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Nepal’s Untouchables

Drishya Singh

A 22-year old had been injured after a priest poured hot rice over him for entering the temple. A 36 year old mother had been beaten to death by the restaurant owner, because her daughter of age 7 had drunk a beverage without permission. A body of a 12 year old girl was found hanging on a tree after she had been married to her rapist, an ‘upper caste’ man. Nabaraj BK and a group of his friends in their early 20’s were lynched and their bodies were dumped in the River, after the villagers discovered Nabaraj planned on eloping with a girl from a ‘higher’ caste.

All these victims here were Dalits-an umbrella term covering the lower caste community, the Hindu society’s outcasts, the ‘Untouchables’.

Caste discrimination has been deeply rooted within the fertile soil of Hindu’s mindset residing in Nepal where even the thinnest branches of the roots now absorb the brutality, exploitation, and humiliation directed towards the Dalits. Caste discrimination is understood as discrimination based on work and descent meaning that because of the occupation or a family a person is born into, they are socially excluded, economically deprived, and are subject to violence and abuse.

Black or gold smiths, tailors, cobblers, street cleaners. These were the jobs the members of the Dalit community were previously subjected to and had to face severe abasement for their work despite them merely trying to make a living. The so called ‘Untouchables’ were deprived of basic necessities such as education, health care, public resources, and prolific economic choices. They were bound together in a tight knot and were only allowed limited movement that also in a small surface area when it came to living a fulfilling life. The motion was even more restrictive than one could picture, as the people of the Dalit community were not even permitted to drink from public wells or taps, were ‘banned’ from temples, were considered unholy or bad luck to the higher caste society, and were abandoned from societal cultures and traditions. If the previous struggles of Dalits are delved into, incidents that are even more gruesome ranging from slavery to rape will be demonstrated.

Caste system in Nepal was declared unconstitutional in 2015 and caste discrimination was officially criminalized in 2011. While these particular traits of the country’s constitution have made the brutal actions directed towards Dalits smaller to an extent, many unlawful acts are still being done and the marginalized community continues to face the aftermath of it. The repercussions of what Dalits had faced when caste discrimination was well dissolved are still very prominent and conspicuous as poverty rates are still much higher in Dalit communities and education rates are lower compared to other caste groups- a result of generational oppression and lack of wealth and awareness that was passed down

The social construct based on Nepal’s caste hierarchy is well reflected in the country’s governmental, social, and legal system. Dalits in the country are still politically underpowered, indulged, and represented much less in societal decisions and economically deprived from the supposed inclusive amenities. The representation done for Dalit’s by the social organizations, political parties, and networks are mostly by non-dalits, who are unaware about the actual requirements of the community, and by limited token dalit’s themselves. The undermined populations of the community in the sectors of leadership positions causes a lack of support required by the people as the unfazed would not vouch as evidently as the fazed would. The lack of narratives and perspectives of Dalits in the area of political parties, social institutions, and research organizations completely withdraws the belief of inclusiveness they portray so intensely these days as the what worth is the result if the process itself is deprived of the people one is representing.

While the country’s laws ensures strict penalties in case of one’s indulgement in the practice of untouchability and caste discrimination, the police often refuse to register FIRs relating to these acts by giving into the pressure by people of power and sometimes through one’s own traditionalist beliefs. There are also times where the Dalits themselves make no move for justice, as the country makes the word seem as an act that only induces rounds alleys of the capital and the court, more abasement from the locals and the authoritarians, and a prolonged pledge for invincible impartiality. In this way voices of the marginalized are suppressed by direct and indirect oppressors.

The future of Dalits in Nepal, perhaps might not be as bad as the past has been. With representatives of the community like Saraswati Nepali reaching international grounds and honors for her involvement in the enhancement of her community’s situation, the marginalized have someone to look forward to. Yet the country has acres to cover when it comes to becoming an egalitarian society and hence to move forward with conquering the required unit of landing, representation and perspectives should be broadened in all sectors rather than being corrupted yet again by the one highest in the social ladder.


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