Parshu Ram Tamang
Fellow Since 1992
This profile was prepared when Parshu Ram Tamang was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
As Nepal's new multiparty political system and constitution emerges, many things that were previously unthinkable have suddenly become possible. Building an earlier work, Tamang and his associates have quickly moved to put the interests of Nepal's tribal peoples squarely on the country's new agenda.He took a lead in organizing the Nepal Federation of Nationalities. Its members in turn are a number of associations representing the different tribal or linguistic groups in the country. Tamang, for example, is the general secretary of and represents the Tamang Ghedung, an association that champions the interests of the Tamang community. The federation helps its member associations formulate common policies and coordinate their efforts in pursuit of those policies.Tamang and his associates are seeking fundamental changes. First, he wants "to increase the receiving capacity" of the disadvantaged communities he represents. Doing so involves organizing from the grassroots on up, slogging development work ranging from education to creating small businesses, and seeking changes in government policies to facilitate his internal strengthening.Some of his proposed policy changes are difficult, others controversial. Reallocating more resources to help these poorer parts of society, e.g., through increased credit availability, will be difficult.One of Tamang's most controversial proposals is to press the government to provide services to Nepal's many different peoples in the languages they speak and understand. "Many people can't express themselves in Nepali. Even in Kathmandu many of the Newars don't understand Nepali. How can government programs benefit or work for people who don't understand what those responsible for these programs say?" Those who have been pressing to integrate this small but often geographically cut-off--and therefore historically exceptionally divided--country will be reluctant to see any such weakening of the drive to spread Nepali as a unifying national language. Tamang and his colleagues also advocate speeding the process of oncoming the huge development gap between the dominant groups in society and the people he represents by reserving a minimum number of university and government positions for them. Such positive dissemination, which has been in place in India since independence and has become increasingly a source of conflict, is likely also to be controversial.