Indigenous peoples in Nepal

According to the 2011 census, the indigenous nationalities (Adivasi Janajati) of Nepal comprise 35.81% of the total population of 26,494,504 persons, although indigenous peoples’ organizations claim a larger figure of more than 50%.

The 2011 census listed the population as belonging to 125 caste and ethnic groups, including 63 indigenous peoples, 59 castes (including 15 Dalit castes), and 3 religious groups, including Muslim groups. 

Even though they constitute a significant proportion of the population, throughout the history of Nepal indigenous peoples have been marginalized in terms of language, culture, and political and economic opportunities.

Legislation concerning indigenous peoples

Only 59 indigenous nationalities have so far been legally recognized under the National Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities, NFDIN, Act of 2002. However, controversial recommendations for a revision of the list have recently been made.

The 2007 Interim Constitution of Nepal promotes cultural diversity and talks about enhancing the skills, knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples.

In 2007, the Government of Nepal also ratified ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples and voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The implementation of ILO Convention 169 is still wanting, however, and it is yet to be seen how the new constitution will bring national laws into line with the provisions of the ILO Convention and UNDRIP.

The 2015 Constitution of Nepal

The newly promulgated Constitution of Nepal of 2015 has been disowned by indigenous peoples and the Madhesis, at it denies identity-based federalism and the rights of indigenous peoples, Madhesis, Dalits, Muslims and women.

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Nepal to learn about major developments and events during 2015.