Dalits' problem more severe in the Far-West

By Seema A. Adhikari

KATHMANDU, June 20- Around 4.8 million Dalits in Nepal face not only social ostracization but also absolute poverty and marginalization as the system of caste hierarchy continues to prevail in Nepal, most prominently in the far-western region.

Video documentaries film that were premiered on Wednesday depict not only the situation of caste discrimination but also one of the harsh lives led by these communities who live on the edges of the world continuously shunned by upper class.

The documentary entitled "We have the same kind of Blood" taken from Doti features several Dalits castes- Kami, Damai as well as Bhul where it tried to show some examples of practices of caste discrimination and untouchability.

Dalits are not allowed to use the water taps reserved for higher castes even if the tap is free; they can not enter the Hindu temples as they are considered to be "impure" and have a "reckless" behavior, one of the eye-catching scenes in the film revealed.

While the second documentary "Why Dalit?" portrays the situation of Dalits in Nepal that featured Sunars, Dhobis who lead dismal life in Terai even after they migrated from the austere lives in the hills. The Badis were shown struggling to get citizenship for their fatherless children. One of the Badis spoke in the film that the profession such as prostitution was forced upon their lives. "It is not our profession but compelling circumstances".

This part of the film also exposed a situation where foreigners and Dalits though both consuming beef, only the Dalits are discriminated. "When the upper class dine with the foreigners, they have no complain but we are not allowed even to touch them", a Dalit was quoted as saying.

Given the dearth of historical references and reliable anecdote, it is difficult to point out what exactly was the position of Kami, Damai, Sunwar and Bhul in the Himalayas, but they say that modern day practice of caste discrimination has been confined mainly in the rural areas.

"I have been hearing a lot about Dalits in Nepal but had never got an opportunity to be so close," said Berit Madsen, Danish Association for International Co-operation who is also a producer and Director of the Documentary. This film is important in Nepal for raising awareness about the caste discrimination, she added.

"We target mostly the outsiders with our documentary film," said Jit Bahadur Gurung, DANIDA Project Advisor who added that it was the state that created caste discrimination.

When asked to comment on the Documentary, Padam Lal Biswakarma, a prominent Dalit activist said that it was the first-ever film on the Dalits to go international. "I myself used to be a victim of this discrimination".

Even as HMG/ Nepal passed the bill in the parliament to eliminate caste untouchablity, doors are still closed for this community. The groups today say that they are only in papers Dalits will take to streets seeking their enforcement in practice.

The documentary, produced jointly by DANIDA/HUGOU and MS Nepal is being looked upon with hope by Dalits as a crusade or an instrument to bring increasing awareness and global advocacy.

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Referred by: Balram Sampla
Published on: June 26, 2001
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