Results of the headcount

DEC 12 -

The results of the 2011 census were published recently. It’s the basic data upon which planning for the future development of the country is dependent. Moreover, the census results this year have added significance as the number of seats allocated to different districts and constituencies to be formed will be determined by these figures. The census has not counted more than 1.9 million people who were absent as they were employed in foreign countries. The largest proportion of people absent were reported from three districts in the Western and Midwestern hills.

In addition, the number of seats allocated on the basis of  proportionate representation in future elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) or Parliament, which are due to be held in April 2013, are also based on the census results as seats are allocated to Janajatis, Madhesis and Dalits. Besides, the largest ethnic group in the country categorized as Khas Arya was branded as “others” in the 2008 elections; and there are demands that they should be removed from the “others” classification and given their due representation in proportionate seats. After all, a third of the country’s population can’t be ignored irrespective of the fact that they garnered the lion’s share of the seats in Parliament in the past during parliamentary elections held under the 1990 constitution. The regions where they form more than half of the population, in the hills of the Midwest and the Far West are the most backward in the country. While the proportion of hill Brahmins in the population has decreased, those of Chhetris has increased.

The percentage of Rais, Newars and Gurungs has decreased slightly according to the census report. As the percentage of Janajatis is reported to have decreased from 37 percent to 35 percent of the national population, some groups are reported to have burned copies of the census report. As the Maoists have advocated formation of states based on ethnic identity, the issue has become extremely sensitive. However, the census results were declared when the country has a Maoist government unlike in the past when Nepal was a Hindu kingdom. Actually, the percentage of Hindus in the population has increased from 80.6 percent to 81.3 percent during the period 2001-11. The percentage of Muslims increased from 4.2 percent to 4.4 percent and that of Christians from 0.45 percent to 1.4 percent. The districts having the largest percentage of Muslims remain Rautahat, Kapilvastu and Banke as in the 2001 census.

Reports of mass conversion to Christianity don’t seem to have been true although their percentage in the total population of the country has more than tripled. On the other hand, Lalitpur, Dhading and Makwanpur districts are reported to have a Christian population of about 5 percent which is perhaps due to largescale conversion in these districts.

The percentage of the population declaring Nepali language as their mother tongue has decreased from 48.61 percent in 2001 to 44.6 percent in 2011. On the other hand, if the speakers of languages such as Doteli, Achhami, Baitadeli, Bajhangi and Bajureli in the Far Western hills were to be added to the speakers of Nepali, the percentage would increase to more than 50 percent. Actually, the percentage of speakers of Nepali as a mother tongue is high mainly because many Janajatis have adopted it as a mother tongue. There are 1.7 million Magars in Nepal; and among them, 788,000 speak the Magar language, the rest speak Nepali. Almost all the Magars living in Baglung, Gulmoi and Argha Khanchi only speak Nepali. Similarly, there are 1.3 million Newars in Nepal, but only 788,000 speak Newari as a mother tongue.

Many linguists such as former ambassador to Germany Novel Kishore Rai consider these languages to be dialects of Nepali.

German is the main language of Germany and Austria, and of two-thirds of the people in Switzerland. Speakers of German from Germany find it difficult to understand Swiss German. However, standard German spoken around the city of Hanover is taught in Swiss German schools, and the written language all over German-speaking countries is uniform.

The population census records 691,000 people as having Urdu as their mother tongue and only 77,000 people speaking Hindi. There are 1.16 million Muslims living in Nepal, and a majority of them would be speaking Urdu as a mother tongue according to the census and the rest speaking such languages as Maithili, Bhojpuri, Awadhi and Nepali in case of churautes. If more than half of the Muslims in the Tarai declared Urdu as their mother tongue, very few Hindus living there declared Maithili, Bhojpuri or Awadhi instead of Hindi as their mother tongue. However, 65 members or more than 10 percent of the members of the dissolved Constituent Assembly regularly spoke Hindi there.

Posted on: 2012-12-12 08:29