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Migration and Development: The Nepalese in Northeast Author(s): Srikant Dutt Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.

16, No. 24 (Jun. 13, 1981), pp. 1053-1055 Published by: Economic and Political Weekly Stable URL: . Accessed: 21/04/2013 12:18
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56,580 of them outside India. This service in foreign armies continues to the present day, notably in the British The Nepalese in Northeast and Indian forces. So valued are Nepalese as soldiers that the Sultan of Srikant Dutt Brumei pays over ? 1 million a year for the upkeep of Gurkha brigades in Migrants, particularly peasant set- his country. It was through such army THE problem of outsiders or immigrants has been one of the prime tlers, are always spurred on by a service that some Nepalese, beginning issues raised by a number of move- particular set of economic motivations. in the late 19th century, began to ments currently under way in the It is not so much the prospect of setttle outside South Asia, in Fiji, northeast. The Nepalese are one such avariciously exploiting the defenceless Malaysia, Singapore, China. and Maurigroup of outsiders, or 'foreigners' as indigenous people of the northeast (the tius. (The Nepalese living in Tibet some of the movements style them; prospect of land is a strong motive) were a different category, being mostly but they are only technically foreign, but the fact that outsiders are driven of Tibetan stock, a legacy of Nepal's and to simply dismiss them as foreign- to migrate through their own dire victory over Tibet aind exaction of ers would be incorrect. Nepalese poverty and are seeking a means of trade concessions after 1856. Most migration has taken place throughout continued survival. Migration, besides such Nepali Tibetans were expclled in South Asia, not just in the northeast that of merchants, refugees (driven by the 1960s.) alone, and as such must be viewed on political upheavals) or individuals By the mid-20th century one in (such as through marriage links), is a world scale. every 10 Nepalese had emigrated. In factors economic by caused particular Migration occurs throughout the India alone, by 1970, there were 1.5 world for a number of reasons ancl its in which the migrants' local enmironmillion Nepalese, out of a population economic hope of little ment offers several features must be borne in mind of 11.55 million in Nepal. The annual when examining the case of Nepalese advancement while a new environment rate of migration in 1961 was 82,00 a does. migration in northeast India. year, 20,000 of whom remained in It may seem obvious, but the frontier This is the caEe of the Nepali mig- India permanently each year.* While status of the region must be reaffirmed. rant who in general is a hill peasant the total Nepalese living outside Nepal A contentious argument has often been cultivator. The economic clisis forcing might reach almost 2. i million, the raised concerning just how much land Nepali migration has been. briefly: majority of these emigrants have was or is available for settlement in increasing fragmentation of landhold- settled in North India, comprising a the region or. more properly, for eco- ing, indebtedness, ecological crisis working class whose presence is an acnomic expansion. It is true, despite through intense cultivation and defor- cepted part of the landscape. arguments to the contrary, that the estation, rising population without Under the terms of the Indo-Nepal northeast, particularly its hill areas, further land to cultivate and chronic were until recently sparsely populated deficits in food production in the hill Friendship Treaty of 19.;0, the Triand land was 'open' to settlement by areas of central Nepal. These pahari partite DeNhi agreement of 1951, and the 1956 revised Indo-Nenal Agreeeoutsiders. Further, frontier lands on migrants are relatively more skilled hil ment, free interchange and flow of the periphery have on a world scale agriculturists than other hill peoples gradually become subject to penetration and readily fit in to hill environments both countries' nationals as well as their right to own property in either and exploitation by a wider economic elsewhere in South Asia. country is allowed, unhindered and system - in other words.. according to Beginning in the mid-l9th century the dictates of world capitalist develop- Nepalese from the central hill areas without i-estrictions. These agreements ment. No one should argue, however, have been continuously emigrating, only made official a situation which that at a given level of technology and many of them permanently. The had existed de facto from the British with relativiely sparse populations, hill central region of Nepal contains 60 period. The reciprocity which the peoples find the slash and burn agricul- per cent of that country's population agreements formulated indeed conture best sujited to their needs. What but only a (luarter of Nepal's culti- tinues today, with at least 3-4 million Nepal. is at stake is that as economic pres- vated land. Between 1911 and 1971 overseas Indians resident in sures from more developed areas (i e, Nepal's population doubled in spite of Therefore before one accepts or exploited areas) become ever more continuous emigration; and the ezo- adopts the 'silent invasion' rhetoric of acute, the peripheral areas are (drawn logical and economic crisis in the hill some of the chauvinistic movements in understand into the process; rising populations and areas of Nepal has grown ever more the northeast cne must technological levels in hill areas will acute. Even in 1900, over 2,50.000 the actual history of Nepalese migraincreasingly find hill terracing more Nepalese - one in every 20 --- were tion and settlement in South Asia. desirable. .Add to this the fact that already living in North India. Most This brings the discussion to an from the political-strategic point of of these found jobs as watchmen in important facet of Nepalese inigration view as well as from the view of eco- factories, policemen and domestics, and settlement in the past, namely nomic exploitation, hill terracing and a role they maintain to the present where it occurred through official a commensurate growing population day. sponsorship. As already stated Nepalmakes more sense to centralised patThe other important factor was ese have long served in foreign armies. terns of political and economic power. that from the mid-19th century the It was British policy to try and take A frontier by its nature is a tempt- British alctively recruited Nepalese into care of its demobbed soldiers who had ing area for penetration and such pene- the imperial armies in ewhose service given years of loyal service.. This often tration is in fact inevitable. Adminis- Nepalese travelled throuighout India took the form of ex-servicemen's retrative measures inspired by paternal and abroad which in turn led to some settleme.nt colonies which could serve feelings to defend 'quanit' peoples can permanent settlements * D C Upadhyaya and Jose U Abueva Nepalese do little to stem the process- in fact abroad. In the First World War (editors), "Population and Developcan only slow it down at best. 1,10,000 Gurkhas served the British, ment in Nepal", Katbmandu, 1975.

