It’s been 15 years since the endangered Bankariya tribe moved to a forest area in Manahari Rural Municipality in Makawanpur district.
The government had granted this traditionally nomadic tribe the permission to live there for 20 years. It had also promised to build them concrete houses if they left their nomadic lifestyle and settled at a place.
The Bankariya people accepted the government’s offer and they set up their community at Musedhap, which was part of a leasehold forest at the time. But the government’s promise of concrete houses never came to pass. The 20-year tenure to live on the land is due to expire in five years, and the community still has no permanent homes.
“Over the years, we have made several requests to the government and its agencies to allow us to settle here permanently and provide us land title documents. In return, we have received assurances,” says Kanchhimaya Bankariya, one of the community members.
Without land titles, the Bankariya families have also been deprived of the house building grant announced as part of the People’s Housing Program.
Dhruba Khadka, a local government official, says the budget allocated to fund the Bankariya housing project could not be distributed for two consecutive years as the beneficiary families did not have land documents.
“Without the land titles, we cannot build homes or apply for loans,” says Shyam Bankariya, who dreams of living in a concrete house and starting his own business.
The community’s trouble has only exacerbated after the Parsa National Park authority annexed the forest area where they are living. Manoj Shah, the park’s warden, says they will be bound by the law to vacate the occupied area once the tenure expires. “They will have to relocate unless the council of ministers decides otherwise,” he says.
Meanwhile, Bishnu Dahal of National Land Commission says that the agency is working to address the concerns of the Bankariya community. “We are preparing to distribute them land titles as per their demand. As for the issue over the national park, it can be settled through talks and coordination among the agencies concerned.”
Janga Bahadur Gurung of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities says there are only 87 Bankariya people in the country, making them one of the most endangered ethnic groups.
“The government should protect the Bankariyas by providing them permanent homes,” he says. “Failing to do so means risking the extinction of this endangered group and its culture.”