Politics of Naming and Identity in Nepal
Naming and the place names have entered the main political debates in the process of delineating new provinces for restructuring the state of Nepal. The debates surrounding the naming of new provinces are fused with identity politics, which have created further contestations and confusions over understanding of identity in juxtaposition to delineating the state into new provinces in Nepal. In this paper I will contend that problems of names, specifically the ethnic and place names, bear political valance and are integral to the collective identity that the place names carry along the attributes of collective history and culturally binding relationships of indigenous peoples. I will substantiate my arguments with ethnographic data from the Limbus and their claims of collective identity which, as they claim, is integral to the Limbuwan. For this, the paper will interpret the etymology of the ethnonym Limbu to demonstrate that the ‘Limbu’ ethnonym has been the result of mutual recognition of Limbu political autonomy by the Limbus themselves and the outsiders including the Hindu State. This paper will also deal with the consequence of the state’s re/naming of the place names in the Limbuwan’s territory by which, I would argue, the state creates new forms of cultural conflict and problems of disarticulation between social relations, rituals and the names themselves. This paper will also discuss the ongoing political debate over the name ‘Limbuwan’ (Limbu province) in which the Limbus claim that the name ‘Limbuwan’ is based on its historical, political and cultural identity while many others, mostly with the social backgrounds of high caste Hindus, argue that the provinces must be named on the basis of something ‘neutral’ names, such as river, mountain that suit to the economic development. Taking on the place names and naming, this paper will conclude that among the Limbus of eastern Nepal the most pressing political issue is of Limbuwan province, and claims for identity and nation is based on what makes one different from others, which begins with naming the provinces.