Land and social change in east Nepal In the latter half of the

Land and social change in east Nepal
 In the latter half of the eighteen century that part of the Himalayas between Kumaom and Sikkim
containing a number of tribal peoples of Mongolian racial stock was united, under a Hindu
dynasty into what becomes a kingdom of Nepal.
 The creations of multi-ethnic society, relations between the tribal population and immigrants have
been characterized by seemingly opposed tendencies: cleavage, on the one hand and inter
dependence on the other.
 The Nepalese authorities have, over time, brought all tribal lands, with the exception of those
belonging to the Limbus under a uniform system of tenure, akin to freehold and known as 'raikar'.
 Before the establishment of the kingdom and probably for some time afterwards all tribal groups
held land under a customary form of tenure which has come to be known as 'kipat'.
 In limbuwan therefore the struggle for tribal land is not phenomenon of the past but an ongoing
process which continues to effect social relation in the region.
 The expansion east wards of the Hindu Armies in the 1770s resulted in the series alliances with
potentially troublesome limbu chief flanking them on all sides.
 Hindu settlers have benefited even more from government legislation reducing are under kipat
tenure land correspondingly increasing the amount under raikar tenure and have successed in
becoming ascendant section of the population in east Nepal.
 Brahmins were by virtue of their ability to read and write because of their high cast status best
paced to take advantage of any administrative regulations designed to reduce the area under kipat
 The cleavage created by the land construction is expressed in and reinforced by attitudes of
hostility by the absence of reciprocal, co-operative relations and marriage ties, the lack of
participations by members of one group in the social or religious ceremonies of the other and by
their overall cultural apartness.
The settlements of Angbung, Bharapa, chatik and Daruma which for shoot land purposes to call
the districts of Ilam in the east of Nepal.
The hills of Ilam rise sharply from the terai to the south 20 mile wide belt of low lying flatlands
continuation above the level.
Ilam encompasses on area of 540sq miles. It is bounded on the east by Sikkim and Darjeeling of
India, while to the west and north lie the districts of Dhankuta and Pachthar.
Paddy, maize and millet are the principal crops grown in the districts.
The districts of Ilam experiences a moderate climate, temperature seldom rising above 30 c
during warm seasons from April to September or falling below 7 c during the cool months of
January and February.
From mid June to mid September the monsoon rain persists and leaves a precipitation of some 60
The Indreni cluster settlements lie in a contiguous belt along the eastern slope of a 4500 foot
ridge of in Ilam.
Ilam Darna sub division contains a population of about 16,200 or roughly 13 percent of the
districts total population.
Limbuwan comprise an area of approximately 4500 sq.miles or about 8 percent of the total area
of the present day of Nepal.
The Limbus is generally regarded as among the first habitat of east Nepal. Together with Rai,
they are thought to be the descendant of ancient 'Kirats'.
The country inhabited mainly by Rais lies in the mid region of east Nepal between the Dudhkoshi
and the Arun River and is termed 'Middle Kirat' where as the limbu country east of the Arun
River, i.e; Limbuan is called 'Far Kirat'.
By the end of the nineteenth century the civil authority had largely replaced the military in Ilam.
The houses are constructed on unirrigated plots along the crest of the main ridge at the altitude
between 3500-4500ft.
The characterized residential pattern is one of dwelling, a pattern broken only occasionally by
nucleated villages, we find dispersed settlements which merge into one another.
Settlements are highly exogamous nor exogamous units. More are the inhabitants of any one
settlement bound together by common rituals.
Land and Kin groups
The Limbus are divided into a number of named units which may be referred to as sub
tribes, although they normally allude to these units as their, which is the same word they use
for the
The sub tribe Tomling is represented in the Indreni settlements by two clans, the
Chongbung and the Kumbo. Members of these Tamling clans claims not to marry with several
other Tamling clans, but they contradict one another about which ones.
It can be assumed that the clan and not the sub tribe is the basic unit of exogamy.
