Caste/Ethnic Distribution in Nepal


It seems trying to demarcate or restructure Nepal in terms of single ethnic identity, is bound to be a formidable task. One can expect dissention among the CE groups when the demarcation is attempted.

By Raman Raj Misra

Raman Raj Misra
Raman Raj Misra

Census 2011 has given the distribution of ethnic groups by districts. This is to explore such data on caste/ ethnic (CE) distribution as made available by the Census. The data, considered here, are from the National Population and Housing Census 2011       (Caste/Ethnic & Language ), published by Government of Nepal, National Planning Commission Secretariat, Central Bureau of Statistics, September, 2013.

Analysis of the number of CE groups has excluded the category labeled as “ Others” and as “Foreigners”. Consideration of cast /ethnic distribution could be of interest to those seeking to restructure Nepal along ethnic lines. Or for those who are interested in how the populations of Nepal are distributed in the 75 districts of Nepal.

The Caste/ethnic distribution in general
Census 2011 gives the total number of CE groups to be 125. And most of the caste/ethnic groups are spread throughout the 75 districts of the country. There is no district in Nepal with a single caste/ethnic group.

116 caste/ethnic groups in Kathmandu district was the largest concentration, while Humla district had the lowest number of 17 ethnic/groups. In this sense, all the 75 districts are inhabited by multi-caste/ethnic groups. In general urban areas, tend to have more CE groups residing in them than the more remote areas.

Among the 125 CE groups only nine CE groups have population over one million. One million populations constitute about 3.77 percent of the population of Nepal. The largest CE groups are those of the Chhetree constituting about 16.6 percent of the total population. Hence, Nepal can be considered as a country of minorities.Nepal map

Among the CE groups, which number more than a million, the population size are as follows. Chhetree, 4,398,053 ( 16.59 %; Bahun, 3,226,903 ( 12.18%); Magar, 1,887.733 (7.13%); Tharu, 1,737,470 ( 6.56%); Tamang, 1,539,830 ( 5.81%); Newar, 1,321,933 ( 4.99%); Kami, 1,258,554 (4.75% ); Muslim, 1,164,255 (4.39%); and Yadav, 1,054,458 (3.98%). These nine CE groups constitute about 66.38 % of the total population of Nepal.

Only five CE groups were found to be more than 1.5 million. They are, Chhetree, Bahun, Magar, Tharu and Tamang. These five CE groups constitute about 48.27 percent of the population of Nepal.

The three most numerous CE groups (Chhetree, Bahun, and Magar) together constitute about 35.90 % of the total population of Nepal. That is to say, they constitute more than one-third of the population in Nepal. And together with Tharu, Tamang and Newar the six CE groups constitute more than fifty percent of the entire population of Nepal. So these six CE groups together can be considered as the majority groups in Nepal.

Number of Caste/Ethnic groups by districts.
As said above, the maximum number of CE groups residing in any one district is shown to be 116 in Kathmandu. This data is only of those of the permanent residents, and not those who are in Kathmandu as non-permanent residents. So in reality, Kathmandu districts could have more CE groups residing in the district than 116 CE groups.

18 districts have more than 80 types of CE groups, with four districts having more than 100 CE groups and three districts with more than 90 CE groups. Hence 24 percent of the 75 districts of Nepal have more than 80 CE groups. Another 16 districts have between 50 to more than 70 CE groups. These 16 districts constitute about 21.33 % of the districts having 50 to 80 types of CE groups. So in all 34 districts (45.33 % of the districts) have 50 or more types of CE groups. Another 41 districts (54.67 %) have been found to have less than 50 types of CE groups, with Humla districts having only 17 types of CE groups.

On an average, the 75 districts of Nepal have about 53.40 CE groups. The median number of CE groups being about 48. However, all the most numerous groups are not uniformly distributed in the districts. CE groups like the Chhetree, Bahun and Newar are more spread out among the 75 districts compared to other most numerous groups, though most of the CE groups are found to reside in all the districts. The spread of CE groups among the 75 districts of Nepal, therefore, needs to be considered to assess the CE group that are more spread out in comparison to other groups.

Some CE groups, like the Newar, Muslims etc are found to be more concentrated in some districts than in others, yet they do not constitute the majority ( more than 50 percent) of the total population in the districts. For example, Newar population though being concentrated more within the three districts of Kathmandu Valley, are second to the Bahun population.

It seems trying to demarcate or restructure Nepal in terms of single ethnic identity, is bound to be a formidable task. One can expect dissention among the CE groups when the demarcation is attempted. Further, the Muslim population, which is one of the nine most numerous (more than a million) groups in Nepal, have so far been ignored for a separate, identity based federal province. This may bring about political problem in the future. Especially so, as the Muslims are the most populous groups ( with the first rank in terms of population size ) in the districts like Rautahat, Parsa, Bara, in eastern Terai and in districts like, Kapilbastu and Banke in western Terai. And if the Muslim population in  the contiguous districts to these mentioned above, is considered the cluster of districts with substantial Muslim population can be found. So With the study of the number of CE groups by districts, and taking into consideration the most numerous Caste/ethnic groups at the national level, and their distribution as well as those of the most numerous population size within the districts or cluster of districts is required to be considered when talking about identity based federal province. Both the feasibility and political ramifications can then be assessed.