The Contested Local Elections
This paper attempts to expand the debate around democratic exclusion of minority communities, such as the Dolpo, by examining how and why or in what ways communities anticipate and resist the democratization process in the context of the impending local elections. Nationalized forms of governance are often perceived as directly undermining Dolpo traditional practices and culture, while increasing social and economic exclusion. While electoral democracy is widely believed to promote inclusiveness, some scholars, e.g. Dahl (1998), Lawoti (2008) and Collier (2009) have countered that models of electoral democracy do not necessarily benefit ethnic people, as they might invite ethnic conflicts or could exclude several communities. Based on both published sources and the ongoing research, I will analyze the different forms and impacts that local elections might have at local level in the district of Dolpo, drawing attention to real differences between nationalized forms of governance and local and indigenous forms of governance.
This paper analyses the tensions and contestations between nationalized electoral processes and customary Dolpo laws such as ‘Yul-thrim’ and ‘Gā-pu’. This paper contextualizes the relationships between these systems of governance through ethnographic research conducted in two VDCs-Chharka and Mukot. By doing so, this paper attempts to not only expand debates around indigenous autonomy but also links them to larger national debates about the terms and conditions of ethnic federalism. Further, Dolpo is an ethnicity recognized by the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) and the National Federation Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN)-positioning Dolpo: the locality and its political processes within the wider ethnic and identity politics in Nepal.
This study will historicize both the conflicts and development of local elections in Dolpo community-in the context of Maoist insurgency, the janajati movement and contemporary local and national partisan politics. In this detailed context, it will be easier to analyze how the transformation of Dolpo’s political relations with the central state have changed since the 1950s due to national as well as local causes, and the challenges to legitimacy that the traditional local governance system of Dolpo has faced over time. Because plans for the local elections have yet to be established, members of the Dolpo community are imagining things very differently. This paper will describe the ways that the different people of Dolpo imagine and position themselves in terms of both past and future elections.