The Social and Economic Life of Indian Muslim Migrations in Kathmandu

Mizuki Watanabe

Migration from India has been an important factor to consider in understanding the economic development and modernity of Nepal, especially in urban place Kathmandu. Recently, Indian immigrants have increased in Kathmandu market as traders and shopkeepers, businessmen. They are engaged in higher education, professional and government jobs, trade and commerce and various petty jobs as well.

Plenty of researches show in full detail that what kinds of Indian coming into Nepal, tendency of their historical movements and their business or workmanship in Nepal. The representative example is about Marwari, Hindu migration. Marwari is a kind of group named from Marwaar region in Rajasthan. They got citizenship from Nepal government and right to do business same as Nepalese. Although a large number of studies have been made on Hindu migrations, only few attempts have so far been made up Indian Muslim (IM). Indeed, their business and effect to Nepalese society and economy is not as notable as Marwari or other Hindu Indian capitalists. But IM immigrants as tourists, seasonal workers and capitalists increased every year, 2,968 in 1981, but becomes 5,409 in 1991 and 11,982 in 2001. It shows double population every 10 years (Statistical Year book of Nepal: 1981, 1997, 2003).

Most of the IM immigrant community engage in jewelry business to supply beads, gemstones, jewelry to Kathmandu markets. Indeed, some of those items are supplied by mainly Marwari from Bangkok or Hong Kong for Nepalese customers. However, IM community especially go into the tourism market selling gemstones, jewelry as souvenirs to the tourists visiting to Nepal.

They are mostly from Jaipur, north part of India where is famous for rough rock and gemstone market in the world. They constitute artisan class whose work is cutting and polishing stones and provide their labor for manufacturing firms owned by rich Jain people, the member of the city’s trading class. IM in Jaipur area relatively impoverished and under educated in Jaipur.

But they can form as richer trading class in Kathmandu and obtain a social status by the reduction of the economic gain in their family in India. The purpose of this paper is to explore how IM community who engaged in jewelry business reproduced their economic, religious and social life in Kathmandu, from the perspective of moral-economy in economic anthropology, which may provide the important clue to understand migrants’ socio-economic life in host society. It focuses on the member of IM business merchants involving mutual assistance or gift exchange or social disconnection between their relatives, the Nepalese Hindu and Muslim, the tourists. The data in this presentation is based on my fieldwork on jewelry business in Kathmandu markets for 15 months from 2006 to 2009.

Previous Post
Next Post
Scroll Up