By Mod Dhakal, Kathmandu, Mar. 25: Contrary to the expectations of many, the National Statistics Office (NSO) has not included the details of the ethnicities, castes, languages and religions in its first final results of the National Census 2021 published on Friday.
While some, in social media, raised questions over the motives of the office and the government behind this act, Deputy Chief of NSO, Nebin Lal Shrestha, who is also the spokesperson for the statistical body, said that it would take about four months to publish the final data on cultural aspects - ethnicities, caste, language and religion.
According to him, various communities and ethnicities had approached the NSO demanding to include or exclude them or others from certain castes, ethnicities and language groups which has made the issue ‘sensitive’ and ‘complex’.
The NSO high officials said that the increased awareness created by the republic governance and ‘realisation’ of ethnic identities were the causes behind the disputes being made on the cultural and ethnic statistics. There have been some cases where a certain caste of one ethnicity wanted to mention itself as a separate ethnic community. “This is the issue beyond our jurisdiction,” said Shrestha.
To address the demands of the concerned communities and groups of people, the government has formed a high-level panel under the chairmanship of the secretary of the NPC which included representatives from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Language Commission, National Inclusion Commission, Indigenous Nationalities Commission and other concerned bodies.
The commission is studying the issues being raised by the ethnic and language communities and the results would be published only after it gives a nod to the NSO.
The NSO said that ethnicity/caste is the major issue of contention following by the language. Religion is not the concern of that importance but since it should be bundled with the ethnicities and other cultural aspects, we plan to publish the entire data together, said Shrestha.
According to the census in 2011, there were 126 caste/ethnic groups including Chhetri (16.6 per cent), Brahmin-hill (12.2 per cent), Magar (7.1 per cent), Tharu (6.6 per cent), Tamang (5.8 per cent), Newar (5 per cent), Kami (4.8 per cent), Muslim (4.4 per cent), Yadav (4 per cent) and Rai (2.3 per cent) being the major ones.
Similarly, there were 123 languages – Nepali (spoken by 44.6 per cent), Maithili (11.7 per cent), Bhojpuri (5.98 per cent), Tharu (5.77 per cent), Tamang (5.11 per cent), Newar (3.2 per cent), Bajjika (2.99 per cent), Magar (2.98 per cent), Doteli (2.97 per cent and Urdu (2.61 per cent).
Likewise, in terms of religion, Hinduism was followed by 81.3 per cent in 2011, Buddhism by 9 per cent, Islam by 4.4 per cent, Kirat 3.1 per cent and Christianity by 1.4 per cent. Other small religious groups included Prakriti, Bon, Jainism, Bahai and Sikhism.
No census in Kalapani
Meanwhile, the NSO said that no census could be conducted in the Kalapani region including Limpiyadhura and Lipulek – Nepali territory encroached by India which came to the international limelight after Nepal published a country map including the encroached land in 2020.
India obstructed the movement of Nepali officials and enumerators in the Kalapani region. Deputy Chief of NSO, Nebin Lal Shrestha, said that the surveyors had taken a great risk even to reach the settlement in Nepal’s mainland as India did not allow them to reach their by using its land.
“We tried to use a satellite image to make the estimates of the families and population in Kalanapi region, but that was not as easy as we thought earlier,” he said.
However, according to the rough estimates as reported to the NSO, about 500 people live in the territory encroached by India.