The Darai People:  Nationality Rising Again

Prem Khatry



There are two scenarios that have provided impetus for this week's write-up. Both are related to the empathy of a strong nation with a stronger sense of nationality.


Scenario One: The other day, Nepalese living in the border area with never subsiding threat from the other side were protesting against the demolition of a culvert by SSB, the border security force, on the international border area known as the 'dusgaja' (30-yard wide free international border zone), SSB took it no longer and for the second time in a year shot another Nepali, a vibrant youth named Govinda Gautam to instant death. His, or others' fault was to live peacefully and tolerate all that came from the other side. 

The Indian Embassy took no time to denounce the 'false publicity stunt' of the Nepali media' to defame the clean face of the Indian force on the border. Such a press note was the second one after the indiscreet and tragic killing of another Nepali citizen well inside the border at Bhantabari (Sunsari) last year. Reportedly, the government sent a 'diplomatic' note to India whereas most of the political parties chose to keep mum in order not to hurt the neighbour's 'rishi mana' (mind of a holy sage). Govinda Gautam was declared 'martyr' by the government for defending the border without any arms.  With his honoured cremation on the border, Gautam has made history.


Scenario Two: At a time when PM Modi was making preparations to celebrate his political and cultural Kesariya Holi his troops were doing so with the blood of an innocent Nepali citizen right on the border as if there is no justice in the world for innocent people and the small nations existing shoulder to shoulder with the 'biggies'.  Far from the scenario at Kanchanpur, there was another Nepali ethnic community, the Darai of Tanahu and adjacent districts, busy celebrating a typical Darai cultural day at Damauli. They were doing this in order to prove how they are part of the Nepali nation, and how they honestly cherish to be so. These two incidents were different from each other and happening without the knowledge of each other, but both spoke the language of nation and nationality. They were unrelated in purpose but related in essence – nation and nationality must come first when it comes to encroachment of any hue and dimension.


Cultural orientation

Following the pattern of the Chitlang (Rising Nepal Feb 14, 21, 2017) programme, the Indigenous Cultural Orientation Programme hosted by the MoCTCA reached the Darai village on March 1, 2017 (Falgun 27, 2073) according to the programme set in collaboration with the local Darai elites and their organisations. The main feature this time was the representation of UNESCO/Nepal in the organiser's team. The programme was held at the Darai Culture and Community House located at Bhadgaon, Damauli. It is the prestigious facility the Darai people have constructed as an icon of their society and culture.                                    

The Darai, (pop. 12,000 plus) were known as the 'Battis Darai' meaning there were once 32 Darai clusters in history. Damauli, the district headquarters, was the centtr and also their main settlement area. Today they are spread in 12 districts – from Dhading and Gorkha in the east to Nawalparasi, Palpa and Chitwant. According to information received, Damauli is in the center of Nepal's map. Today the Darai are scattered in the Vyas Municipality area and outside in a few VDCs. Their overall number has not fallen, but unity of Darai is still a problem.


The orientation programme was divided into two parts –  inaugural and discussion session. The inaugural session was attended by the CDO, DDC authorities and other dignitaries from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), UNESCO/Nepal representative and  leaders as well as scholars. They all wished for the programme's success and emphasised on the role of the Darai themselves for the urgent need to preserve their culture. 

            The second part of the program was the paper presentation and discussion session. Three papers were presented by the scholars and experts. Dirgha Darai from NEFIN presented his paper on the Darai language and culture.  He said the Darai language is still in use, but cautioned that the new generation may not use it in the future. It is a state of risk, he said. Yam Bahadur Darai presented on the history and culture of the Darai. The third paper was on the prospect of tourism in the central hill including the Darai region. Writer Hari Singh Gurung, an expert in tourism, focused on the need to align tourism with the cultural products of the people like the Darai. He also highlighted on the cultural significance of Tanahu as the home of scholars from the time of Vyas--Parashar to Bhanubhakta Acharya. Devkumar Shrestha, a businessman by profession, spoke on the need to bring Darai cultural product to the market like the Tharu of Chitwan and other regions.

            Speaking from the dais Joint Secrtary Bharat Mani Subedi highlighted the need to preserve indigenous culture through production and promotional activities. He assured the support of the ministry for creative activities like the preservation of Darai culture. Social worker Khadga Bahadur Adhikari spoke on the need for revitalising the language. Tham Bahadur Darai expressed his satisfaction that such a programme was organised to aware the people on the importance of culture. The Darai are now living in 12 districts, he said.



            Finally, the orientation programme was a successful event. The Darai 'Mothers' Group' (Amaa Samuha) dressed in traditional Darai outfit staged several music-dance programmes to entertain the guests. Many Darai people expressed their satisfaction that finally the 'Darai Culture and Community House' found a programme to make its name meaningful. And, the organisers felt it was indeed meaningful.  In the years ahead, the Darai as a nationality will contribute significantly as the number of elites, educated and culturally aware Darai is increasing day by day.

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