In much of Limbuan, certainly in Ilam, rights to occupy particular areas of land under
Kipat tenure derive neither from direct royal grants nor from 'estates of holdings 'conferred by
superior authority but by virtue of being' first shelter.
The Chongbungs of the Indreni settlements express clan dispersion in a kinship idiom
which designates each settlements clusters known to harbour some members of the clan as the
place where one Chongbung sibuny founder settled after leaving the original clan.
Since no other Kambo groups are known to exist outside the Indreni settlements, the
Cambo's can't claim that they are part of a wider clan
One suggests that the Kambos are in fact the descendents of the fifth Chongbung who
came to the Indreni settlement with his eldest brother.
This instant highlights the fact that clan membership is not a sufficient exdential for
pressing a claim to Kipat land, it is membership at a localized clan which validates of Limbus
rights to the land.
When segmentation occurs within the local clan segment the unilineal descent groups
which emerge can be called lineages.
The Chongbung Subba was the first to receive a royal decree (Lal Mohar) in 1825. This
was followed by similar decrees to the Nembeke Subba in 1832 and to the Kambo Subba in
The oristence in the cluster of non kipat owing (NKO) Limbus has created a situation in
which two spectious of the population enjoy unequal status on the basis of different tial rights
to land.
separation from the main household in generally in the sequence with the eldest son
leaving the first followed by his younger brothers as they marry and bring their wives to join
Although household partitions are most frequently attributed to disputing daughters in
law, another, not uncommon, explanation is the tension arising out of the co residence of
wives and married sisters.
The Mitakshara rules proscribing the rights of a man to dispose of lands belonging to
co-shares are reinforced among the Limbus by legal rules prohibiting the sale of kipat land.
This requires that kipat owners to pay taxes according to the number of the household
and not in relation to the amount of land owned or cultivated.
The foregoing discussion of properly division has suggested not only a stress among
Limbus on the patrilineal transmission of land but on the exclusive inheritance rights of males.
On marriage, a women torteits all rights to the lands of her natal household.
Unmarried daughters, however on reaching the age of 35 have to a claim to a share in
the estate equal to one halt the inheritation of each male siblings.
Some informants suggest that the division of a man's estate does not merely counter
rights to a portion of his lands on the wife who separates but lives the remainder of the estate
under the control of the other wife.
The arrival of non limbu settlers was part of policy in situated by Kathmandu
encouraging the immigration of Hindus into Limbuan.
The government introduced legislation which in effect allowed non limbu settlers to
convert into Raikar tenure all hands which had been or would in torture be granted to non
Limbus by their limbu owners.
For the Limbus, the land struggle has to aspects.
1. They must strive to preserve their lands under the kipat form of tenure and
alternative keep them from being converted to Raikar.
It also demands from the Limbus a continous effort to prevent the usufruct
of their remaining kipat lands from passing to members of other group.
Cultural differences
brahmins worship the universal hindu pantheon, limbus worship by means of blood
sacrifice a host of deities which have no place in traditional hindu belief.
 The farmer are associated with women, men have no gods says limbus just as a man
inherits his father's lands a women inherits he mothers gods.
 The limbus bury their dead body whereas the Brahmins cremate theirs.
 Limbus observe a period of three or four days to pollution (depending on whether the
decreased is female or male while Brahamins consider pollution to extend for 13 days after
 The differences in the 'pleasure complex' of two groups: the Limbus are drinking and
dancing constitute a integral part of limbu social life. Whereas Brahmins the festival's
importance is in its scared content, ritual participation.
Interdependence: The Political context
The emergence of the Brahmins as the dominant economic section of the
population has had important political consequences i.e. Brahmin leaders, once
subordinates in a hierarchy based on land grants, have been, since the turn of the
Limbu headmen have not only lost me bases of their traditional power but must
rely, like their lineage followers, on the support of influential Brahmins.
The absorption of Ilam into a natural polity in 1774, Kathmandu, first through the
military and later through the civil administration, has exercised and monopoly of
coercive force.
