Untouchability in Nepal and India

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In a Save the Children survey, researchers asked untouchables how they had responded to the discrimination. About fourteen percent protested, 56 percent remained silent, and 29 percent simply accepted their fate. Untouchables are pessimistic that protesting would bring them social justice, since legal officials in Nepal are largely Brahmans and Chhetris. The researchers concluded that if untouchables were to take to the streets to demand social justice, their voices would go unheard.

Discrimination against Dalits

The Dalit NGO Federation in Nepal submitted a paper to the UN committee on human rights regarding discrimination against Dalits. This paper was also presented in Asian regional meetings and at the World Conference against Racial Discrimination in 2001. The paper pointed out that discrimination against Dalits in India and Nepal often involves caste clashes triggered by Dalit attempts to collect water from forbidden wells or to perform delegated tasks.

Caste-based discrimination is illegal under the Constitution, but chances of Dalits redressing these injustices are remote. In addition, the governmental recognition of the 'untouchability'-related castes has not prevented atrocities against Dalits. The police administration and concerned authorities are not held accountable for such abuses, and justice seems to be a far cry. The Dalit population in both countries does not have much faith in the administrative system, and the justice system is not working for them.

Inter-caste marriage6

Across Nepal, people are divided by the ancient tradition of caste. While a recent report in Republica found that inter-caste marriages have been legally permitted, others have been abused, murdered, or otherwise discriminated against. The crimes against inter-caste couples range from silent murders, passed off as suicides, to premeditated humiliation and social boycott. In some instances, people with social clout may commit honour crimes against them and their families.

Although many countries have laws against inter-caste marriage, Nepal and India still allow it. In India, the Special Marriage Act-1954 came into effect on 1 January 1955 and requires couples to give at least thirty days' notice before tying the knot. While this is a welcome step towards equality, Human Rights Watch notes that the notice period can be used to locate and kill inter-caste couples. As a result, inter-caste marriages continue to face significant difficulties in both countries.

Denying Dalit access to temples

For centuries, Hindus have denied Dalit people access to temples, calling them untouchables, and the idea of carrying a Dalit on his shoulders to the inner sanctum of a Hindu temple is taboo. Yet a Hindu priest recently carried a Dalit on his shoulders to the sanctum. While it's difficult to determine the origins of this practice, the practice was practiced for centuries and is still widespread in Nepal and India.

The Dalit people were historically at a disadvantage in both Nepal and India. They were deprived of economic power, political power, and a place in the government's administration and judiciary. But as the world changed and their rights became more respected, the practice of denying Dalit access to temples has diminished. Today, the Dalit community is represented in national leadership and is widely recognized as a group worthy of respect.

Discrimination against Dalit teachers

The disapproval and rejection of Dalit teachers is widely documented. The study revealed that, despite their superior qualifications, Dalit teachers are prevented from taking up higher executive positions in schools. In addition, Dalit teachers are often denied entry into higher caste households, temples, food factories, and dairy farms. Interestingly, the denial extends to cowsheds in western Nepal.

Although the Dalit community is recognized internationally for its contribution to education and research, there are numerous obstacles to their participation in academics and other aspects of life. Dalit students have realized that they cannot participate in the learning process if they do not belong to a higher caste. Additionally, because of the discrimination, many have turned to Christianity to escape the social injustice they face. Unfortunately, only those belonging to higher castes are allowed to serve as religious leaders or hold important positions in the church.

The Dalit community is also significantly underrepresented in rural health care delivery. While the Nepal constitution has designated seats for women in parliament, their representation is negligible. Furthermore, the Dalit women are not empowered to use the constitutional provisions that protect their rights. As a result, they often experience harassment and even physical abuse due to their caste. In the case of Dalit teachers, their families have been pressured to drop their investigation.

June 07, 2022
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