October 25, 2010


[ Likewise, some years ago Ram Maya Bishwokarma (a Dalit woman also  known as Kamini) had bought a buffalo in Dhankuta Bazaar in order to earn a living by selling its milk. But none bought the milk saying she was an untouchable or outcast. Once at the temple of Goddess (Devithan) in Taplejung, my birth village, a goat had been sacrificed for a religious ritual. Afterwards, it was touched by a person with surname Bishwokarma (an untouchable) and for that reason only the meat from the goat was given away to someone else. The person, who was an untouchable, touching the sacrificed goat was beaten for blasphemy. ]

     By Dirgha Raj Prasai

Bride Laxmi Achhami [Sarki, Dalit] and Groom Madan Khatri 
[ a perceived upper caste, non-Dalit] pose for a photo
 during their wedding [Photo: Narendra/DWO, Info Source: 
Dinesh Kumar Pariyar/ DWO]
Talks are up in the air in Nepal to end the trend of discrimination against some people who are falsely perceived as untouchables. They are known as Dalits in modern terms. But in the capital city of Kathmandu, you can find no such case at all. There is no discriminations in the cabinet of ministers, parliament, government offices, industries, organizations, meetings, assemblies, educational institutions, hotels, clubs and social organizations as well. This kind of discrimination is nowhere to be found at the national level, I shall rather write. However, the problem remains intact in the rural areas.  This trend has a deep root in remote areas. It looks like we may not be able to eliminate untouchability anytime soon. It can’t be ended with small efforts. In fact, the efforts made by the Dalit leaders, albeit entering the parliament through the act of proportionate representation and being appointed in the parliament, cabinet and commissions, has done little to emasculate the continuing discriminatory trend in the country. The human right activists out there in the country are busy presenting working papers at bigger hotels on this issue. The civil society runners, marred with the fashion of receiving money from political activists and foreigners, have not shown any concern towards gender discrimination as well. Those making a living by raising Dalit issues think that it is achievement to walk carefree by offering loud speeches only.

We can find many evidence in the rural Nepal. The  villagers of Doti district in Nepal have  persistent belief that if a Dalit drinks milk; blood will flow from their livestock’s nipples. This is why the residents of Doti do not raise livestock to sell milk. The villagers use powdered milk when making a tea. You cannot find milk in any tea stalls around. When traveling to  Bajhang and Bajura, I found the same case prevailing. A Dalit feels obliged washing the cup after drinking at a tea stall. The political leaders are well aware of the situation but they do not utter-mutter any words at all. Dalits are the people that craft and embroider, make jewelries for Hindu temples but they are the ones forbidden from entering it later. In reality, their failure to complain against such practice is what the Dalits are incapable of doing. In the Sunar village at Kalanki, Kathmandu a Shiva temple was erected by the Sunars (goldsmiths) themselves. The Sunars worship there, carry out other rituals and prayers in the temple. On the auspicious days of Shivaratri, and the Monday of Sawan (17th July-31st Aug.) and so on, all castes including Bhramins, Chetris and all other visit and worship in the temple. There is no discrimination of any kind. So, the Dalits themselves, must come forward and contribute in reforming the society.

Five years ago, Jaggi Prasad Upadhaya of Hollu village in Mugu district, committed suicide by throwing himself into Karnali River after the Maoist activists forcibly made him drink water touched by an untouchable or you would say  by a Dalit. His body was found 18 days after in a state with a Ved book (possibly Rigveda) strapped around his neck, He should have done so to emancipate himself.  Similarly, in 1999, the villagers in Putalibazaar of Syangja district, near Pokhara, the other business hub in the country, socially boycotted Priest Ram Chandra Koirala after he preached Gayatri Mantra to 27 Dalit youths at a week long Hindu religious ceremony(Saptaha Purana). Since then, the village has witnessed the passing of many festivals of Dashain, Tihar, Bratabandha and wedding ceremonies but no one has invited Priest Ram Chandra. And none has attended the ceremonies he holds. His parents say, they do not like to eat from his hands. The state and Dalit organizations could not confer award on such a social reformer, who preached Gayatri Mantra ( Om bhurbhuvaswo sabitubaranya bhargodevasya dhimahi dhiyo na prachodayat] to untouchables and challenged the prevailing discriminatory practices in the country.

Likewise, some years ago Ram Maya Bishwokarma (a Dalit woman also  known as Kamini) had bought a buffalo in Dhankuta Bazaar in order to earn a living by selling its milk. But none bought the milk saying she was an untouchable or outcast. Once at the temple of Goddess (Devithan) in Taplejung, my birth village, a goat had been sacrificed for a religious ritual. Afterwards, it was touched by a person with surname Bishwokarma (an untouchable) and for that reason only the meat from the goat was given away to someone else. The person, who was an untouchable, touching the sacrificed goat was beaten for blasphemy.

But, the non-Dalits seeing a beautiful Dalit girl do not feel any remorse from having fun saying that the blood of Dalits and non-Dalits is the same. And later on when it comes to marrying the woman, they back off. Even if anyone dares, he will have to face social boycott. The villagers will make him suffer social boycott.

If the government offers incentives to provide employment and award as a motivation to those ready for inter-caste marriage with Dalits, it could be one of the bases to end such kind of discrimination. If 
Nepal's political parties, social organizations and religious groups go to villages hand in hand with determination it could bring about a huge differnce. But the political parties are not ready to launch any such   campaigns as yet. The political parties have passed the proposal of declaring Nepal a discrimination free nation through the reinstated parliament in 2006. This only became an act of throwing dust into the eyes. How can a deep rooted social ill, which has lasted for eras and eras,  be removed by passing a simple resolution at the parliament?