Migration and Development

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a dual purpose; to reward ex-soldiers ing sizeable propulations who are more and to play a strategic role. Following 'Indian' oriented. Emphasising their Nepalese settlement of role as pioneer agriculturists is the such policy, ex-servicemen in northeast India was fact that in Sikkim it was the Nepalactively encouraged by the British, as ese who introdued hill terracing. The in the case of Manipur immediately settlement of Nepalese in the colonial following the First World War. period was thus tied to notions of Active British encouragement to accelerating demographic change to Nepalese settlement in the northeast enhance colonial security. was hot always confined to ex-soldiers At the same time it is important to but also included many other Nepalese bear in mind that the areas in which peasants, particularly those from East- Nepalese settled in Bhutan and Sikkim 'ern Nepal, the Kiratis. However, while were, until their advent, lightly inthe British were pursuing a deliberate habited, thickly. forested and often plan, the people so involved, namely malarial. Nepalese settlement was not the Nepalese, were not actin7 out of just encouraged by the Pritish; a role some sinister expansionist design. It was also played by local feudal elites. was their economic condition which In both Sikkim and Bhutan certain allowed their use in imperial schemes. local aristocrats gained lucrative inIf it had not been Napalese, others comes by giving tenancy and land would have stepped in to play a simi- rights to Nepalese immigrants in lar role. jungle areas. In Sikkim the Kazis of The British recognised early that Khangsarpa were from the 1870s the Nepalese, as hardy hill cultivators, intimately involved in Nepali settlecould constitute an ideal group, with ment. This has translated itself into which to penetrate and form strategic patterns of political mobilisation in buffers in the northeast and, even Sikkim in the present day. In Bhutan more than this, actaally demographi- the powerful Dorji family, previously cally change the composition of the of low rank in the feudal aristocracy, local populations in some northeast enhanced its political and economic hill areas. An interesti-ig element in status by playing an intimate part in this process was the fact that the Nepalese settlement in southern Bhuwere and are nominally tan. In Manipur it was the royal court Nepalese Hindu, having more direct links to which gained financially by granting the cultural heartland of South Asia, lands for Nepali settlement. While the whereas the areas in which they were British did not al!ow other outsiders to be, encouraged to settle were cul- to settle in Manipur they exempted turally and religiously different, often Nepalese who settled, significantly, on later Khas and forest grazing land not preTibetan-Buddhist, animist and Christian, with ties in other directions. viously under cultivation. On independence, then, India inIt was in Sikkim and Bhutan that in the northeast a pattern of herited the British, perceiving the relatively settlement which had been Nepalese of tiers the southern land in empty a of imperial security policy in part these two states, encouraged Nepalese In some areas India regions. frontier the late 19th from settlement century. to this policy allowed ambivalently This was done with a view to binding a formulated India others in continue; Indian to the more these states closely - that of favouring the new po!icy empire and keeping out what they saw as threatening Chinese and Ti- indigenous populations. The development efforts launched in the betan influence. Claude White, the region, as roads and projects bein in the late Gangtok Political Agent 19th century, was a major architect gan to be built which required large of this policy, although the roots of quantities of labour, were other new this policy can be traced to Nepalese factors. The Border Roads Organisasettlement in Darjeeling following the tion found Nepalese labour most suitBritish lease-annexation of the area in ed and t*his process iniected further numbers of Nepalese into the hill rethe 1840s. So successful was this policy in gions of northeast india as well as Sikkim and Phutan that by the mid- Bhutan. Again this labour migration 20th century 60 per cent of the popu- became the precursor of some perlation in Sikkim was Nepaiese; and in manent settlement. Bhutan while the official figures speak In Sikkim, while demographic change of a Nepalese population of 25 per was complete by 1947, India chose to cent (2,25,000) the actual figure is play a political balancing game becloser to 40 per cent (4,00,000). tween the court the Lepcha-Bhutia Through a deiiberate policy, coupled minority and the Nepalese majority. with economic causes outlined earlier, In Bhutan, after 1955, India virtually have become abandoned the Nepalese cause, foreBhutan and Sikkim transformed in 100 years into contain- going a lever against the Bhutanese

