01/16/2008, 00.00
NEPAL
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The Tharu sing the end of slavery, asking for full political recognition

by Kalpit Parajuli
Yesterday began the three-day festivities for the "Maghi", a celebration that the Tharu people established to mark the end of slavery. Now, however, the Tharu want to be considered full-fledged citizens, and are asking for representation in the next constituent assembly.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The Tharu, an ethnic minority living on the border with India, are in these days celebrating the great holiday of "Maghi", which commemorates the end of the enslavement that their people were force to endure for centuries. Although they are Hindus, the Tharu have given social significance - and not religious significance - to the celebrations, which coincide with the beginning of the new year according to the traditional calendar.

The Tharu, who number about two million, generously welcome the outsiders who want to participate in the celebration: many Catholics, from all over the country and also from outside of it, have arrived in the region of Terai to join in the traditional rites of the "Maghi".

The celebrations last for three days, during which the Tharu bathe ritually and hold communal banquets, singing the songs of their people while dressed in traditional garb. But the songs, which once asked for an end to slavery, have been "adjusted" to bring them up to date: since yesterday, the Tharu have been singing to ask the government for political recognition, and for representation in the constituent assembly, the members of which will be elected next April 10.

In the meantime, the interim government has accepted their request to consider the "Maghi" a national holiday. But this, says the president of the "Free Tharu" society, is not enough: "the government must address our problems in time. It should make proper provision for our settlement not as slaves but as true nationals".

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