Around the world politicians, policy makers and activists have sought to minimize the inequalities that historically marginalized and discriminated social groups have faced because of their race, ethnicity or caste. Governments have passed legislation or recommended policies to territorially protect or advance the education, employment or political involvement of socially excluded groups. These policies range from territorially based self-discrimination for Native American claims in the US, ‘positive action in the UK, ‘preferential policies’ in China to ‘reservations’ in India. Such policies are highly contested, as they necessarily involve contemporary discrimination against individuals from other social groups to make up for historical inequalities. In India, such ‘affirmative action’ has existed in law for over 50 years. In Nepal, a new government was considering its own affirmative action agenda after ten years of a Maoist revolutionary struggle. This British Academy funded three-year partnership of scholars, policy makers and activists was a means to consider the debates over affirmative action in India for the emerging politics and policy making in Nepal.