Death of a dalit
The murder of a youth earlier this week by 'upper caste' men in
Kalikot district is a chilling reminder that centuries-old roots of
discriminatory caste system still run very deep in the country. If
political leaders are to be believed a historic social, political and
economic transformation is just steps away. But ground realities give
a lie to their words. Manbir Sunar, who belongs to the Dalit
community, still discriminated against as 'low' and 'untouchable'
people, certainly did not live to see the promised transformation.
Instead, he was mercilessly beaten by two Thakuri men in Jubitha-4 of
the district last Saturday just because he had lit a cigarette from a
cooking stove of an 'upper-caste' household. Sunar died succumbed to
his injuries the following morning while being rushed to hospital.
These kinds of incidents are taking place despite the country having
laws that bar untouchability and legal provisions that require
criminal prosecution of those engaging in caste-based discrimination.
That the law must take its due course and the culprits must be tried
for no less than murder is indubitable, for the incident sends a
chilling message that you can still be killed for your caste in Nepal.
The wounds that Sunar died from—apart from injuries all over his body,
irreparable damage to his testicles and kidneys—are evidence of the
extreme hatred his assailants harbored against him.
The Thakuri men, who according to police were acquainted with Sunar
but had no prior grudges, pounded upon him with a sense of entitlement
they drew from the mere fact that they belonged to a presumed upper
caste. Min Bahadur Shahi and Deep Bahadur Shahi acted like champions
and defenders of a discriminatory caste system that has held back the
country for centuries.
It would be an overstatement to say that hatred for the lower caste
and practice of untouchability prevails all over the country. The
incident took place in Kalikot, one of least developed districts in
Nepal. But again, awareness campaigns to root out discrimination and
untouchability have, in the past, focused precisely on districts like
Kalikot. The incident, therefore, lays bare the fact that awareness
and acceptance that all humans are equal is yet to permeate rural
The incident also warns of the dangers of ignoring small incidents of
discrimination. In Kalilot district, the practice of treating the
Dalit community as untouchable is still widespread, according to our
news reports. We believe tolerating small incidents of discrimination
led to Saturday's excesses. We, therefore, strongly urge the district
administration encourage locals to report every single incident of
discrimination based on caste, and quickly prosecute perpetrators. The
trials of Min Bahadur and Deep Bahadur should send a clear message
that caste-based discrimination, in any form, will no longer be
Published on 2011-12-15 01:20:45
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