the monarchy. In other regions of northeast the attitude of the Indian government seems to have been more ambivalent. For security reasons, specifically to contain the various insuirgent movements in the northeast, large numbers of Nepalese serving in the Iiidian army and paramilitary have been present in the northeast from 1950. This in turn may have played a part in f urther Nepalese settlement. While engaged in security duties, Nepalese have natura'ly looked to protect their kin settled in the region and this has fuelled anti-Nepalese feeling as occurred in Mizoram and Meghalaya in 1967 and now occurs in Maniipur. Unwittingly or knowingly, the Nepalese continue to play a vital security role for the Indian government in the regien.

Even as India has continued inherited administrative norms such as the Inner Line and other restrictions, their breach in the case of Nepalese is significant. Not just as road labour, but even as peasant settlers, the Nepalese do not usually pass formally through checkpoints or apply for meaningless scraps of paper; they mere'y clear the land, often with the connivance of local vested interests. It can often be several years before the authorities take any notice. In Manipur, from 1951 to 1976 the number of Nepalese rose from 2,860 to 36,604; they began to settle in hill areas in that state in the 1960s. A disguised number of Nepalese began settling in Arunachal Pradesh as it gradually began to be opened up, from about 25,000 in 1961 to 85,000 in 1971. In Meghalaya too, the number of Nepa!ese rose from 6,000 to at least 10,000 in 1971. In Mizora-n due to insurgency their number has remained stable at between 2,000 and 4,000. In Nagaland the figure was 14),-00 in 1961. In Assam there were 2,15,213 Nepalese in 1971. The political implications of post1947 Nepalese settlement in India have been scarcely expiored. While the key role which Nepalese personnel have played in India's armed forces has been highlighted, their role in the wider political system has baen barely understood. The demands whlich the Gurkha Lqague and others in North Bengal have made for the official recognition of Nepalese language lhas important if tantalising implications. One reason that India has not acceded to

the demand is that it has



to legitimise the presence of almost two million Nepalese residing in Ind3ia. Rather, India has wished to ambzival-

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ently keep the Napalese beneath the surface of India's political and economic life. The fear has been that by recognising the Nepa!ese presence, India would bolst2r the legitimacy of the kingdom of Nepal, or play into the hands of a 'Greater Nepal'. A contrary view might however suggest somewhat different implications. By recognising and legitimising the Nepalese presence in India, the kingdom of Nepal would be destabiliseci and Nepalese brouhlit further into the Indian system, with a means to voice their grievances. By following such a course India would be returning to British imperial policy: but such a prospect is remote at present. Nepalese settlement in the northeast

has not been part of an insidious scheme but is the outcome of the development process itself, in which the Nepalese as a poor and mobile hill frontier community play a part in areas, where roads are being built, towns are being founded or expanded and the area is being more fully exploited. As long as thevpeoples of the northeast do not analyse the economic realities of their own position and the economic realities of any frontier region, they will persist in pursuirng millenial dreams of a glorious past. One set of outsiders wil! merely be replaced by others if those who are indigenous to the area do not seek to develop their own resources through their own efforts.


