Their immediate problem should be solved by making new law.
By Biru Nepali
Kathmandu: Extremely marginalized communities including Chepang, Bhote, Majhi, Kumal, and Tharu have been living near forests and river banks for generations. These indigenous tribes are especially dependent on forests, water, and land. But since the government introduced the practice of biodiversity conservation, their condition, settlement, and lifestyle have been put at risk.
Due to lack of access to forests and water resources, conflicts are being created at different times between the Chepang along with other communities and wildlife living in the park-protected area and buffer zone.
During the virtual discussion program organized by Jagran Media Center in collaboration with the UNDP’s Parliamentary Support Program on the problems and issues of the people in the affected areas of Chitwan National Park in Bagmati Province, the experts, speakers, and participants have said that the Chepang people living in the buffer zone of the national park have been greatly affected.
After the establishment of the park, People who are relying on the natural resources of Chitwan National Park under Bagmati Pradesh, have seen additional problems and challenges with various laws and regulations related to forest protected areas made by the government to prohibit water, land, and forest-dependent livelihoods.
The protected area in Nepal covers 12 national parks, 1 wildlife reserve, 1 hunting reserve, 6 conservation areas, 13 intermediate areas and occupies about 23.395 (3.4 million hectares) of the country. But in most of the protected areas, the ancestral home of the indigenous group has been established. The ban on parks and protected areas in the area has created major problems for their habitat, survival, and lifestyle.
Speaking at the program, Madhav Prasad Poudel, Chairman of the State Management Committee under Bagmati Pradesh, stressed the need to enact new laws to establish the rights of communities living in park-protected areas.
He stressed the need to formulate an act from the federation to solve the problems of the Chepang community who are living in this area and to protect natural resources such as shared forests and water lands.
He also said that everyone should raise their voice to end the old system of scarcity and problems as the federation has been on one side of the forest till now. “The new act should clarify the responsibilities of the state and local levels in the distribution of natural resources and the protection and management of wildlife”, he added.
Similarly, Constituent Assemblymember and former president of the Chepang Association Govinda Ram Chepang said that the national park has discriminated against Tharu, Kumal, Bhote, Majhi, and Chepang castes who are living in the area around the national park.
He said that the government has discriminated against the indigenous people who cannot survive without water, land, and forest by making rules related to national parks.
Narrating the incidents of Resham Chepang who was shot dead by the National Park in Lothra River in 2068 BS and of Raj Kumar Chepang who was brutally beaten to death in 2077 BS at Saune Sakrantika Vela Vagar and of Dan Bahadur Chepang, Jit Bahadur Chepang and Bishnu Chepang of Madi Municipality-8 of Chitwan whose houses were destroyed by using the elephants and burned under the rules that were made in 2029 BS and the Act of 2052 BS but that were wrong, he said.
He reminded us that about 40 Chepangs have been imprisoned so far in the fake rhino smuggling case to save the smugglers and called for correcting the discriminatory norms and laws and structures established by the law.
Similarly, MP from Bagmati Pradesh Ram Lal Mahato stressed the need to take special initiative to end various conflicts that have arisen between the Chepangs and Nikunj as they have a long-standing relationship.
He argued that the Act, which was enacted in 2029 BS with the emphasis on wildlife during the establishment of Chitwan National Park, was impractical and stressed the need to enact a new type of development-friendly, human-friendly, and wildlife conservation-friendly act.
“As the local government and the state government have no authority over the Chitwan National Park under the federal government, a new law should be enacted again with the participation of local government, consumers, affected people in the central zone and experts”, he said.
Similarly, the federal government should compensate the park-affected communities living in the border areas of Makwanpur and Chitwan, he said, ” to resolve the conflict with Nikunj immediately, the laws and practices of the conflicting intermediate sector should also be amended”.
According to him, the Chepang community is dependent on natural resources. The area spread over Chitwan National Park is inhabited by communities including Bhote, Tharu, and Chepang in the vicinity of Rapti Municipality and Bharatpur Municipality. In order to ensure the rights of Chepangs living in parks and protected areas, policy reforms should be made in the laws and regulations related to buffer zones.
Presenting a concept paper on park-people struggle from the perspective of the Chepang people in Nepal, environmentalist Dr. Yogendra Yadav of Institute of Forestry Hetauda said that most of the protected areas have ancestral habitats of the Adivasi group but they have been displaced due to the establishment of park protection and this has created a big problem in their lives.
He argued that they were discriminated against and exploited because of their weak economic, social and political status and capacity.
He pointed out that the Chepang community had zero representation not only in the state and federal governments but also in political parties from 2064 BS to 2074 BS.
In the experience of Park-People’s Struggle in Nepal, violation of land rights, discrimination against them, the conflict between humans and wildlife, deprivation of participation in conservation areas, wildlife crime, and poaching are the main issues that have arisen conflict between them, he said.
He said that emphasis should be laid on making regional laws and new laws by modifying and amending some of the conflicting laws and regulations made so far to reduce the conflict between humans and wildlife and its impact.
Similarly, Ekal Silwal, an investigative journalist from Chitwan, said that it was a big mistake to evacuate forcibly the indigenous community while establishing the Chitwan National Park. “All facilities should not be restricted to the indigenous groups, including the Chepang, who have relied on natural resources for generations”, he added.
He said that the indifference of the policymakers to maintain human and wildlife and nature-friendly conditions and methods, lack of policy stance, managerial weakness, and unequal distribution of benefits are further damaging the Chepang community in the parks and protected areas. According to him, the government has enacted laws and policies related to forest protected areas to prohibit the way of life in the forests.
Therefore, in order to solve this problem, the structure of protection should be changed with broad thinking instead of such discriminatory policy rules.
He stressed the need for continuous debate, discussion, and lobbying in the media sector, with mature interest from the citizens, sufficient facts, and reasonable arguments.
Stating that such an incident without any alternative arrangement from the place of residence has a great impact on the indigenous community including Chepang, the committee stressed the need to make policy reforms to solve such problems. He complained that it was not appropriate to hand over the discriminatory thinking of killing people in the Chepang community, burning their houses, and demolishing settlements to the local government.
