Dalits facing difficulties even to rent room in Kathmandu
By Arpana Adhikari
Kathmandu, July 5: Even six decades after the caste discrimination was outlawed in the country, Dalits are unable to escape from this evil practice. Dalit people continue to suffer discrimination from the so-called upper caste people, even in cities like Kathmandu.
Sabitri Sob (name changed) of Bajhang, who is currently living in a rented room in Sallaghari, Bhaktapur, is an example how caste-ism exists in its worst form in the cities.
Sabitri who agreed to talk with The Rising Nepal on condition of anonymity shared how her life was affected by the caste-based prejudice of her landlord.
Recalling her ordeal to find a room in Kathmandu, Sabitri said she got the room by hiding her real name.
After her surname was disclosed a year ago, the landlord banned her family from touching their water tap. “I have to walk daily 45 minutes to fetch water from a public tap,” she said.
Rajendra Sunar, a student of Rasuwa, never thought that casteism would hunt him even in Kathmandu, the city he thought be inhabited by educated and wise people. He has been looking for a rented room in the Sinamangal and Baneshwor areas for the past two weeks, but in vain. He said he visited nearly 40 houses, but he did not find a house where the landlord did not ask his caste.
“After my stay in Kathmandu, I have realised that there is no escape from caste discrimination for Dalits. If this is the situation of the capital, just imagine the situation in the rural areas? Sunar asked.
This discriminatory practice is not just limited to a certain section of the society. Even the top level officials, who are Dalits, get insulted and humiliated with caste slurs in their work places, said Ganesh B.K, a Dalit rights activist.
Recently, a complaint was lodged at the National Dalit Commission (NDC) by a Dalit woman working at Phewa City Hospital, Pokhara against her colleague. She accused the person of promoting hatred against her caste in chats.
Bikash B.K, (name changed), a journalist in one of the renowned radio stations of Kathmandu, shared how his colleagues and other professionals promoted hatred through words and expressions.
“Their only problem is that I am Dalit. They think that I am dirty and so I am untouchable. The fact that I am educated and a journalist by profession makes no difference to them,” said Bikash.
Ganesh said, “We have heard people telling that discrimination against the Dalit is no more in cities. However, in reality caste-based discrimination and untouchability are still deep-rooted in our society.”
A year ago, Kalu Devi Biswokarma, a member of the House of Representatives, revealed in the House meeting that she failed to acquire a rented apartment in Kathmandu just because she was a Dalit.
According to Ganesh, almost 90 per cent of the Dalits living in the rented rooms of the valley did not disclose their real names because they are afraid of reprisals from upper caste landlords.
The other forms of discrimination faced by Dalits in the cities are caste-based derogatory jokes or remarks directed at them, he added.
Caste-based discrimination ended in 1962 with the introduction of the Civil Code that declared the practice of untouchability as a criminal offence.
Furthermore, the ‘Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability Offence and Punishment Act introduced in 2011 has made a provision of sentencing up to three years or a fine of up to Rs. 25,000 or both to the guilty, depending on the nature of their offence.
However, there are only few bookings and convictions under the Act, said Ganesh.
Records at the NDC, which oversees Dalit issues, received only eight complaints of caste-based discrimination in last eight months. Of them, three cases were from the cities, including Kathmandu and Pokhara , said NDC spokesperson Giriraj Pokharel.
These were the only registered cases, said Pokharel, adding that the NDC received many verbal complaints.
Many incidents of caste prejudice remained unreported, he added.
As per the police report, only two cases of caste-based discrimination were reported in the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), one in Lalitpur Metropolitan City (LCM) while Bhaktapur Metropolitan City has not received any complaint.
The two persons of KMC who were convicted under the law were slapped a fine of Rs. 45,000 and Rs. 25,000, police said.
Since the commission is left without the office bearers for a year, it has crippled its functioning, said Pokharel, adding that the past recommendations were hardly implemented.
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