Capable Enough

 

by - DHANA BAHADUR MIJAR courtesy - Republica

 

The history of Dalit discourse in Nepal spans about six decades. The word ‘Dalits’ was used by Indian luminary Bhim Rao Ambedkar for the first time during the constitution drafting process of Republic of India. However, despite Ambedkar’s efforts the word ‘Dalits’ was not inscribed in the constitution after the long and serious discussions within and among Dalits and non-Dalits.

The ‘peaceful movement’ of Dalits for six decades in Nepal has brought some positive changes within the community. However, political leaders belonging to the Dalit community accept that the Dalit movement has not taken off in Nepal. The leaders’ psychology that the Dalits have not exerted strong pressure or they have not launched any strong movement has compelled common Dalits to think that the leaders still indulge in rhetoric and no action at all.

Nepal faces the problem of political instability. The government keeps changing in the blink of an eye. Even if government changes so fast, successive governments have failed to include Dalits in high posts. Senior leaders don’t think of representing even a single Dalit in the cabinet. Continuing this tradition, the present government led by Sushil Koirala has not felt the need to represent Dalits in council of ministers. The government has been formed only by representing non-Dalits, the elite social group.

 

Through the historic People’s Movement, Nepal achieved the status of Federal Democratic Republic. The issue of proportional representation has come up in the national discourse. But the reality is that the state seems apathetic to Dalits from the representational point of view. One cannot find even a member let alone a commissioner in National Human Rights Commission whereas Dalits face cases of human rights violation most of the time. The Public Service Commission lacks Dalit representation and the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) also has failed to include Dalits. In the judiciary, the Supreme Court has not even a single justice from the Dalit community given the fact that Dalits live in pathetic conditions facing caste-based atrocities on day-to-day basis.

The government appoints ambassadors for many countries but can’t find Dalits to take the role. It is because the state and the rulers think that Dalits are incapable and unable to assume a high post and skillfully carry out assigned duties. Till now, only one Dalit Guna Laxmi Sharma Bishwakarma was appointed by the Maoist led government as ambassador to Burma. The decision of the then government was widely praised but some segments of the society later blamed her that ‘she couldn’t perform the responsibility adroitly’.

As mentioned earlier, notwithstanding Nepal’s Federal Democratic Republic status, Dalits have not got conducive environment to equally enjoy the fruits of democracy as non-Dalits. Nepali state structures/mechanisms are still guided by traditional ideology that actively debars the proper and effective representation of Dalits as they are tagged incapable for the particular position. Dalits have been facing caste-based discrimination and indignity from non-Dalits or so-called superior caste groups in every step of social life. They have been inhumanely treated and misbehaved by the larger society. A Dalit boy is severely beaten up and even killed when he marries a girl from the so-called high caste. The fundamental human rights of Dalits are gleefully violated. Dalit victims do not get proper justice on time as the judges are only from non-Dalit community and they can’t understand the atrocity on Dalits.

The state seems positive towards Dalits in the sense that it has made some affirmative provisions on the direction of eliminating caste-based discrimination and untouchability Dalits have been facing for millennia. The New Country Code (Naya Muluki Ain) 1963 had provisioned against untouchability. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1990 also had affirmative provisions for eliminating discrimination. The reinstated House of Representatives declared Nepal as a ‘country free from untouchability’. The Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007 inscribed the right against caste-based discrimination and untouchability and right to equality in article 14 and 21 respectively as fundamental rights. In line with this article, Caste-based discrimination and Untouchability (Crime and Punishment) Act 2012, was formulated unanimously by the parliament. But the laws remained in the books only. On the ground, Dalits could not enjoy even the basic rights. They are still in high risk of social boycott and deprivation from the services the state offers.

Having experienced inhuman discrimination and untouchability everywhere, one can conclude that until and unless the government takes sole responsibility to eliminate caste-based discrimination and untouchability with proper plan, programs and adequate budgets including the financial, educational empowerment to Dalits and awareness among both Dalits and non-Dalits, Dalits can’t live with humanly respect and equal dignity. Their fundamental freedom can’t be achieved. Until and unless the state behaves fairly to all, Dalits as equal as non-Dalits, and appoints Dalits in high positions, Dalits are not freed. Until and unless non-Dalits or the elite class or the ruler gives up the prejudice that Dalits can’t perform well, Dalits’ proper representation can’t be made and ultimately they can’t enjoy their rights.

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