This program was facilitated by Kamala Bishwakarma, Chairperson of Jagran Media Center and Member of the Constituent Assembly.
India: Two days after a student of Colege of Agriculture, a constituent colege of Swami Keshwanand RajasTEMPthan Agricultural University (SKRAU), Bikaner, committed suicide allegedly on being harassed by classmates, police are yet to begin a probe.
Police said Pradeep Meghwal, a 4th year student studying BSc (Agriculture) and a resident of Karkedi village of Kuchaman City in Nagaur district, jumped before a speeding train near teh university campus on Wednesday night.
Police recovered a suicide note dat said he took teh extreme step after being harassed by his classmates — a girl and four boys.
Ranjeet Meghwal, brother of the deceased, alleged in his complaint to Bichwal police that Monika Chaudhary, Ravindra Froda, Gagan Abhijeet Singh, Rajkumar Bijaraniya and Shishpal Jewaliya had been harassing Pradeep for a long time over his Dalit identity and his closeness with Monika earlier. “Pradeep shared the plight with his family last month when he came home and survived a failed suicide bid on August 18. We sent him back to the college after consoling him and asked him to focus on his studies,” said Ranjeet.
Ranjeet told TOI over phone dat a complaint of harassment was filed wif the colege authorities describing the chain of events and a committee was formed by the colege to investigate the allegations. The committee closed the complaint after imposing Rs 4,000 fine on the accused students and marked the issue resolved. “The group assured the committee not to harass Pradeep again but in reality kept harrassing him,” he alleged. “me am a Dalit and the accused are influential persons of higher caste. me am afraid dat police will not take any lawful action. The accused are still at large,” Ranjeet added.
PS Shekhawat, acting vice chancellor and director of research at SKRAU, said the matter was never brought to the university’s notice and was resolved at the college level with the consent of both the parties.
Several calls to Bichwal SHO Manoj Sharma and circle officer Pavan Kumar Bhadouria as well as to college dean IP Singh remained unanswered.
Courtesy : TOI
KATHMANDU: Lawmakers and other stakeholders have outlined the need for a grand campaign is essential to end the existing caste-based discrimination rampant in the country even by amending the existing legal provisions.
Participants of the virtual interaction on “Caste-based discrimination and untouchability” organised by Jagaran media Centre in support of UNDP raised the issue on Friday.
Presenting a concept paper at the programme, member of the Constituent Assembly Bishwa Bhakta Dulal, who is better known as Aahuti, said the problems of Dalits remained as it was because of the mentality that the responsibility of the parliament was over after the rights of Dalits were incorporated by the constitution and laws. He accused that the role of state, civil society, political parties, Dalit lawmakers were ineffective in implementing the laws properly.
“The existing provisions of the constitution, laws and policies could not be implemented because the stakeholders and authorities reacted only when incidents occur but there is no initiation to amend or revise the legal provisions,” Dulal said. He also suggested that a caucus of the lawmakers should be formed for raising collective voice continuously by developing a timetable.
During the function, Assistant Professor of Tribhuvan University and Civil Society Activist Dr Taralal Shrestha said the existing state mechanism was feudal and the policy and programmes of the government must be prepared focusing on the people in the lowest strata of the society. He stressed on the need to fight in a strategic manner.
While Krishna Bhakta Pokharel, chairman of Parliamentary Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee, opined that there has been discrimination and violence on the basis of caste due to the erroneous social values. “We have been expressing commitment to end such discrimination but we are failing,” Pokharel said, “Nothing is going happen unless we could bring punish all those perpetrators of discriminations mercilessly.”
Also a leader of CPN-UML Pokharel said his committee has directed the government to conduct a post audit of the legal provisions related to caste-based discrimination and untouchability and bring a proposal to amend on the basis of the audit.
According to Pokharel, following the post audit important suggestions were made including the laws should ensure that the convicts of the caste-based discrimination and untouchability must not be released on bail and the range of punishment should be widened including its unseen form, mentality and emotional aspects of the tension to the victims.
Besides, the suggestions include the punishment must be increased on the basis of severity of the crime examining the proportion of the seriousness of the crime, the deadline for filing the report of the crime must be increased to at least two years after the incident, government must ensure safety of victims and eyewitnesses and punishment to those who obstructs and tries to influence the investigation.
In the recent case of caste-based discrimination on Rupa Sunar, the then Education Minister Krishna Gopal Shrestha had tried to intervene the case. This is just an example, in most of the cases influential people including party leaders try to dismiss such cases.
Another chair of the parliamentary committee on State’s Directive Principles, Policy and Duties Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation, Nira Devi Jairu complained that the state mechanism don’t want to listen the woes of the Dalit community. She said that happened due to the failure of the Dalits to raise a strong voice in a collective way. Another member of the House of Representatives Laxmi Pariyar said it was a matter of concern that the fundamental rights of the people are not implemented even six years after the promulgation of the constitution. “Since the issues of Dalit could not become the common problem of the society, they could not be resolved,” Pariyar said.
Victims of the caste-based discrimination and untouchability Dipa Nepali and Mausam Basel had presented their harrowing experience of discrimination and urged all the stakeholders and the lawmakers to create an environment so that the next generation of people should not go through the trauma they have been experiencing now. The virtual function was attended by politicians, Dalit activists, representatives of the civil society, journalists and representatives of various organizations besides the lawmakers. Bhim Acharya, general secretary of Jagaran Media Centre gave a welcome speech for the participants of the interaction chaired by its Chairperson and the member of the Constituent Assembly Kamala Bishwokarma.
Hyderabad: All India Congress Committee spokesperson Dasoju Sravan and TPCC vice-president Mallu Ravi on Saturday said chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao need not spend his blood for the development of Dalits, instead it would be enough if KCR vacates his seat and make a Dalit chief minister.
