ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Muslims of Nepal's Terai

The Muslim minority of Nepal, especially of the Terai region, faces a dilemma. The Muslims no longer wish to accept their inferior status in society. But as soon as they articulate their identity, they invite on themselves the attention and hostility of Hindu fundamentalists.

Muslims constitute the most distinct and well-defined minority group in the Hindu kingdom of Nepal. Besides their adherence to Islam, their ethno-cultural affiliation too, gives Muslims a distinct identity in a predominantly Hindu-Buddhist set-up. According to the 1991 census report, the 6,53,218 Muslims in Nepal comprise 3.5 per cent of the total population. Nevertheless, they form the second largest religious minority group, next only to the Buddhists (7.78 per cent in 1991).

The 1991 census data, which for the first time listed 64 ethnic and caste groups, is, however, termed misleading by most of these ethnic/caste groups. Many Muslims as well as Hindus in Nepal believe that the exact figure of the Muslim population in Nepal is much higher than shown in the census, and they constitute not less than 6 per cent of the total population [CBS 1993a, 1995a].1

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