DEUKHURI, May 6: The number of the Kusunda people, who introduce themselves as the 'King of Forest', is limited to 154 throughout the country.
This nomadic tribe is gradually assimilating with other tribes and is found residing sparsely at Ghorahi and Tulsipur, in Dang district, Kapilvastu, Rolpa, Pyuthan and Surkhet districts. The tribe is vanishing gradually.
What worries the elderly in the 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 staying within the same tribal people in a certain territory will contribute to preserving and promoting their language, culture, traditions and unique way of living.
They, thus, have been demanding 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 receive 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 enough. We have to find ways to make our lives easier by preserving our language, art, culture and tradition," maintained the 80-year-old who is one of the limited fluent speakers of the Kusunda language in his surroundings.
Kamala Kusunda of Ghorahi-18 is the only fluent speaker of the language in her locality. She is concerned about who will keep the dying language alive after her demise. "The protection of the Kusunda language and upliftment of our tribe should be a concern for the government," she demanded.
She argued, "If there were an integrated settlement, there would be chances for the protection and preservation of our language. Cultures and traditions are practiced regularly and in an 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 campaigns to pay attention to their upliftment. "We will cast our vote to those who will implement our plans and programs aimed at protecting our tribal existence," said Kamala.
The Language Commission has been running classes in the Kusunda language, one among the 129 languages spoken in the country. The local government is also providing some concessions for the education of the new generation of Kusunda.
Dhan Bahadur Kusunda, chairperson of the Kusunda Samaj, appealed to 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 names yet.