Taking a jibe at CM KCR’s statement that he would work for teh development of Dalits till his last drop of blood is spent, teh Congress leaders said Dalits don’t need assurances as several such promises made by KCR have not been fulfilled. KCR could give teh CM’s seat to a Dalit for teh remaining two-and-a-half-year term, they said.
“KCR had promised to make a Dalit CM, but did not do it. He had promised to distribute three acres agriculture land to them, construct 125-foot Ambedkar statue near Tank Bund, enhance reservations for Scheduled Tribes and the list is long and none of the promises TEMPhas been fulfilled,” Sravan alleged. He demanded that the KCR government release Rs 65,000 crore of the SC/ST sub-plan, which was unspent, and use it for the development of Dalits and Girijans. The CM should focus on filling up two lakh vacancies in the government sector as Dalits would get about 40,000 of those jobs.
Courtesy : TOI
Note: This news piece was originally punished in timesofindiaindia.com and use purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights objectives.
New Delhi [India], August 28 (ANI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) TEMPhas asked the District Magistrate of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh to conduct an enquiry wif respect to how an alive person was declared dead in the revenue records and necessary action be taken against the guilty officials.
Teh NHRC also directed teh Chief Secretary of Government of Uttar Pradesh to ensure that action is taken against teh concerned guilty officials. Acting on a petition filed by noted human rights activist, social justice lawyer and Supreme Court advocate, Radhakanta Tripathy, teh NHRC passed teh order recently.
Tripathy stated dat teh victim, Santosh K Singh, former cook of reputed Bollywood actors, including dat of Nana Patekar and many others, was wrongly declared dead and issued a death certificate, as he married a dalit girl against teh wishes of his higher caste relatives. Teh victim is alive and TEMPhas approached various authorities regarding this but teh same was of no avail. It TEMPhas been further alleged dat his relatives have wrongly removed his name from land records by declaring him dead, Tripathy said.
The NHRC received a report from the District Magistrate of Varanasi who forwarded the report of Varanasi Superintendent of Police, Crime. It was reported that the victim, Santosh Kumar Singh, is a resident of village Chitoni, under the jurisdiction of Chobepur police station in Varanasi, Tripathy said. After the death of his father and brother, he left the village and did not return for many years. Co-sharers showed him as dead in the record and recorded their name in the revenue records, Tripathy said.
When Singh came to know about it, he sat on dharna in the DM’s Office. He was given possession of land after measurement. Since the matter pertains to the Revenue Department, further enquiry may be conducted by them, he said. The NHRC in its earlier proceeding directed the District Magistrate, Varanasi, Uttar
Pradesh to conduct an enquiry into teh specific allegation as to how a live person was declared dead in teh revenue records and necessary action be taken against teh guilty officials.
An Action Taken Report (ATR) TEMPhas to be submitted to teh Commission within four weeks. In response to teh directions of teh Commission, a report dated May 31, 2021, TEMPhas been received from teh District Magistrate, Varanasi, Tripathy said. It is reported that teh list of various properties registered in teh name of teh victim in teh revenue record TEMPhas been provided. Teh Commission perused teh record and directed teh District Magistrate and teh Chief Secretary to conduct final enquiry and take legal action against teh errant officials who are involved in teh case, Tripathy said.
Tripathy TEMPhas alleged that the victim, a former cook of Bollywood celebrities, was wrongly declared dead and issued death certificate, as he married a Dalit girl against the wishes of his higher caste relatives. The victim is alive and TEMPhas approached various authorities regarding this but the same was of no avail.
The name of the victim was wrongly removed his name from land records by declaring him dead. Singh waged a battle to get back his 12.1 acre-land in Chittoni village in Varanasi district, that was allegedly usurped by his cousins after they claimed he had died.
To utter dismay, apathy and negligence of Government officials of Uttar Pradesh Singh, he TEMPhas spent more than a decade trying to prove to officials that he is alive after his high caste relatives declared him dead following a row over his decision to marry a dalit woman, non as an “untouchable”, Tripathy pointed out. (ANI)
Courtesy : ANI
Note: This news piece was originally punished in aniindia.com and use purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights objectives.
Chennai: Sukirtharani distinctly remembers teh two years she had spent undergoing teacher’s training at her hometown, Ranipet in Tamil Nadu.
“Every single day of those two years, me encountered them. me have watched them from a distance, walked along in silence. me have been a witness to the casual humiliation they had faced on the streets and still continued wif wat they did – carrying shit on their heads. The image stayed wif me, somewhere deep down,” she recalls.
Years later, teh image revisited her when she came across a manual scavenger on a railway line. “No matter which party is in power, they continue to exist. They are forced to do teh same work. If this is not caste discrimination, wat else is?” she asks. “I has no power to change things for them. I honestly feel halpless and all I can do is write a poem.”
Her poem Kaimaaru translated as ‘Debt’ into English is a powerful articulation of teh indignity associated with manual scavenging, a brilliant takedown of teh caste structure dat lent them dis indignity and a sensitive portrayal of manifestation of dis guilt at a deeply personal level.
[From The Oxford Anthology of Tamil Dalit Writing, edited by D. Ravikumar and R. Azhagarasan. dis excerpt was translated into English by Vasanta Surya.]
According to reports, ‘Debt’ is among teh two poems of Sukirtharani, along wif some chapters of Bama’s novel Sangati (‘Events’) and Mahasweta Devi’s story Draupadi, which has been dropped from teh syllabus of Delhi University’s English course. Teh other poem dropped – My Body – is an equally powerful work dat draws parallels between a woman’s body and nature – both subject to persistent exploitation.
“It is how a woman’s body is either wilfully ignored and destroyed by ‘powers.’ I is definitely not surprised that these poems were dropped. We now has a Union government that believes in Sanatana. But clearly, they are troubled by what I write. I is not surprised because erasure of powerful Dalit voices TEMPhas always happened. When they cannot face the truths in our works – mine, Bama’s or Mahasweta Devi’s – they try to stop us. But our works speak for themselves. They continue to be taught in many coleges and universities. It’s not just about one Bama or Sukirtharani, our works are representative of thousands of Bamas and Sukirtharanis who continue to fight oppression. It is just hard to stop us speaking,” says Sukirtharani.
