17 Dalits killed after introduction of act against untouchability, say lawmakers, but death toll is higher

It is appalling to note that 17 Dalits have lost lives even after the introduction of Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2011.

One of the harrowing stories was the murder of Nabaraj BK and his friends who were killed on the grounds of their caste in connection with the bid to tie knot, in Karnali.

Three Dalits have already lost lives this year.

In this backdrop, lawmakers expressed concern about ineffective implementation of the act even a decade after its passage. They expressed such concern during a discussion held by the HoR Committee on Law, Justice, and Human Rights on the status report of implementation of the act.

Similarly, Angira Pasi from Rupandehi was raped and murdered while Tikaram Nepali from Rukum had to face death while extending help for a love marriage.

As per the report, five Dalits died all because of ethnic discrimination in 2019. This year, Maya BK from Kailali was raped and murdered.

The list goes on — the victims are Resham Rashaili, Rupamati Kumari Das, Mana Sarki, Shreshya Sunar, Ajit Mijar and Laxmi Pariyar, Rajesh Nepali, Sangita Pariyar, Jhuma BK, Sete Damai, Shiva Shankar Das, and Manbire Sunar.

Time has come to think why so many Dalits had to face death, said Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Leelanath Shrestha.

He committed that all three layers of government would work in a planned manner to end racial discrimination.

Another lawmaker Laxman Lal Karna stressed the need to launch massive campaign against castebased discrimination across the country.

Dalits, formerly known as untouchables – are at the bottom of the ancient caste hierarchy linked to the Hindu faith and form more than 13% of Nepal’s population.

Nepal passed a law against caste based discrimination and untouchability in 2011, yet Dalits face routine segregation and abuse and ancient biases against lower-caste groups make it harder for them to access education, jobs and homes.

They are frequently barred from public places including temples and water wells used by higher-caste Hindus, and restricted to work that is considered dirty or dangerous such as manual scavenging and disposing of animal carcasses.

There have been 33 cases of discrimination or violence against Dalits in 2020 according to Nepal Monitor, a Kathmandu-based human rights organisation. In 2019, it recorded 84 such incidents.

The United Nations and the European Union have spoken out on the latest deaths and one former prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, joined the protests against such atrocities, calling on people to adopt a Dalit surname in a country where names are markers of caste.

But Tek Tamrakar, who advises the United Nations on human rights issues in Nepal, said few non-Dalits were engaging with the issue, unlike in the United States, where white people have joined Black Lives Matter protests.

“Even white people are participating in the Black Lives Matter protests because they consider it as a human rights issue. They don’t consider this as an issue concerning black people only,” he said.

“But in Nepal this is not the case. The issue is considered to relate the Dalits only. The society, the state, and even the courts do not consider it as a human rights issue.”

He said that there was a “complete lack of accountability” in Nepal, where the police routinely refused to register crimes against Dalits or dismissed them as accidents.

Dalit rights activist Durga Sob urged people from all castes to come out and protest against discrimination in the same way white people have in the United States.

“What they have in America is racism – the white discriminating against the black,” said Sob. “But in Nepal the discrimination is against people of the same race, colour, culture and religion.”