Sonaha Community Demands Government to let Them Follow their Ancestral Occupation
She wakes up early in the morning. Do her regular activities and feed her family and heads towards her way. This is her daily routine. If she stops doing this, her family will be in crisis. They will die in starvation. Sonapati Sonaha, 45 of Patabhar VDC-6, Bardiya is always in a worry about her family. This is not only her case. Almost all community has a same problem.
The main occupation of Sonaha tribe is to catch fish and to collect raw gold by filtering sand in the bank of river. They have been following this occupation from a long time following the footsteps of their ancestors. But they are in a big trouble after Bardiya National park has restricted to collect sand and catching fishes from the river. Most of the people from Sonaha community are living freely in the bank of river. They do not own land. They are highly dependent in this occupation of collecting gold and catching fishes. After this restriction, the whole community is in acute crisis.
After this step from Bardiya National Park, the right to life of these tribes has been deprived by the government. Not only about food and shelter, they are even deprived of education, health and social development. The “National Park Act and Animal Protection Act 2029” has restricted people of making hut, shelters and killing of animals or catching fishes with in their territory. These tribes living around the bank of Karnali River are facing difficulty in surviving after this restriction.
The clause(3) of Act 32 under fundamental rights of a constitution of Nepal has ensured the right to protect and promote the heritage, culture, language and cultural civilization. Protecting and respecting the rights of civilians is a major responsibility of the state. Sonaha tribe which is from marginalized community has been demanding to put them in a list of indigenous community however; no decision has been taken by the government yet. This has deprived them of getting service from the state to lead their lives ahead. The state has been behaving Sonaha community by categorizing them as Tharus. But, they are not from Tharu community as they have different language, religion, culture, profession and identity.
The state is not been able to provide alternatives to this community since 1972, in contrast they were being arrested saying that their profession is illegal. Karnali River in Daulatpur, Patabhar and Manau VDCs are in acute crisis after the decision of restricting them to follow ancestral profession. They do not have any land to cultivate; neither have any other occupation.
Some of the people with in this community have left this profession and adopted other after the crisis and others who could not adopt are living life in poverty. Bardiya National Park has clearly stated that the law has restricted on filtration of sand for gold. Prior to this, the national park had allowed doing fishing to the license holders, however this was also banned after there was illegal poaching of Rhinos according to warden Ramesh Thapa. The National park has been stressing that it is government’s responsibility to reestablish this community somewhere else with alternatives.
There are around 1003 Sonaha community living around the bank of Karnali river which includes 800 from Mid region and 500 from Far-western region. There are approximately 800 people from Sonaha community is Bardiya alone and most of them do not have their own land.
This has led their existence in crisis. Their language, culture and tradition is in a process of extinction. This crisis has compelled many people in this community to even change their religion.
They have stopped following culture, religion and festivals. They are gradually losing their identity. In the name of living life, their existence is in crisis. This has made them worry.
The state has displaced this community without giving any alternatives and they are deprived of right to live.
Man Bahadur Chaudhary
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