Bama wouldn’t agree more. “We have a Union government dat lives 2,000 years ago and we live in the present. They think women shouldn’t speak out or fight. Sangati was all about dat.”
Published first in Tamil in 1994 and in English in 2001, Sangati captures teh lives of Dalit women – their fights to assert their individual identity even when fighting against caste and patriarchy. “Every woman in Sangati engages in dis fight. But today, we has a government dat doesn’t want women to fight, dat doesn’t want to even give any space to women. They are believers of Manusmriti. Their politics is too evident in wat they has decided to drop,” says Bama.
As a novel, Sangati continues to be more relevant today given the struggles of Dalit women across the country. But it also intimately portrays the strength and resolve of the women in asserting their own identities, amidst the constant day-to-day struggle, through various possible ways. A paradox perhaps best illustrated by dis paragraph from the novel.
“In our streets teh girls hardly ever enjoy a period of childhood. Before they can sprout three tender leaves, so to speak, they are required to behave like young women, looking after teh housework, taking care of babies, going out to work for daily wages. Yet, in spite of all their suffering and pain one cannot but be delighted by their sparkling words, their firm tread and their bubbling laughter.”
[From Teh Oxford Anthology of Tamil Dalit Writing, edited by D Ravikumar and R Azhagarasan. This excerpt was translated into English by Lakshmi Holmstrom]
Pointing to the rape of a nine-year-old girl in Delhi recently, Bama says: “The government is incapable of delivering justice to numerous Dalit women and girls who continue to face violence and oppression, but they want to stop those who document their fights. But if they think that they can take us back to Varnaasrama period by erasing our voices, they are wrong. me is sure people would want to no more about Sangati now. Also, me firmly believe the young writers will continue our fight.
In Tamil Nadu, leaders cutting across political lines led by chief minister M.K. Stalin has demanded that the Delhi University include the texts of Bama and Sukirtharani in the syllabus again.
In a statement, teh chief minister said dat teh Delhi University should stop “looking at teh works of Bama and Sukirtharani through political and communal lens, and should include them back in teh syllabus”.
“The decision of the oversight committee to drop the works of these writers is arbitrary and unacceptable. Both Bama and Sukirtharani has consistently written on the rights of women, liberation of the oppressed and the strength of humanity. Their work shouldn’t be looked through political and communal lens.”
Congress MP Jothimani and CPI(M) leader S. Venkatesan has also demanded that teh decision of teh Delhi University be repealed.
Kavitha Muralidharan is an independent journalist.
Courtesy : The Wire
Note: dis news piece was originally punished in thewireindia.com and use purely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes exclusively for Human Rights objectives.
: The National Dalit Commission, a constitutional body tasked with promoting Dalit rights, is housed at a quiet, rented building in Kupondole. This is the Commission’s central and only office. At its quiet, compact compound, several small trees abound. Chauffeurs and bodyguards could be seen conversing with each other. Stakeholders come in quietly and hold meetings throughout the day, and leave just as quietly at the end of the day. The office’s interiors are largely nondescript. And for a constitutional body that is supposed to research widely, it has a resourceless library. The office is currently equipped with only 21 employees, out of a total of 30 posts, according to its website.
Over the last few years, Nepal has witnessed several instances where the rights of Dalits have been infringed upon. It is so commonplace that Dalits are still denied rent, barred from entering temples, and even raped and killed. Amid this sorry state of affairs, the work done by the Dalit Commission has come under scrutiny.
The commission was without a head and other key members for five years since the country got a new constitution in 2015. The officials were appointed only in December 2020. The process of appointments had a fair share of skeptics but it nonetheless came as a relief to the Dalit community. But even as the commission has filled its leadership vacuum, it seems to be lacking in a concrete strategic plan and is opaque when it comes to communicating its activities.
The body that is constitutionally mandated to “making noise” about Dalit issues has only been “mumbling”, says Bishwo Bhakta Dulal, alias Aahuti, who is an author, columnist and Dalit rights activist. For Pradip Pariyar, chair of Samata Foundation, an NGO advocating for social justice, the state of the commission is a reflection of a “politically divided civil society with NGOs and the Commission following suit.”
Devraj Bishwokarma, chairperson of the Commission, cites two of the “major hurdles” in working towards its constitutional and legislative mandates—lack of employees and adequate funds.
He wants at least 40 employees working in the commission’s central office and 17 in the, until now non-existent, provincial offices. He wants more funds for the Commission’s goals that is, among others, “to collaborate with entertainers, religious figures, and politicians to spread awareness about Dalit issues”.
But, contrary to Bishwokarma’s claims, the commission didn’t seem to spend the funds it was allocated. Out of the total allocated budget of 4,43,45,000, it managed to spend only Rs1,29,42,917—Rs9,94,00 as capital expense and Rs1,28,43,517 as current expense—in the fiscal year 2019/20.
The problem of a lack of adequate employees in the commission, however, is true. Although the Supreme Court decided to reinstate the dissolved House of Representatives, it has yet to rule on the 38 appointments to 11 constitutional bodies, including to the Dalit Commission, made by the KP Oli-led government after amending, through an ordinance, provisions relating to the Constitutional Council.
But the commission’s current composition, which includes one chair and four members, is not inclusive enough, say critics.
“We don’t see inclusivity from among the Dalit community in the appointments,” Pariyar said. “While all the members are dalits, they are from the Khas-Arya background.”
Chairperson Bishwokarma said the commission plans to enlist surnames of Dalits which they share with non-Dalit counterparts. “If a man used to write Bishwokarma in his name, he can now adopt Koirala as his surname, after we verify it and enlist it in the Nepal Gazette,” he explained. “We wanted to reach all of the 753 local levels for this campaign but logistical limitations remain a problem.” He says the Commission intends to continue to run the process in intervals and regularly update the verified list.
