Nepali - Sociopolitical Organization

After a brief attempt at democracy in the 1950s, Nepal has had a constitutional monarchy based on a tiered system of representative government called the panchayat system. This system has largely been in the control of the king. Recently (1990-1991), Nepal has entered a period of major political transition in which a new constitution has been written and direct, democratic elections of representatives to the National Assembly has been instituted. These developments limit the power of the king.

Social Organization. There are a number of caste and Secular hierarchies in Nepal that have a functional meaning in the context of local settings. However, for more than two hundred years high-caste Hindu Nepali-speaking groups have dominated in many sociocultural and institutional settings because of their control of the country's political economy. This cultural dominance was consolidated in the Legal Codes of 1859, in which all groups were broadly cataloged and ranked roughly according to caste principles with, of course, Brahman Chhetri at the top. However, in 1964 the king ended the government's legislation of social practices based on caste.

Political Organization. At the local level, villages have always been run by headmen and, often, a council of elders or influential men. The government had sanctioned the power of headmen by allowing them to collect taxes. The panchayat system, with its elected representatives at the ward and multivillage level, and the institution of government courts in administrative centers throughout the country have superseded, though not entirely replaced, this earlier system of political organization.

Social Control. At the village level there are no formal mechanisms of social control, although many groups have lineage or local-descent groups of elders that decide the meaning of inappropriate behavior. Yet, in the event of crime or legal disputes, these groups do not have real power other than to institute forms of ostracism or contact district courts or police.

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