Who is Koĩts-Sunuwar?

Koĩts-Sunuwar are one of the 59 indigenous peoples listed under the Nepal government’s NFDIN schedule, who inhabit the eastern part of Nepal, alongside the Liku (Likhu), Ngãku (Sunkoshi), Subuku (Tamakoshi) Rivers, and their other branches Khimku (Khimti), Yolung, Molung, and Solung. Its source – in the Rolwaling Himalayan range – flows to the south. Importantly, they call themselves as Koĩts in their mother tongue and are proud to identify themselves as ‘Kirant-Koĩts’. Others call them Sunuwar, Mukhiya/Mukhia, Sikari, etc. They have over 70 sub-clans and their language is called ‘Koĩts Lo’. The traditional religion of this community is called Kirat-Dharma (Kirat Religion), while the religious philosophy is called ‘Mukdum’. They have their own shamans and priests known as Poinbo (male shaman), Gyami (female shaman) and Naso (priest). The shamans and priest perform every custom, ritual, festivals. Therefore, they are the integral role within this community. According to latest national Census 2011, their population is 55,712.

Customary institution of Koĩts-Sunuwar

The Koĩts Chuplu is the customary institution of Koĩts-Sunuwar which existed when they exercised Kipat, a communal land-ownership system in their ancestral territory in the eastern part of Nepal—Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Sindhuli and Dolakha district. The system existed on the basis of collective leadership, among the 12 Kipat and 16 Thum, where Koĩts Chuplu would regulate economic, social and justice system. In this system, there consists of Mulich (Chief), Ngawach (Advisor), Gaurung (Judgement Executor) and Dibrung (Communication Officer/ Assistant). There used to be Mulich and his assistants—Ngawach, Gaurung and Dibrung in each Kipat and Thum. Each of them would have been chosen on the basis of hereditary. People usually try to resolve disputes on their own but when the conflicting parties are not satisfied, then they go to the Chief, who is called Mulich of their Kipat or Thum. Every decision is made and communication is passed through Chief. In and around their Kipat, a communal ownership area, Koĩts-Sunuwars’ were free to collect fire-wood, fodder, while non- Koĩts-Sunuwars’ had to obtain the permission, but none were allowed to do so at any time around the year. Mulich would issue orders when to cut-down grass, leave the animals in pasture, hunt the honey, catch the fish, hunt the animal, and so forth. Mulich, the Chief, in mutual understanding among the representatives of all the households of this areas. ‘Dibrung’ was communicator who would cry from the high place playing symbolic music and equally would communicate in various other ways. Ever since the Kipat lands were abolished with the promulgation of Land Reform Act of 1964. The state then imposed the hierarchical Hindu caste policy of assimilations, among others, Koĩts-Sunuwar were also compelled to some of their Kipat lands for the use of Hindu priest. Since, then this customary institutional practice

‘Koĩts Lo’

The language of Koĩts-Sunuwar is called ‘Koĩts Lo’, comes from Tibeto-Burman family. Of their total population of 55,712, as many as 37, 898 Koĩts-sunuwar speak their mother tongue, according to Central Bureau of Statistics 2011.

Koĩts-Sunuwar has been the medium of instruction in Nepal recently. The government itself has developed non-formal and formal education text books--up to grade- 5 in initiation of Koĩts-Sunuwar community's representative organization--Sunuwar Welfare Society). Similarly, nearly 2-dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, a number of literary books and various pamphlets, brochures, pocketbooks relating to collective human rights concerning to Indigenous peoples such as ILO Convention 169, UNDRIP etc have been translated, published and widely distributed on Koĩts-Sunuwar language. Likewise, numerous of community based radio programs and short films have also been produced on Koĩts-Sunuwar language, whereas a couple of magazines on its Koĩts-Sunuwar language, despite having a few number of population. The so far, Koĩts-Sunuwar does not have access to Television. 

Number of speakers of ‘Koĩts Lo’

According to latest national Census Report 2011 carried out by government, as many as 37,898 people speak their mother-tongue--Koĩts-Lo:.

Countries where ‘Koĩts Lo’ is spoken

Nepal, India, Bhutan, China (Honk Kong/ esp. by British Gorkha Army-family), UK, (esp. British Gorkha Army-family) where ‘Koĩts Lo’ is spoken. In India, especially at Sikkim State government has listed Koĩts-Sunuwar language as one of the official language.