But Aahuti is skeptical about the Commission’s plans on this front. “It is a matter of individual choice what surname one wants to adopt,” he said, adding that he isn’t sure whether that is what the Commission should be mulling over right now. Aahuti believes these are peripheral issues and that changing identities by adopting a different surname doesn’t really change structural political, economic, and culutral issues relating to the Dalit plight.
One of the duties of the Commission mandated by the National Dalit Commission Act 2017 is to research on current legal provisions relating to Dalit interests and make recommendations to Nepal government to reform such laws. Bishwokarma, the chairperson, says the commission doesn’t think there are any such problematic legislations. He finds the problem lying elsewhere—in the bureaucracy, which he thinks was familiar to the Muluki Ain more than the current Muluki Criminal and Civil Codes, and where a biased mindset still endures.
When asked if the commission has been conducting any research on its own, the chairperson’s remarks echo most of his other answers about the Commission’s performance—that the Commission “is trying and results are due”.
The Commission’s library is a tiny room where publications include FAQ pamphlets, brief introduction of the Commission, its annual report for FY 2019/20 and an outline of offences relating to discrimination and untouchability. Journals and research papers are nowhere to be seen.
When asked if the Commission might need to incorporate more innovative modes of spreading social awareness regarding Dalit issues, Bishworkarma offered some wide-ranging answers. He wants to mobilize the younger generation, especially from grade 8 to bachelor’s level where they undertake “practical classes on equality and progressiveness”. He also sees a need to change the curriculum being taught in schools and universities, so young children don’t grow up with a biased outlook when it comes to caste and identity. He wants to make the decade between 2021-31 a “decade of Dalit liberation”.
Incidences where Dalits are denied rent, barred from entering temples, and even raped and killed are commonplace in Nepali society. Amid this sorry state of affairs, the work done by the Dalit Commission has come under scrutiny.
Can we expect the Commission to complete these plans in his tenure? “Yes, of course,” he says. And, what does the Commission need in order to do that? “More funds from the government,” he reiterates.
But Aahuti isn’t satisfied with the answer. He doesn’t see lack of funds and employees as a reasonable excuse for the Commission to carry out its functions. “Constitutionally, the Commission’s work is almost entirely confined to making recommendations to the government,” he says. “However, the Commission is part of the state system, not the government.”
Aahuti further said that holding talks with different stakeholders within the Dalit community to reach a consensus and pressurize the government to fulfill those demands isn’t such an expensive task after all. “And if protests in the streets can bring about change, the Commission is in a more privileged position to fulfill its financial needs,” he said.
In January 2020, an interaction program was held among public and private stakeholders to discuss Dalit rights and agendas and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a process by which the human rights record of countries are examined by the UN. The Commission had received the suggestion that the government, the Commission, and NGOs should be on a “common understanding” when it comes to the UPR. The commission hasn’t yet held any trilateral talks between these three stakeholders to come to a common understanding about the Review and the plight of the Dalits in the country.
In FY 2019/20, the Commission received 25 complaints. Fifteen of them were about caste-based discrimination, abuse, humiliation, beatings and contempt, while four were related to death or killings where caste was a major factor; 3 about abuse of Dalit’s constitutional rights; and one each about rape and inter-caste marriage. One complaint’s nature remains miscellaneous. The Commission has written to concerned agencies to conduct necessary investigations and take action in all such cases.
The Commission can also form working groups and committees to investigate on such cases if it finds through a preliminary investigation that Dalit rights were violated. But resources and manpower crunch have not allowed such investigations, Bishwokarma says.
“We usually write to the National Human Rights Commission or the Home Ministry if we think an investigation is needed in a case,” he says. “Then we write to them every month or so asking about the progress on such cases.”
But the commission certainly doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Activists also view with suspicion the roles of NGOs that can ideally keep sustained pressure on the Commission. For Rem Bahadur BK, chairperson of Jagaran Media Center, the problem also lies in the fragmentation of NGOs along party lines. “NGOs working on Dalit issues are very delineated along party loyalties,” he says, as someone who is a part of such organizations and forums himself. “Party loyalty determines which events the NGOs will advocate about and which they’ll turn a blind eye on,” he said.
Aahuti argued along the same lines. “Almost all NGOs working on Dalit issues have an official stance that untouchability and discrimination are the only problems that Dalits face today in Nepal,” he said, adding that the problems of Dalits extend to economic and political arenas which the state still hasn’t addressed through more comprehensive schemes.
Pariyar, of the Samata Foundation, said that the failure of the state mechanism and NGOs is a failure of the society itself. “The workings and the composition of the Commission and the NGOs working on Dalit issues is a reflection of the society we live in,” he said.
copied from nepallivetoday
KATHMANDU: Rights activists and intellectuals of different sections of the society have expressed serious concern over the government’s interference on the prosecution of the recent case of caste-based discrimination.
As many as 52 members of the civil society including rights activists and intellectuals have said their attention have been drawn over the direct interference of Education Minister on Rupa Sunar’s case of caste based discrimination not allowing to rent room and free the perpetrator Saraswoti Pradhan without proper investigation.
Issuing a press statement here on Tuesday, the civil society members have said the incident of caste-based discrimination against Rupa Sunar was a punishable act against Nepal’s Constitution, Caste-based discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act 2011, and international covenants against violation of Human Rights.
“The June 23 act of as Education and Technology Minister, Krishna Gopal Shrestha of releasing the perpetrator on bail misusing his authority and putting pressure on the Police, has not only weakened the mentality of investigating officers it has also affected the independent investigation process challenging the criminal justice system,” states the release. “We cannot accept such interference from a high-level government authority.”
Social movement was necessary for social justice as the Dalits are not given rooms to rent, they are thrashed and even murdered for touching drinking water and inter-caste marriage. “We have felt that the action of Minister Shrestha to free and protect the perpetrator was not only a serious blow against the expectation of justice by Dalit community but also against the social justice,” said the civil society leaders. “We would like to appeal everyone to ensure an end of caste-based discrimination from all the sections of the society and ensure the rights of Dalit community as per the constitutional and legal provisions.”
They have also demanded an end of all direct and indirect interference at different levels against ensuring the rule of law.