The protagonists of immediate passage consist largely of third world countries aiid specific interests within the state and corporate world, specifically navies and oil corporations. - In the case of third world spokesmen,

whose interests are often dovetailed to those of Big Capital, their push for immediate passage derives from their desire for the slightly larger share of the seabed pie that the treaty accords them. The Singapore spokesman of the Group ci 77 wvent so far as to assert that "if the US does not respond positively between now and the proposed next session, the chances are we will go ahead and sign the

treaty withouit the US".2 This statement is part of the bargaining

rhetoric since a treaty minus United States is basically impotent. the


Changing Scenarios
Frederick Clairmonte John Cavanagh

In the developed countries some of

the major protagonists are to be found among the mnilitary, in this case the navy, which would obtain from the

treaty guaranteed access to the world's

rity to govern the mining of seabed gories: those directly concerned with nodules. We argued that the very the immediate passage of the treaty; treaty which is ostensibly blueprinted those in quest of the treaty's revision; to enhance so-called 'thir-d world' and those seeking its eNimination.

116 major straits. There are also certain important decision-makers in the civiSINCE 1873, oceanographers have sovereignty over the seabed served lian bureaucracy who have stressed the instead to legitimise and buttress corknown that significant segments of the importance of immediate passage. Acocean bed are strewn with potato- porate power whose goals stand in sized nodules that contain large blatant confrontation to such sovere- cording to Elliott Richardson, Carter's quantities of important minerals: ignty. The crux of this argument is special representative for the Law of manganese copper, cobalt, nickkel, and that the treaty provides international the Sea conference, "the draft convenhlowever, political stability for seabed mining tion represents neither a loss for the mo-.ybdenum. It was not, States nor a victory for the jeopardising to any significant United uintil the 1960s that technology to -withourt Group 77. of Rather, it embodies extent the most lucrative profit centres nodules extract their and collect the and, I believe, acceptable minerals was created. By the mid- in corporate mining: processing, mat- balanced compromises that emerged from tough it that the estimated ketcig and distribution.' The conwas seventies, the market value of these minerals scaled clusion we drew was that the treaty and protracted battles between of three trillon dollars, ten times larger would pass and that the ul timate conflicting ideologies and interests than OPEC's combined 1980 export beneficiaries would be Big Capital, and both sides. This would not have been revenues. only to a peripheral extent, the third possible had not the representatives of the United States fought tenaciously world. Cognisance of this raw materials El and articulately on behalf of the free Darodo galvanised two separate forces, Despite major changes since Februone corpor-ate and the other inter- ary, our arguments have withstood the enterprise system and its benefits for the national. At the inception of the test of time. What the intervening world community as a whole."3 The seventies, a considerable number of passage of time suggests is that the very fact thaat such a public figure (a giant transnational corporations form- period of hard bargaining before the cabinet member in several administracorporate ed five separate corporate consortia treaty is finalised will be longer, and tions, a leading American to pioneer maritime and mining potentially greater TNC rewards can lawyer and a professor at Harvard) technology tc exploit these nodules. be expected. A few days prior to the labels the treaty as defending "the free Simultaneously, the United Nations 'final' session, the Reagan administra- enterprise system" is an indicator that launched niegotiations for setting up a tion dropped the bomnbshellthat no the American ruling class can certainly comprehensive treaty which would treaty could be considered prior to a accommodate themselves to the treaty. A third element of the treaty"s progovern all activities over, on, and major review. Our current concern in under the world's oceans. this article is to examine briefly the tagonists are to be found among the oil In February 1981, as the treaty was convergent and divergent interests corporation members of the seabed conabout to enter what was billed as its which stem from the Reagan ad- sortia, inasmuch as the treaty also guafimal and decisive session, the present ministration shift, and analyse the rantees the right of a nation to exploit authors 3dvanced a central thesis con- gainers and losers of the shift. For offshore natural gas and oil resources cerning the section of the treaty that analytical purposes, these interests can within a two-hundred mile limit as would set up an international autho- be grouped into three major cate- well as free passage of the world's oil

through the ocean's straits. As a spokesman of Royal Dutch Shell (which is a partner of the Ocean Minerals Consortium) puts it: "[The treaty] is pro-

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