The four major political parties of Nepal have proposed division of Nepal into six federal states. This decision has unruffled feathers of indigenous people and other political parties in Nepal. The daily news from Nepal is strife with reports of violent protests, protestors injured or even killed by Nepali security forces. Similarly, elected lawmakers from these dissident groups are boycotting the constituent assembly meetings. The political dissidents are proficient in voicing their disagreements via popular media. However, the general public is still unclear what the dissidents propose as an acceptable solution.

One of the most contentious issues is: Is the proposed demarcation of six federal states fair to everyone? This is a highly politically charged question because in order to ensure fairness, the six federal states would need to guarantee rights and privileges in a proportional manner to its residents. In order to maintain long-term stability, residents of these states need to feel unity among themselves. Several indigenous groups have been demanding for a state that serves their interests. Madhesis, Tharus, Dalits, Limbuwans, Bahuns-Chhetris and others have staged multiple protests and full-fledged revolutions to demand a state with right to autonomous self-determination. How can Nepal be divided into federal provinces that appeases various indigenous groups and lead the way to peace? One way to examine this question is to look at data on population of various ethnic groups in each of the states and determine if they will have a majority or not, based on proposed demarcation of federal states.

Based on census data of 2011, there are 131 different ethnic groups in Nepal. Clearly, Nepal cannot be divided into 131 states to grant one state per group. It would be wiser to have an open discussion on the number of optimum states. The charts below show the 20 major ethnic groups in Nepal, based on population.

What does the composition of each proposed six states look like in terms of ethnic groups?

The table below shows 10 largest ethnic groups in each of the proposed six federal states in Nepal.

10 Largest Ethnic Groups in Proposed Six Federal States in Nepal
S.N. State 1 State 2 State 3 State 4 State 5 State 6
1 Chhetree Yadav Tamang Brahman – Hill Chhetree Chhetree
2 Brahman – Hill Musalman Brahman – Hill Magar Magar Brahman – Hill
3 Rai Tharu Chhetree Chhetree Tharu Tharu
4 Limbu Teli Newar Gurung Brahman – Hill Kami
5 Tamang Koiri/Kushwaha Magar Kami Musalman Thakuri
6 Magar Chamar/Harijan/Ram Kami Newar Kami Magar
7 Tharu Dhanuk Gurung Tharu Yadav Damai/Dholi
8 Newar Musahar Tharu Sarki Damai/Dholi Dalit Others
9 Musalman Kurmi Rai Damai/Dholi Sarki Sarki
10 Kami Dusadh/Pasawan/Pasi Damai/Dholi Tamang Chamar/Harijan/Ram Dashnami/Sanyasi

Do the major ethnic groups have a majority in at least one of the proposed six states?

The table below shows which of the 10 major ethnic groups have a clear majority and a majority in the six proposed federal states. In this analysis, a clear majority refers to a condition in which the noted ethnic group has the largest population in the given state. A majority refers to a condition in which the noted ethnic group is among the three largest ethnic groups in the given state.

Which of the 10 Largest Ethnic Groups Have Majorities in Proposed Federal States?
S.N. 10 Largest Ethnic Groups in Nepal Clear Majority* (Yes/No) State(s)* Majority*** (Yes/No) State(s)***
1 Chhetree Yes State 1, State 5, State 6 Yes State 1, State 3, State 5, State 6
2 Brahman – Hill Yes State 4 Yes State 1, State 3, State 4, State 6
3 Magar No Yes State 4, 5
4 Tharu No Yes State 2, 5, 6
5 Tamang Yes State 3 Yes State 3
6 Newar No No
7 Kami No No
8 Musalman No Yes State 2
9 Yadav Yes State 2 Yes State 2
10 Rai No Yes State 1
* Where The Ethnic Group Is The Largest in The State
*** Where The Ethnic Group Is Among The Three Largest Ethnic Groups

See charts of 10 major ethnic groups in each of the six states by clicking on respective tabs in navigation bar or below.


Any ethnic group that has a majority in a state will be able to elect representatives that are answerable to them and therefore control a significant portion of its economic and development policies, at least in theory. Complemented with proportional representation, this federal system is believed to ensure lawmakers and administration will enact targeted policies to benefit residents of each state.

The dissident ethnic groups and political parties would benefit from using this data to propose alternatives instead of illegally imposing strikes and engaging in violent confrontations with state security forces.

Data Source: Nepal’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Special Thanks to Chandan Sapkota (Twitter: @csapkota) for directing my attention to this data source.

Dataset: “Part II : Social Characteristics Tables (Caste/Ethnicity, Mother Tongue and Second Language)” [pdf].

Few words on the data set: Nepal’s CBS induces unspeakable horrors by only publishing pdf and not associated csv or xlsx files. Processing data from PDF documents is time-consuming and mundane. I have taken the liberty of extracting pertinent data from this PDF document into a user-friendly spreadsheet format. If you would like to perform your own data analysis, you are welcome to use this dataset.

Download – Federalism in Nepal – Ethnic Majorities in Six Proposed States [Google Spreadsheet], courtesy of Madhesi Youth.

[Disclaimer: This analysis and its deficiencies are mine and does not reflect the official stance of Madhesi Youth organization.]