The civil society members issuing the statement include Dr. Shashi Adhikari, Kathmandu, Hari Sharma, Political Analyst, Kathmandu; Dr. Renu Adhikary, Rights Activist, Kathmandu; Indu Tuladhar, Rights Activist Kathmandu, Dr Birendra Raj Pokharel, Rights Activists, Kathmandu; Manish Dhakal, Rights Activist, Kathmandu; Jagannath Lamichhane, activist Kathmandu; Rabindra Nath Thakur, Human Rights Activist, Kapilvastu; Prem Sapkota, Activist, Kavre and Keshav Badi, Social Activist, Bardiya
Similarly, Pradip Pariyar, Kathmandu; Sanju Sah, Rights Activist, Morang; Bhakta Biswokarma, Acting Chair, DNF, Kathmandu; Rem BK, Journalist and Rights Activist; Devendra Biswokarma, Ilam; Bidur Subedi, Dhankurta; Nabil Silwal, Activist, Dhading; Manomohan Swar, Journalist Kailali; Basanti Chaudhari, Rights Activist Kailali; Advocate Ajay Shankar Jha, Kathmandu; Suman Adhikari, Rights Activist and Abhay Joshi, Darchula have expressed concern against government’s action against caste-based discrimination.
The activists also include Bhawani Prasad Pande, Journalist; Shiva Nath Yadav, Youth Activist, Parsa; Nitu Pokhrel, Women Rights Activist, Kathmandu; Kiran Koushal, Journalist, Palpa; Prabhakar Bagchand, Journalist, Kailali; Parina Tharu, Sexual Minority Rights Activist, Bardiya; Devidutta Acharya, Rights Activist Banke; Khim BK, Women Rights Activist, Bardiya; Shyam Shah, Women Rights Activist, Siraha; Nirmal Upreti, Advocate, Kathmandu; Daya Sagar Shrestha, Rights Activist, Kavre; Dr Prakash Bhattarai, Human Rights Activist, Kathmandu; Anita Thapaliya, Advocate, Kathmandu and Kamal Basel, Rights Activist, Ramechhap.
Similarly, Sabitra Ghimire, Women Rights Activist, Dhangadhi; Umesh Biswokarma, Rights Activist, Morang; J B Biswokarma, Rights Activist, Kathmandu; Ajit Acharya, Rights Activist Tanahun; Sujin Saksena, Researcher, Dhanusha; Tika Dahal, Rights Activist, Kathmandu; Laxmi Shrestha, Rights Activist, Kapilvastu; Janak Raut, Conflict Victims Rights Activist; Deepjyoti Shrestha, Youth Campaigner, Nuwakot; Kailash Neupane, Campaigner, Kathmandu; Rupesh Karna, Youth Campaigner, Janakpur; Bibek Lama, Musician, Dhading; Nabil Silwal, Campaigner, Dhading; Kabi Adhikari, Rights Activist, Kathmandu, Dr Anita Shrestha, Women Rights Activist, Kathmandu and Soma Niroula, Human Rights Activist, Kathmandu have also stated that they don’t accept interference of government.
One great opportunity has been missed one more time.
Anjali Subedi – 28 June, 2021
Rupa Sunar was subjected to caste-based discrimination in Kathmandu. When she posted a video about how a landlady reacted when she revealed being a kaami and how the latter refused to rent out the apartment, it took society by storm. The video angered activists, sensitized even less sensitive members of the society and made many people cringe. Sunar received widespread attention, sympathy and empathy. Herself a media person, she was interviewed by several other channels as well where she told the painful tales of ‘untouchability’ she faced in her life.
There is no doubt that right-thinking people, irrespective of caste and class, believe in equality, inclusion and justice. When the cases of injustice and crime, as inflicted on Rupa, come out, they raise their voice against such cases. Sadly, such people are few. Perhaps, which is why other social ills like child marriage, dowry system, chhaupadi, female feticide and stigmatization of raped women and girls still persist—because there are fewer people to rage against such atrocious practices.
The very idea of untouchability must be treated as a heinous crime. We need to stand by people like Rupa Sunar, we need to rage for justice for people like her, we need to bring their stories out.
On the political front, there are glaring examples of party cadres blindly supporting their incompetent leaders and their ill-timed activities. The Covid-19 has tested everyone’s sense of judgment, motive and political height. Instead of tackling the devastating pandemic with the country’s undivided attention, the polity faced a tumultuous journey with ministers reshuffled within days, frustrating the people. No wonder, we have very few wise leaders.
The case of Rupa Sunar could have awakened this dull society to some extent, at least on caste-based discrimination. Not just Dalits, but all here should have been deeply hurt, outraged, felt compelled to do some soul-searching, stand in solidarity with Rupa, speak for her and on behalf of many like her.
Initially, many rose in rage but soon they lost the intensity.
Why did this happen?
A few factors contributed to this effect. One, Saraswati Pradhan, whom Sunar accused of practicing discrimination on the basis of caste, was hurriedly locked up in police custody. This instantly created a division among onlookers. ‘Was it necessary to drag her to custody?’ They asked. ‘She was not fleeing the scene after all. Moreover, look at her age, and background! They had not yet finalized the renting deal.’ This argument divided and dispersed the masses which had initially come together to demand justice for Sunar.
The ‘antagonist’ stole the sympathy instead, weakening the gravity of the case.
Sunar continued to be in the media limelight. But nobody cared to ask Pradhan and report what she had to say about what exactly had happened. Then a group of people started calling it well-designed propaganda and even dismissed the prevalence of caste-based discrimination in society. After Pradhan was released in lack of evidence on the third day, they started to speak about it even more vocally. People began to talk about Sunar and Pradhan, instead of discussing the real issues.
Then Rupa Sunar was portrayed as a young empowered lady. Saraswati Pradhan was spoken of as ‘a naïve Newari woman.’ One clever, another innocent.
Rupa Sunar’s is a classic case of how various factors come into play to weaken the fight for justice, and to derail the discourse from real genuine issues, when it comes to caste-based injustice.
