One year of Rukum massacre: Caste-based discrimination sees no decline in Nepal

Prasun Sangroula

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Kathmandu: On this day a year ago, Nabaraj BK, 24, along with a group of his friends from Jajarkot, went to Soti village of Chaurjahari Municipality in Rukum West to bring his girlfriend home as a bride.  But the day which was supposed to be joyous turned into a tragic one. When they approached the girl’s family, the villagers and the girl’s family brutally assaulted BK and his group and threw them into a river. Six young men lost their lives that day. The incident was the consequence of caste-based discrimination because BK belonged to a “lower caste”.  

The incident represents the dark side of the caste-based discrimination that still exists in our society.  As the incident was not well-received by most of the public, protests in different parts of the country demanded justice for Nabaraj and his friends. It was even dubbed a ‘caste-based massacre’ by many activists. The incident also drew the attention of international organizations, and the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and delegations from European Union called for an impartial investigation. The police arrested 34 people in connection with the case.   

Various Dalit activists have marked the Rukum incident as a threat to the democracy. According to writer and activist Sarita Pariyar, incidents like these drive society into darkness. “The case of Nabaraj BK represents the defeat of humanity and the prevalence of discrimination and violence,” she adds.   

Although Nepal passed a law against caste-based discrimination and untouchability in 2011, the so-called “lower caste” people still face discrimination, and they have lesser access to education, employment, and other facilities.    

There have been 66 cases of discrimination or violence against Dalits in 2020 according to Nepal Monitor– human rights organization. The same data shows that within five months of 2021, 19 cases of caste-based discrimination have been reported. 

The so-called “lower caste” people still face discrimination, and they have lesser access to education, employment, and other facilities.    

Pariyar believes the problem can only be addressed when the so-called upper-class people are ready to give up their birth-based privileges and understand why caste-based sexual violence, injustices, and unequal citizenship are no longer acceptable. She also appeals to the think-tanks, universities, and other like-minded bodies to conduct studies and facilitate fierce debates on the persistence of caste-based violence, inequities, and indignities faced by Dalits.  

In order to end caste-based discrimination and address the issues of Dalits, the government has formed National Dalit Commission (NDC). “Since the inception of NDC, we are working against all kinds of caste-based discrimination that occur in our society, and we will be continuing it in the coming days,” said Tunja Baraili, a member of NDC. 

“To make our work more effective and to end the practice of discrimination, we are researching on the issues of Dalits.  Likewise, we were also planning to prepare nationwide public awareness programs to make people aware of caste-based discrimination. Unfortunately, the pandemic has postponed all our plans. Once there will be a favorable condition, we will actively work on it,” stated Baraili.