Changing Relations between High Castes and Tamang in Melamchi Valley
This paper is about the processes of transformation of social relations between high caste groups and Tamang in Melamchi Valley for the period of 1980-2010. Development interventions made by government of Nepal and (I) NGOs, a decade long undergoing Melamchi Water Supply Project and labor migration are major factors for ongoing changes in the study area. Spread of literacy classes and primary education, availability of credit institutions, introduction of modern farming, road networks, seasonal out migration from the area, etc. primarily define new relations among the groups. Borrowing and lending money were one of the basis of high caste and Tamang relation in past. The latter was regarded as borrower loan from first one. Before 1980s, money and agriculture commodities were controlled by few rich and high castes people. Cash income from various sources made enable the Tamang to stand on an equal footing with high caste people. Open political economy and liberal policy for issuing pass port in 1990s and after that encourage the people to diversify the destination of seasonal migration from India to Gulf countries and East Asia. Various processes of socio-economic and political changes led to local peoples to seek their position and identity in the changing context. Discourse of Tamang, high castes and Dalit entered into the Valley along with the development resources of (I)NGO and political movements of the country. This made possible to Tamang and other disadvantage groups to define and redefine their ethnic identity.
Keywords: High castes; Tamang; credit facilities; subsistence farming; identity construction; money lending; wage labor