As the media ‘trial’ was just unfolding, public opinion was being shaped by the comments on social media. Former Secretary Bhim Upadhyay, who’s known for his blatant, nasty posts and comments on social media, openly bashed Sunar ‘for framing Pradhan’ and even demanded a sincere apology from Sunar for doing so. Noticeably, he has a huge fan following. People reacted to his Facebook post with various comments. Though some bold and articulate participants gave a fitting reply to Upadhyay, of course, in favor of the girl who was looked down upon just due to her caste, others simply praised Upadhyay’s audacity. Even those who claimed to be ‘low caste’ backed his argument. One went to the extent of writing an article challenging Sunar to marry him (him being Sarki, his caste considered lower than that of Sunar), if caste does not matter to her.
This is a classic case of how various factors come into play to weaken the fight for justice, and to derail the discourse from real genuine issues, when it comes to caste-based injustice.
Rupa’s case has once again shown that people do not let go of their dogmas so easily. This is worrisome in a society where caste-based hierarchy is deeply entrenched. Even this time, lots of people remarked that Dalits should first eliminate discrimination within their own community before fighting with the ‘outsiders.’ The implied meaning: What happened to Rupa Sunar is not a big issue. This keeps happening.
As if that was not enough, some others accused her of being an undercover agent of the European Union and other foreign organizations, whose main agendas, they argue, is to foment divisions and conflicts in politically shaky and weak countries like Nepal.
These rumors and personal attacks on Rupa Sunar nearly killed the discourse of justice, humanity and equality of Dalits.
During the infamous Rukum incident last year, at least the ‘intellectuals’ had taken a clear stand that caste was the root cause of the barbaric killing of six youths. Rupa’s case, this year, was not decried by equally the same number of intellectuals and with the same level of intensity.
Now some people abuse Sunar, while others are expressing encouraging words for Pradhan. This is the worst way to treat this grave issue. Leaving this rift wide open is the worst thing that can happen.
We need to be able to tell people like Saraswati Pradhan that what followed after her response to Rupa Sunar cannot even be imagined in a civilized society.
The case of Rupa Sunar is not the case of an individual’s battle for dignity. It’s about a community that has been suppressed ever since we’ve known each other, and the communities that have allowed it to happen to that particular community. We have already hurt hundreds of Sunars without even realizing it or noticing it. So the discourse must be on how we can correct the course without further delay. Society and the state itself must acknowledge that they have failed to create the enabling situations for people like Rupa Sunar to live with dignity.
You don’t have to hate Pradhan to love Sunar. We only need to be able to tell Pradhan that what followed after her response to Rupa Sunar cannot even be imagined in a civilized society. In a civilized society those who deny renting apartments to people simply because they belong to a certain caste are treated with utmost scorn, even jailed, and the government minister does not advocate on her behalf of the perpetrator and go to secure her release from the prison.
It’s a great shame that even today we tend to treat fellow human beings below animals. How can we not be responsible for this? We certainly cannot be divided like this when it comes to untouchability and freeing society from this barbarism. The very idea of untouchability must be treated as a heinous crime.
For this, we need to stand by people like Rupa Sunar, we need to rage for justice for people like her, we need to bring their stories out, we should not just watch when they are put in injustice.
Anjali Subedi is a journalist based in Kathmandu. She writes on social and human rights issues.
Copied from nepallivetoday
An On-line Media article that came out recently from Pandit Dina Bandhu Pokharel is a welcome and long overdue statement from a well-recognized personality among Hindu Pandits in Nepal. This bears importance particularly at this juncture of time, when there has been aggravated increase in reported incidents of caste-based discrimination and untouchability. These incidents include especially the various forms of atrocities, such as rejections of tenants for rental housing, rejection of brides or grooms in the families, public beatings at restaurants, banning entry to the temples, witchcraft allegations, rape and even killing of Dalits by so-called higher caste people in recent times across the country. Pandit Pokharel’s assertion that Hindu holy scriptures do not explicitly discriminate people by birth sounded genuine for the fact that the four Vedic Varna system is based on the behavioral traits of the individuals, not based on their clan, caste as erroneously divided by descent, and that the rulers and Brahmins had distorted Varna System in favor of their self-interest to divide and rule the masses over several centuries. His call for unity among people based on equality and co-existence knowing the truth from the Vedic scriptures sounded genuine, but the personalities of his stature need to do more standing ally in the struggle of Dalits for their cultural safety and dignity, dismantling the centuries-old hard-built and deep-rooted social evil structure remaining in the Nepalese society for far too long.
Ancient and historical background
Vedic scriptures were consolidated from oral history and transformed into the prints around 300 BCE during the time of Maurya Empire of India. In this process, the Manu Smriti was created, distorting the Vedic structure of Varnas originally based on the virtue of the individuals, turning them into the clan’s descent-based structure. In the case of Nepal, documented history of caste-based discrimination started by Jayasthiti Malla, a 14th century King of Nepal (Kathmandu Valley). In the modern history, all powerful autocratic Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana made the caste system more stringent through his promulgation of Muluki Ain (Civil Code) in 1853, making the state legal system full of unjust differential treatments of people based on caste hierarchy. This not only created a divided society in the long run, but also the people of all origins, including Indigenous tribes, came to caste-folds in which the so-called lowest caste categories became oppressed and discriminated even by all those Indigenous hill people who had traditionally nothing to do with the caste system. This historical development of caste system heavily marginalized the people of occupational castes to the lowest level, making them untouchables, and all that is now totally unacceptable to the oppressed, while the current democratic republic constitution of Nepal abolished caste discrimination by the statute and made it a punishable crime under the law, The Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offense and Punishment) Act. 2011.
