A Dalit caste’s struggle for toilet

April 6, 2017 08:51 AM Madan Thakur

RAUTAHAT, April 6: Bishwanath Malli of Gaur - 11 has a dream. He wants a beautiful house and a good toilet. However, since he belongs to a Dalit community, who are referred to as ‘Doom’ in the locality, construction workers refuse to build his family’ toilet.

“For constructing a good house you do not get aid. But for building toilet, you get it. Actually, several organizations have been telling people around to construct toilet. But because we are Doom, none of these organizations are willing to provide us funds for constructing toilets” he said. 

There are 165 households of the Doom community in the district, as per the government data. Dozens of these families live in Gaur - 11. Bishwanath said that the Doom community is relegated for their caste to such an extent that it has been impossible for its members to rise from centuries of suppression. 

“Even when we want to construct toilet, none of the organizations supports us financially. They show several reasons to avoid working for us. Let that alone, even if some families, which can manage funds on their own, want to construct it on their own, we don’t get laborers”,” he lamented. ,

Earlier, there were few houses in his locality. So, it was easy for all, including the Doom community members to defecate in the open. With time, population became dense in the area. Government and non-government bodies worked with the locals and encouraged them to built toilets. Now, toilets are seen in nooks and corners of villages in Rautahat.

However, this progress seems to have remained elusive for the Doom families. None of Doom families, Bishwanath knows, has a toilet. 

“Now everything around us has changed, except our living conditions. Our living standard remains the same. Due to widespread social and caste discrimination, we are forced to continue live a life of deprivation. Our people are not educated and therefore we lack access to even state facilities,” he fumed. 

Doom community is known for producing timber and bamboo houehold products. But they do not have much idea on constructing concrete buildings, Bishwanath stated. 

Another member of the Doom community who wanted to construct a toilet on her own cost but could not find technicians is Nathuli Malli of Bariyapur - 4. Just like Bishwanath, she also wanted to have privacy while relieving. “It is even more difficult for ladies. We have to resist till evening, forcefully stop ourselves till its dark to defecate in the open. We cannot go and relieve ourselves as and when we want,” she narrated. 

Since they need to find ‘private place’ in open space for toilet purpose, women in Madhes basically choose to do so when sun sets or when there is not much light. According to Nathuli, many families in Madhes have built toilets by now. However, the Doom community has not been able to do so. Reiterating Bishwanath’s views, Nathuli said that deep rooted discrimination against them has prevented them from changing their way of live.

“On one hand, they treat us as ‘dirty people’, make fun of us and even intimidate us if seen defecating outside in the open. Even little children these days shout the slogan of ‘open defecation free’ zone. However, on the other hand, we don’t get mason to construct toilet. Even when we are ready to pay them, they refuse to work for us,” Nathuli said.

“This is happening because they think Doom are different people, as if we are not humans,” she added. 

 Bishwanath stated that he visited offices of several organizations as part of a frantic effort to get a toilet constructed for his family. However, none of the organizations, he approached, were ready to support him. “They come, interview us, take our pictures and go away. But, they never take initiatives for constructing our toilet,” he said. “We have to relieve ourselves either in the dawn or late in the night,” he added. 

Anil Keshari, government officer and member of the district’s Cleanliness Coordination Committee admitted that ‘most’ of the Doom people do not have toilets in their house. Despite the government efforts to ensure toilet in every house, this particular Dalit community has been deprived of the service, he said.

Since Doom community has constructed house in government land, both the government and non-government organizations have not been able to support them, Bhagya Narayan Mahato, chief of Janasewa Nepal, an non-govermental organization working in the district, said. In lack of house or land ownership registration paper, funds cannot be provided to Doom families.

“That’s the reason behind the problem. We cannot provide funds without having these documents. Houses which are constructed on public or government land are not elligible for the funds,” he said.  

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