The discriminatory trend persisting in
India after so many years of its liberation and Nepal gives us a feeling that we have not been able to provide  social justice to all. The recent fining by Muslim Surpanch (village chief) of Rs. 15,00.00 each on three Dalits: Beer Balram Meghwal, Sattu Ram and Nandu Ram for drinking water from public tap in Bikaner Rajasthan is a glraing example.  Although the state has adopted a policy of providing shelter to untouchables to end the trend of unsociability through laws and constitution in India, a bridegroom of such untouchable caste, who mounts a horse during a wedding procession, is beaten up and banned in rural areas.  The impact of this is seen in Nepal also. Out of the total population of 24 million, around 4.5 million are untouchables (Kari, Damai, Sarki, Kusule, Pode, Chamar) etc. In legal terms the Civil Code (Muluki Ain 1963) of 1854 played a big contribution in eradicating gender discrimination and the taboo of untouchability. However, all sides must work together to materialize it in pragmatic way. The government ought to take a special look towards this and run programme to eradicate it.

This discrimination is not a product of any religious beliefs. There is no discrimination in the Vedas by classification of people as untouchables. The trend of untouchability took a form of tradition due to the problems that aroused from prisoners of war, those who were chided by the state and those socially boycotted. Although the caste system has been discussed in detail in the Manusmriti, it is also clearly mentioned that those who lost the war, those sold and those who had accepted slavery were put into the Shudra strata with an intention of making them suffer. That has brought a division in human society, it looks as if it was designed to make the POWs and socially boycotted people suffer.

We all know, the Americans may also not drink the water touched by Iraqi POWs out of fear. Even though Christianity preaches of equality shunning caste-based discrimination; the African American were subjected to a ban from using the road, rail and bus used by the whites. The blacks were not allowed to study in a school attended by whites. To eradicate this South African leader Nelson Mandela had to spend 26 years in prison. So it will not be easy to rectify the flaws prevalent in Christian, Jews and Muslim and other religious communities.

The king Prithvi Narayan Shah once told, Nepal is  a garden of four major castes, Brahman, Kshtriya, Vaisya and Shudra and other 36 colours organized a ’communal party’ for Bhramins, Chetri, Newar, Tamang, Gurung, Kiranti, Kami, Damai, Sarki, Kasule among others. or class of peoples. The
Jagannath Temple can be  taken for an example. The temple was erected at the southern part of  Tundhikhel, Kathmandu to end social crimes against the  untouchables. At the hour of its inauguration, then King Rana Bahadur Shah had organized a ’communal feast’ for Bhramins, Chetri, Newar, Tamang, Gurung, Kiranti, Kami, Damai, Sarki, Kasule among others in an attempt to transform all Nepalese people into a single caste. Then few hardcore Bhramins  spread a rumor that the king had gone mad. He was subjected  even to abdicate the throne.

So such kind of orthodoxy and discrimination can not be eradicated by  verbal commitment only. The state must bring a revolutionary programme to end it for ever. The eradication of the discrimination and untouchability will only be possible when we become able to launch  a psychological and revolutionary campaign with a joint effort between the state and the state's all sectors at the rural level. The government must create an environment conducive to forming joint
committees comprising of political party activists, local organizations and Dalit leaders to end such horrible social ill in the country.                                  

Comments                                                                                    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sabitra Kaphle 
Sun, Oct 24, 2010 at 6:16 PM

This is completely unjustified issue and violations of humanity. This is 21st Century world and we are in such a battle which could have been eliminated Centuries ago. 

Sabitra Kaphle
Research Higher Degree Student
Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity
Flinders University
Level 2,
Health Sciences Building
GPO Box 2100
Adelaide SA 5001
Phone: +61 8 7221 8459
Fax: +61 8 7221 8424
Email: sabitrakaphle@gmail.com
 ---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Lal Bahadur Thapa 
Sun, Oct 24, 2010 at 9:07 PM
Untaouchability has been abolished in Nepal decades ago by amending then prevailing Civil Code and it is unconstitutional too. It is shameful to listen the same thing from different parts of the world and especially from the largest democratic country of the world great India.
It is the result of failure leadership of the political parties. Equally, local Surpanch and national political party leaders are responsible for this sort of inhumane treatment. They completely failed to sensitize against inhumanity, cruelty and discrimination against Universal Declaration of Human rights and Convention on elimination of untouchability in which State is a party.

Take an example children easily learn the misbehave of their own parents,  the surroundings, relatives, school mates and community which is not difficult to express what they learn in the early childhood. Politicians and few other negative forces of the community exaggerate  the situation and take undue advantage from such incident for their own vested interest.

  • The concerned ones should be punished financially and physical imprison both according to the text of law and needful compensation should be provided to the aggrieved party;
  • The Surpanch or village headman should be given stricture  with some additional responsibility to maintain national law and order in own constituency to be best example of maintaining good governance and aware not to repeat similar case in the future;
  • Local political party should focus on eliminating inhumanity , cruelty, injustice and discrimination against so called untouchable or schedule caste or Dalits;
  • National political parties should amend their Constitution with the provision strictly prohibiting  or ever expelling from their party, should some members and cadres be found involved in such accidents;
  • The concerned authority should be penalized and asked to implement all the provisions that are provided by the land of the law  and other concerned legislation and  International instruments.
  • Local Government should provide full compensation to the aggrieved party.
  • Law enforcement agencies should keep their eyes open whether law and order is out of control from such inhuman treatment and negative forces of the community and media should not highlight the issue  as a result local law and order may  fail to maintain local peace and order in the future.
Kathmandu, Nepal