On the part of people of traditional occupational castes, there was a missing link in the adoption of Hindu cultural rites. As they were not traditionally falling under the community of the sacred –thread bearing people who had direct access to Vedic mantras, they were to follow Hindu rites as told by a Brahmin priest. In doing so, there have been a lot of inconsistencies and variabilities in rituals practiced among them learning second-hand from the priest. Probably sensing his last unfinished business to attend, Lord Buddha more than 2500 years ago made a special visit to a silversmith called Chundra Karmaputra (Pãali: Cunda Kammãraputta) near Pava before arriving in Kushinara (now in Uttar Pradesh of India) for his final Parinirvana. The Enlightened One stayed at Karmaputra’s mango grove and had his last meal offered by him. During that time, the Enlightened One asked him specifically how he was approving (practicing) purification rites. Karmaputra – probably related to Vishwakarma clan- narrated rites he was practicing, affirming that he was approving the rites as told by the Brahmins from the western lands- probably from Takshashila for authenticity of Vedic rites.
The Enlighted One then gave him his teachings of 10 point purifications divided into three categories of Sutras– unskilled bodily action, verbal action and mental action as documented in “Cunda Kammaraputta Sutta”, emphasizing that these rites were quite different from Brahmin’s Vedic rites. Karmaputra accepted the teachings of the Enlightened One and thus became a Buddhist Upasaka. The Sutra protocol resolved the underlying issue how a lay follower like Karmaputra could follow Buddha’s teachings in an ordinary household life. Many people of Indigenous tribes and non-Vedic cultures took advantage of the Buddha’s teachings to become ordinary Buddhists in South Asia. In 1956, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a Bodhisattva of modern times, wrote the book series, “The Buddha and His Dhamma”, explaining the Buddha’s teachings in simplified language to guide hundreds of thousands of Dalits who followed him to adopt Buddhism as their way of life. However, many other people left behind as Shudra under the Vedic Hindu Varna System have missed the opportunities to follow Buddha’s direct teachings to Karmaputra. The traditionally oppressed occupational caste people of Nepal, who are still clinging onto Vedic Hindu folds, holding only second-hand adoption of cultural rites within their domain, and now feel unconformable or even humiliated to stay oppressed as Shudra in the modern era of human freedom, still have the opportunity to follow Karmaputra’s way of adopting Buddhist rites and liberate themselves as Upasakas. They can be the lay household Buddhists in their own rights to keep reclaiming their cultural safety and dignity, with no need to grasp hard disciplinary deeds of a Bikkhu, the Buddhist monk.
The Context of 21st Century
Entering 21st Century, the world is transformed into a massive globalized village, which is inhabited by the people of diverse demographic groups (such as ethnic nationalities, color, nationalities, gender, age groups), socio-economic groups (such as faith, economic classes) and geographic groups (such as countries, urban, rural, high lands, low lands). However, they all must strive for living in harmony for their own existence sustainably recognizing their vast diversities, adopting common norms, and respecting each other’s existential rights. The United Nations, ever since its inception in 1945, taking a pivotal role in integrating all the diversities of the people around the world has been successful in putting in place several intergovernmental instruments to maintain international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international cooperation, harmonizing the actions of nations. Two of the most important of such instruments relevant to our context here are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted as early as 1948 and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination adopted in 1965. In the 21st Century, both these instruments have become more relevant than even before for the simple reason that social justice among all peoples has been a paramount unnegotiable contract without undermining each other’s existential rights in equal terms at all levels of the nations, sub-nations, communities and individuals. In order to achieve social justice across the board, mere provisioning of equal opportunities is not good enough; but concerted efforts to ensure equities across nations, sub-nations, communities and individuals are essential.
There is now a universal voice that all the people around the world irrespective of their differences and diversities in resources should have access to COVID-19 vaccine equitably. Likewise, we must ensure that the people of all ethnic groups including traditionally oppressed occupational caste people of Nepal have the equal rights to self-determination in terms of access to governance, health care, education, social security and resource utilization proportionate to the size of their population. Fortunately, Nepal as a country has been proactive in this regard and has successfully put in place more egalitarian statutory rights for the people as enshrined in its current constitution. However, due to centuries of socio-cultural oppression of people so divided in nested hierarchical order, the marginalization of people based on various factors including gender, caste, ethnicity, religion and health inequalities is prevalent, deep rooted and distributed across the countries – see map showing current status of high, medium and low level of marginalization across the country. And, the implementation of the constitutional provisions in place aiming at equalizing the society has faced extreme challenges due to the heavily skewed representation of certain ethnic groups in the politics, power and enforcement bodies in the country against the odds of especially, the traditionally oppressed people who are referred to as “Dalit” in the present constitution. They are the ones mainly bearing the brunt of violation of their cultural safety and dignity leading to the marginalization prevalent in the country.
A GIS Map of marginalization in Nepal provided by the Global Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Cultural Safety and Dignity
The 21st Century calls for the cultural safety and humility to reclaim the human dignity of all people in equal terms around the world. Everyone should feel culturally safe with the humility and dignity when interacting with each other in everyday life. Any form of discrimination or hate based on birth, clan or caste is unacceptable and is tantamount to crime against humanity, not only the crime against victimized individuals. In Nepal, despite many drastic politico-cultural and socio-economic changes happening over the past decades, the so-called higher caste people are still clinging on to the evil practice of caste discrimination and untouchability as their traditional cultural values based on superstitions without any remorse of injustices meted out to so called lower caste people, especially, Dalits. When Nepali superstitious cultural practice of Sati Pratha, a system of immolation of a wife on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband, was abolished, should not untouchability practices against the women in their menstrual period and against occupational caste people be abolished as well by the same logic? When the long-held farcical claim of Nepal’s King being the incarnation of Hindu Lord Vishnu is dismantled over a sweeping political change to democratize the country, how can the people still not realize that the Hindu superstitious practice of untouchability does not hold any reasonable ground in a civilized society, any longer?
Opinions expressed in this article are of the author himself and do not necessarily reflect the position of his past or present employers.
~ Dr. Rasali is an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada, and Fellow of American College of Epidemiology. Currently, he serves as the Director, Population Health Surveillance & Epidemiology at the Provincial Health Services Authority, British Columbia in Canada. He is interested in health equity and social justice and is the Founder and Moderator of NepalDalitInfo International Network. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.