Dalits hold demonstrations across the country, demand special rights
KATHMANDU, May 23: On the anniversary of the passage of the bill on caste-based discrimination and untouchability, the Dalits, arguably the most oppressed community in the country, staged demonstrations across the country on Wednesday.
The murder of two Dalits last year, after the bill became law, at the hands of so called “upper caste” people were the rallying cry during the demonstrations.
The bill, viewed then as first specific legislation for addressing the serious crimes related to caste-based discriminations and untouchability, was passed by the parliament on May 23, 2011, following two years of intense deliberation.
The same year, however, Manbir Sunar, a Dalit from Jubitha VDC-8 of Kalikot district, was killed allegedly for touching the hearth of a non-Dalit. Similarly, Sete Damai, a resident of Toli VDC-2 in Dailekh district, was killed after his son Santa Bahadur Damai married Raj Kumari Shahi, a daughter of Thakuri-Chhetri.
"Our demonstrations, among other reasons, are also for the strict implementation of the bill," says Parshu Ram Ramtel, central secretariat member of Nepal Rashtriya Dalit Mukti Morcha, one of the sister organizations of the UCPN (Maoists).
The murders of Sunar and Damai have raised serious doubts over the implementation of the untouchability law. "Passing the bill alone does not protect the Dalits," says Ramtel. "We want exclusive cells at police offices and separate benches at all courts to tackle crimes against the Dalits."
No state but special rights
At a time when other groups are demanding autonomous states, the Dalits on Wednesday staged rallies in district headquarters across the country for special rights. They pressed for special rights for the Dalits apart from proportional reservations in all government bodies.
"We can not claim a separate state for ourselves as our population is not concentrated in one particular region," says Upendra Chhatunjel, acting chairman of Nepal Rashtriya Dalit Kendra, which is affiliated to the CPN (United). "The government, therefore, must ensure special rights for the Dalits. We need special rights because the country´s laws and social practices have oppressed us for ages."
Dalit-wings of all seven political parties have now come together to press for special rights. The Dalits, who constitute 13 per cent of the total population as per the 2001 census, have already been given proportional reservations by the government. The Dalits are entitled to 13 per cent of the total quotas -- as per the proportion of their population -- allocated by the government for women and people from indigenous, ethnic, Dalit, backward communities and women.
With simultaneous demonstrations across the country, the joint struggle committee of several Dalit organizations on Wednesday concluded the first phase of its protest programs. The committee will announce another phase of protest programs on Thursday.