Kamala Kusunda/Facebook photo
DANG: The Kusunda people, who introduce themselves as the ‘King of Forest’, are limited to 154 numbers throughout the country.
This nomadic tribe is gradually assimilating with other tribes and found residing sparsely at Ghorahi and Tulsipur, in Dang district Kapilvasti, Rolpa, Pyuthan and Surkhet districts.
Their tribe is vanishing gradually. What worries the elderly in Kusunda tribe and perhaps the tribal campaigners and linguists alike, is their dying languages and diminishing population.
The seniors in the Kusunda tribe understand that by staying within the same tribal people in a certain territory would contribute in preserving and promoting their language, culture, traditions and unique way of living.
They, thus, have been demanding for integrated settlement for them with the local and central government.
Let’s take Prem Bahadur Shahi of Ghorahi Sub-Metropolitan City-19 in Dang for instance.
He, one of the staunch advocates for integrated settlement and language preservation, admitted that the monthly social security allowance they were receiving as an aid to the nearly-extinct indigenous community was not enough to go by.
“The allowance has made our living a bit easier but it is not sufficient. We have to find ways to make life easier by preserving language, art, culture and tradition within our community,” maintained the 80-year-old who is one of the limited fluent speakers of Kusunda language in his surrounding.
Kamala Kusunda of Ghorahi-18 is the only fluent speaker of the language in her locality.
She is concerned about who would keep the dying language alive after her demise.
“Protection of Kusunda language and uplift our tribe should be the cause for concern for the government,” she demanded.
She argued, “If there were integrated settlement, chances are that our language would be protected. Cultures and traditions are practiced regularly and in original manner. Indigenous identity would be maintained.”
This nearly-extinct tribe has been urging the May 13’s local election candidates who reach them for election campaign to pay attention towards their upliftment.
“We will cast our vote to those who will implement our plans and programmes aimed at protecting our tribal existence,” said Kamala.
The Language Commission has been running classes in Kusunda language, one among the 129 languages spoken in the country.
The local government is also providing some concession for the education for new generation of Kusunda.
Dhan Bahadur Kusunda, chairperson of the Kusunda Samaj, appealed with the government to provide them jobs as per their qualification and skills.
According to him, they have been residing in public land for ages and do not have a piece of land registered in their name yet.
Amid this, the Kusunda people demand integrated settlement with the government and protection of their language as well as evenly distribution of facilities, schemes and privileges by the State.