By Pragya Lamsal
Nepal’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste. But a cause of worry is that accused of caste discrimination are enjoying political protection instead of legal action. As a result, the struggle for justice has become difficult and the discrimination is still rampant across the country.
Despite laws to protect Dalits from caste-based discrimination, they still face widespread discrimination across the country in differing forms. Some forms of discrimination are visible while some are subtle, indirect but deeply rooted in society. It is unfortunate that Dalits are humiliated, thrashed, misbehaved, and forced to tolerate injustices but law enforcing agencies are largely indifferent to their sufferings.
Recently, two major incidents have proved that there is lapses with the way our law enforcing system works when it comes to the matter of justice for Dalits.
Incident one – inhuman and brutal killings
In yet another case of extreme inhumanity, a Dalit boy and his friends were killed in a mid-western part of Nepal over relationship with upper caste girl. Three are still missing.
According to media reports, on 23 May, a 21-year-old Nabaraj BK went to Chaurjahari Municipality of Rukum, a mid-western district, with 18 of his friends to bring bride, a 17-year-old local girl with him he was in love.
But he did not come back. Accordingly, a scuffle occurred with villagers after girl’s mother, who was unhappy with her daughter’s relationship with Nabaraj because of caste, shouted for help with neighbors.
Villagers started pelting stones at Nabaraj and his friends and chased them towards the Bheri River. Nabaraj and his five friends were found dead in the Bheri river.
Incident two – alleged rape and murder of a Dalit girl
In the same week, a 13-year-old girl Angira Pasi was allegedly raped and murdered in Devdaha of Rupandehi district, a western district of Nepal. According to media reports, she was in a relationship with a 25-year-old Birendra Bhar of the same district.
According to reports, Birendra allegedly raped the girl on 22 May. In next day, locals had pressured the boy to accept the girl as wife and the boy and his family agreed to accept Angira as his wife. But she was found dead. Human rights activists have accused police of refusing to lodge the complaint until they created the pressure.
Political protection to perpetrators
These incidents have sparked rage against caste-based discrimination. Reportedly, locally elected politicians acted in favor of non-Dalits in both incidents. In the incident of Rukun, Dambar Bahadur Malla, chairperson of Chaurjahari Municipality Ward Number-8, who is supposed to uphold rule of law was involved in the incident. His involvement, according to many activists, has given strong political protection to the accused. Following pressure from civil society members and some politician, the government, on May 26, has formed a five-member probe team to investigate the incident. But there is widespread mistrust whether the investigation will be impartial and independent from undue influence of political leaders.
Similarly, Amar Bahadur Chaudhary ward chairperson of Devdaha ward number 11 is blamed of taking favor of Birendra Bhar in the incident at Rupandehi district. According to reports, he was in favor of settle the issue in the village instead of taking the boy to the police for alleged rape case.
“Two recent incidents in which six people were killed show the Nepali government has systematically failed to confront entrenched caste – or descent – based discrimination against Dalits. The government should ensure prompt and rigorous investigations by the police, free from political interference.”
The shame of the society
These are representative incidents. I found both incidents frightful, brutal and extreme form of inhumanity. These incidents have not only exposed the ugly form of caste hierarchy, but also continued exploitation against Dalits.
Oppression and continued against Dalits is the shame of the society. Any form of discrimination based on caste, race, class, geography or any other forms should not be tolerated in a civilized society. It is high time to dismantle deep-rooted caste-based discrimination over the country. The government, political parties, civil society leaders, human rights activists and every citizen of the country should raise voice against caste-based discrimination without any “if” and “but”. Any attempt of linking brutal and inhuman practice of caste discrimination and untouchability with religion or tradition should be punished as per law.
It is time that we all need to urge the authority to bring perpetrators to book by ensuring a transparent and trustworthy investigation into the incidents. We need to speak up against all forms of injustice against Dalits and we should raise voice that #DalitLivesMatter.
(Pragya is a youth advocate for justice, democracy and sustainable development | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | She tweets as @pragyalamsal )