KATHMANDU, July 6: Four Badi families, ostracized by society for the involvement of some of their community in the flesh trade in the past, have been living in a cave by a river in Khalanga district for more than a decade.
The families of Ganesh Badi, Ram Lal Badi, Nar Bahadur Badi and Ujure Badi -- 17 souls in all including two infants, five other children and two elderly individuals -- have been living for the last 12 years in a cave on the bank of the Sano Bheri, just a two hours´ walk from Khalanga, district headquarters of Rukum.
They have only worn-out quilts to sleep under.
Since Ram Lal was arrested by police for allegedly murdering his own wife Kali Badi last year, only his four little children are still living in the cave.
Two years ago, the government struck a 27-point deal with a joint struggle committee of the Badi people, under which Badi families are entitled to land and free education for their children, among other privileges. However, the families living in the cave are not aware of this.
“We have heard that Dalit people get support from the government,” says Nar Bahadur Badi, who lives there with his four children. “But, no one comes to us nor can we go out asking for the government´s support.” The 28-year-old says they live in the cave as they have nowhere else to live.
In the past, Badi families used to eke out a living selling madal (traditional skin-drums) and clay pots. However, with these traditional artifacts fast losing the market in recent times, they have now adopted a new livelihood: fishing in the Sano Bheri and selling the catch.
The Badi families live by the river under the open sky in winter. In the rainy season, they have to squeeze into the narrow cave. “The rainy season creates a lot of trouble for us,” says Ganesh Badi, 35. “We can´t fish in the river as the water gets muddy. And, we can´t sleep outside due to rain.”
Bimala Badi, who also lives in the cave, says that she has had several miscarriages as she does not get enough nourishment during pregnancy. Newborn die of infections as the cave is always soaked in water; and there is no warm clothing.
The Badi are one of Nepal´s most marginalized Dalit communties, and their social standing was tarnished because of their traditional involvement in commercial sex.