In the leadership hierarchy Subbas gave grants of Kipat land to non Limbus
immigrants into Limbuwan from areas to the west while the recipients of these grants
were at the same time appointed by sub headman called Thari.
Chief among the duties of the Subbas was fax collection from both the registered
and unregistered households and appropriates the revenue for themselves after
collection taxes from unregistered households.
Tharis collected taxes from the dependents or their holdings or revenue units and
passed these on to the Subbas for submission to the land revenue office in Ilam bazar.
Subbas were instructed to arrest any person who crosses the border without
government permission and were also held accountable for maintenance of the main
roads through their territory.
Another development followed from the regulation of 1886. Tharis began to rely
directly on the government for their security of title.
If a Thari died without sons or emigrated, leaving his holding without a headman,
the government and not the Subbas would make appointment, usually after consulting
the dependents .For a brief period, Tharis were even allowed to sell their holdings,
subject only to the new Thari by the government.
The respect accorded the Subbas by other Limbus is evident, especially during the
autumn festival of Aswin, when tributary payments are made the Subbas discharges
certain ritual functions.
Disputes over compensation
High rate almost 20% of marriages by abducting wives of other man called Jari
precipitate crises on 3counts.
1. They give rise to the possibility of violence.
2. They involve the severance of existing links between affinal groups, which is
potentially disruptive.
3. They require the settlements of compensation claims and so have an economic
consequence which seriously affects the far tunes of the households involved.
Neighborhood is another important consideration when gathering supports, since
neighbours are first of all dependent on one another in a number of contexts and
therefore thought to be reliable allies.
Informal meditation of intra cluster disputes
The Subba's statutory authority no longer extends to the maintenance of law and
The council of Subbas (amal) which existed until about fifty years ago, is now
defunct which in the Indreni Cluster are mediated informally by men are regarded as
For most notables, the display of leadership qualities is confined to contexts of mediation.
The immediate purpose for their recruitments is generally waging of a dispute, but the underlying
goal is the pursuit or maintenance of power and influence by leaders. The aggregation formed in
this way will be called faction.
Factions in the Indreni settlements are based on a schism within a single Brahmins group.
Faction leaders frequently seek to become involved in the disputes of others, and so make them
their own.
The Panchayat
The first attempts to introduce statutory Panchayat in Nepal date back to 1926. During that year
experiments in local government were carried out in the region of Kathmandu Valley in 1930
were expanded to include 4 districts in both the hill areas and the Terai.
Panchayat Committee was formed of representatives from settlements in the Ilam Darna sub
division of district, which was constituted as a single village.
Although Limbus disapprove of the Panchayat system as a whole, they especially resent
Brahmins control of the Committee.
The intercalary position of Limbu Notables
The Limbus accept their mediation in disputes, requires their assistance in litigation, and are
increasingly bound by the decisions of the Panchayat Committee, which they dominate.
Recently, Gurkha service has created wealth and status differences within the Limbus community
which have begun to alter traditional ties between the two groups.
Wealth and high military rank earned in Gurkha service also confer on Limbu Notables a high
status within the wider society beyond the confines of the cluster.
Land culture and politics
Certain political attitude and activities within the Indreni cluster can only be understood against
the wider background of the Limbus struggle to preserve their lands under the traditional system
of tenure.
Kipat is fused with and articulates culture.
The system of land tenure is included under is included under the rubric of culture, any assault on
Kipat is seen as a threat to very existence of the Limbus as a separate community within the
society. Thus cultural identity becomes political identity in the context of the struggle to preserve
the Kipat system.
The Limbu Movement
In the late nineteenth century there have been sporadic attempts to organize opposition among the
Limbus to stem the tide of Kipat conversion to Raikar tenure.
Disparities between the country's legal code and special regulations enacted to deal with the land
problems of Limbuwan led to deal with the land problems of Limbuwan led to the formation of
another adhoc committee of Subbas in 1946.