spirit of individualism. It puts a large and diverse community into one basket in order to allow your hate campaign to have one giant enemy. If you want to be treated as an individual, you should respect individual struggle of millions of Bahun-Chhetri.
  • It has real effects in the society, beyond your angry trolling on popular media. Such racist hate campaign has resulted in communal violence and hatred against Bahun-Chhetri. It’s harmful, hateful and divisive. The society is descending into a mood of fear, mistrust and hatred.

Read:  To All Privileged Bahun-Chhetri Elites of Nepal [and Zamindars of South]

  • It is you who portrayed hill Bahun-Chhetri as enemies of marginalized people. You should note that majority of Bahun-Chhetri are living in dire condition. They are not even able to access and participate in the kind of discourse you are creating against them. They do not understand English and your cunning schemes. They do not know that a group of people in Kathmandu are portraying them as “ruling elites”. What a shame. Do you really feel proud by blaming gullible, poor and uneducated Bahun-Chhetri and portraying them as demon to further your self interests?
  • You may be a resident in foreign countries. By being born into elite families, you may have privileges of language and global opportunities. You may have access to resources both outside and inside Nepal. But please note that there are millions of Bahun and Chhetri who are deprived from all these facilities. Please do not victimize all poor Bahun-Chhetri to fulfill your dream of becoming a “progressive” and rising in your professional ladders.
  • Your campaign has real harmful effects and it has reached dangerous levels. The recent devastating blockade is only one example, which would not have been possible without your long, coordinated and spiteful project of hate.
  • Your ancestors were involved in introducing caste system in Nepal. Your family members were supported by Madhesi Bahun to develop caste hierarchies. Many poor Bahun-Chhetri from far flung areas of country became Dalit (untouchables) just because they tied knots with Dalit or they drank water in Dalit’s homes. This clearly shows that rural Bahun-Chhetri themselves are victims of Nepal’s caste system. And it is your families who strictly prohibited Bahun-Chhetri to break the caste system. Your families shackled Nepali society with the system of caste based discrimination, one of the most unjust and inhumane forms of discrimination in the world today. Till this day, Nepal suffers from your introduction of this disgraceful practice to her society.
  • In the international arena, many foreigners and development partners seem to be misguided by your false interpretation and representation of Nepali society and history. This itself goes to show how resourceful and powerful you are. It is also because of language privilege. Foreigners and representatives of development partners often hire you as consultant, translator and project implementing partner due to your command in “English”, advanced education, elite networks and unrestricted access to resources that come together with such privilege. I/NGOs cannot directly talk to and understand the ground reality due to language barrier. The poor and rural Bahun Chhetri cannot defend themselves and have no way of participating in this process. The “elite” enemy of your creation, against whom you have run an entire complex of international and national interest groups, money flow and propaganda machinery are left to only receive and suffer from your campaign of hate and division.

This letter is to remind you all that it is you who started communal hatred in Nepal. It is you who started hatred against particular castes and groups especially against Bahun and Cheetri. Please stop it now.

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6 thoughts on “How Kathmandu Elites Capture Nepal’s Progressive and Political Agenda”

  1. True. If all the Bahun-Chhetri were ruling elites, they would have access to the government facilities. Why would they live in rural areas? To show that they are poor? Not so. They are really poor and cannot even afford to migrate.

    The true ruling elite comprises almost all the ethnic groups and Bahun Chhetri who have been creating illusions to distract us from the real problem- poverty.

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  2. It is not all about Bahun Chhetri being rich but comparatively they have upper hand in every corner of the society and government. Yes, there are Bahun Chhetri who are poor but being poor, they are still dominate in other poor caste -class people. It is a privilege being Bahun Chhetri, whether you are poor or rich. This revolution is not about other wanting to be rich, but everyone else want to have equal stand-foot on every opportunities which government and society provide.

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  3. Well one might differ in their perspective but one thing is for sure that people are exploiting the differences in our society. Not all among the ethnic groups are ahead nor among the Bhramins and Chettries. We just can hope and pray that this difference won’t make people hostile among one another.

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  4. It is valid that there are poor Brahmin-Chettris but I’m not sure I really understand this article. It refers to the elite who received land grants, privileges etc from the state, were educated abroad etc, and how they claim to be progressive and blame everything on Brahmin-Chettris. However, the vast majority of these traditional elites who are from the aristocracy are strongly against ethnic federalism, and so called ‘progressive’ politics and want to retain Nepal as a unitary state. The author himself noted that most are themselves from Brahmin/Chettri/Newar community – so how could they be spreading racial tensions against themselves? In fact they more often fit into the royalist camp. It is those elites themselves, well represented in mainstream parties, who are usually bringing up the valid issue of poor Brahmins/Chettris in the districts. It would be helpful if the author could provide more clarification as I found this quite a confusing read – otherwise the argument about forgotten members of the ‘dominant’ community is valid.

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